Written by Eric Melson
Can I be honest for a second? Mountain biking is hard, with tons of barriers for entry… It takes tenacity, courage, determination, and self-reliance to grow and develop to the point where a rider can actually enjoy themselves instead of fearing for their life. As a PMBIA and BICP certified instructor and owner of a mountain bike coaching and guiding company, Ride Montana, I teach what it takes to fully love every ride and have witnessed progression and breakthroughs that are so fulfilling, it keeps me coming back for more.
I want to focus on the self-reliance part of mountain biking for a minute. Being prepared for a ride, with the basic tools and knowledge, allows a rider to focus on and enjoy the ride itself, knowing that if something were to happen they have the skills and logic to problem solve their way out of a potential sticky situation.
One way I teach this is by conducting “winter maintenance clinics” with my youth development enduro team, Ride Montana Racing. We’ve been meeting every other week at our local Rocky dealer, Missoula Bike Source, during the long winter months here in Montana to keep the stoke on bikes high and build repair confidence.
We focus on one topic per session. For example, when the topic was brakes, we dissected an entire disc brake system – removing the pistons from the caliper, removing the master cylinder from the lever, reinstalling everything and bleeding the system. We discussed how hydraulics work, common failures, how to troubleshoot brake issues and ultimately how to repair and maintain brakes so you can trust them and they are reliable.
This winter, we covered a ton of common repair topics ranging from brakes, suspension service, pivot bearing replacement, tubeless tires and inserts, and wheel truing – fundamental parts that can and do fail and then a deep understanding of how to diagnose, troubleshoot and ultimately fix the problems so we avoid the stress and doom when something does fail on a ride – we know how the system works and how to fix it.
Mountain biking is hard, no doubt. But, when approached with a little curiosity, the many facets and aspects to mountain biking can become learning opportunities for anyone looking to build on and off-bike confidence. Ask your local shop if they do maintenance clinics. Ask your bike-nerd buddy who is always fiddling and working on her bike to explain what she’s doing, and why. And most importantly, pick up some tools and get your hands dirty! There’s no substitute for learning than by doing it yourself, and any good shop, short of you taking a hacksaw to your bike, can un-do anything you accidentally did, and hopefully they’ll take the time to explain it and help you better understand.
Riding season is right around the corner. There’s no better time than now to learn how to plug a tire, adjust cable tension, install a new chain, or replace some brake pads. I can guarantee you this, the more you know about how your bike works, the less stressful trailside repairs become and the more you can truly, Love The Ride.