|Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
|I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.
Why does their Superlight ride totally different than my Superlight? The answers are usually not obvious. I've ridden identical makes and models from the same year that feel totally different. How is this possible? Identical bikes should feel the same.
People have asked me, "how do you get your bike to feel this good?" Honestly, it's the little things. My bike may look similar to theirs, but you must look closely at the small details.
Your bike should always be dialed. Simple things like lubricating the chain could smooth out your ride. Who knows what huge move you might pull on your next ride. I unexpectedly hucked a 25' double last Sunday. A product failure could have killed me.
Check the bike welds after every ride. Make sure the grips are tight. Glue them on. Go over every nut and bolt, checking that they are tight. Loctite bolts that constantly come loose. Position the levers evenly, up and down and in and out. Make sure the fork is straight with the handlebars, especially triple clamp forks. Run the proper air pressure in both tires. Install new tubes with no patches. The tires should have some tread left. Dial in the gears. Check the alignment of the rear derailer hanger and install new shift cables, inner and outer, at least four times a year. I've seen too many wrecks because the gears skipped before take off. Check the chain for cracks, stiff links or twisted links and chain stretch. Change the chain at least 2-3 times a year.
I'm assuming your bike was set up properly for you from day one. I should never assume. Too many people are running too soft a spring rate on the rear shock. If you're bending shock bolts and constantly destroy shock bushings, up your spring rate. Springs are cheap, from $35-$45. Stop killing the frame. Certain bike companies won't warranty a frame that's abused this way. I can't blame them. Companies could void the warranty due to "rider error". You should bottom the front fork maybe once during a race run. If your fork bottoms 20 times a run, then up the spring rate on the fork or try heavier oil.
Handlebar position can make or break a bike. I've seen so many handlebars rolled too far forward. Dropping into a steep section with poor handlebar position is suicidal. Try a longer stem if you're uncomfortable. If that doesn't work, you bought a frame that's too small for you.
The suspension damping is crucial for a proper running bike. Check the previous Tech Tip page for proper suspension set up. Do yourself a favor and rebuild the fork and shock at least two times a year. New fork and shock oil dramatically improves a bikes ride. Pros rebuild their suspension after every weekend. They also change out the hydraulic brake fluid every weekend. Heat build up breaks down brake fluid.
Grab the bikes rear wheel and shake it back and forth. Check for rear wheel slop. The rear should feel tight. If you feel play, like something is loose, service the bike immediately. Riding the bike with play will cause major damage to the frame and could cause you to crash. Most full suspension bikes are under tons of stress. The main pivot should be serviced frequently. Always check that these bolts are tight. Especially 4 bar designs. They come loose!
Remove your fork and grease the steer tube. Also, grease the bolts on your stem. Doing this will prevent annoying creaks. Tighten the pulley wheel bolts on the rear derailer, they often fall out. Check the pulley's bearings and chianguide roller bearings, they always seize up. Remove the bottom bracket spindle and clean the threads in the frame. Grease the clean bottom bracket before reinstalling it.
All this might seem like a lot of work. Do it often and it becomes routine. Keeping your bike in top shape could one day save your life. New bike designs have inspired riders to up the anti with radical riding styles. Regardless of how much suspension travel our bikes have, they're still bicycles. We still have to pedal them around. This forces them to be some what light. Do your self-a favor, before dropping in on your next huge move, perform a systems check. Look over the bike quickly. You'll be surprised what you may find. Check the QR's, look under the headtube for cracks, check for busted or loose spokes and check out the derailer alignment.
Ride smart. You could lie in the woods for hours before help gets to you. A properly maintained bike is like an insurance policy. Now-a-days, thanks to extreme videos; cliff drops are more common. Bikes are expected to perform. I'm sorry to say, but we will always be test dummies for this sport. We push ourselves every time we ride. Eventually products catch up. Then we push ourselves some more. I'm not sure where it ends. Next year back flips off 50' cliffs could be the new rage.
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