The Pre-Ride Checklist
It’s time! Finally! The weather has cooperated enough and you and your group are heading out on a weekend epic. This isn’t your regular Tuesday romp in the woods. This is going to be a ride to remember as you all suffer through some incredible mountain riding. These are rides that create memories. The views, the single track and the fellow riders are told in stories for years to come.
There is only one thing standing in the way of an incredible ride and a frustrating day out on the trail…mechanicals. Follow this pre-ride checklist to make sure that you don’t have issues out on the trail. Take some time the night before to go thoroughly over the bike and bring a prepared steed to the trail.
Check Tire Pressure
This check needs to happen the night before and trailside before the ride. Air pressure is a funny animal. As the weather gets warmer, air expands and increases pressure. As air cools, it compresses and causes smaller air pressures in your tubes/tires. Check your air pressure to make sure it is at your desired setting. This is the perfect time to check for leaks or abnormalities in your tubes and tires. Change them the night before instead of finding the problem at the trailhead or even worse…while riding on the trail. If you need some help with determining what pressure level is ideal for your riding…check out this post.
Check Derailleur Alignment/Shifting
Nothing is more annoying on a ride than shifting that just won’t cooperate. Place your bike in the stand and go through the gears. Make sure that each gear change is crisp and that there is no clicking or jumping at any gear location. After you are sure you have it correct in the stand, take your mountain bike out on the road and test it under load. Especially with full suspension mountain bikes, your shifting can act differently under load than when in the stand. Make adjustments as needed with the barrel adjusters, and reset the cable if it just will not shift correctly. Be sure to clean the entire drivetrain of any debris and re-lube the chain.
Check Shock Pressures
Just like with your air pressure in your tires, air pressure in your fork and rear shock on your mountain bike change with the weather and over time. Double check all of your pressure settings and sag. Typically, you want to run around 25% sag on the rear suspension for a cross country ride. This is measured by stroke length using the supplied rubber o-ring on the rear shock shaft. I will normally check these pressures during pre-ride preparations and carry a shock pump with me on the trail.
Check ALL Bolts
Imagine you are blasting down your favorite section of blissful mountain biking singletrack. You get that tacky soil, Superman feeling and nothing can go wrong or slow you down. All of the sudden you hit a small jump or rock and the handlebars flip around! You can’t react in time and it’s over the bars for you! This could have all been avoided! Just check and make sure all of your bolts on your mountain bike are securely fastened the night before the ride. I recommend using a torque wrench for this but even hand tightening is better than doing nothing at all.
Double Check Saddle Height and Levelness
Is levelness a word? If it isn’t…it should be. Make sure that your saddle is at the correct height and that it is level. This will make your ride much more enjoyable and it will increase your efficiency on the trail.
Check All Axles
Check your quick releases or thru axles to make sure they are tight and secure. This one should be pretty self-explanatory!
Check Frame and Cables
Before every long ride, I do a once over of the entire frame and all of the cables to make sure that everything are in working order. Normally, I clean the bike first using Suzuki Wash so I can see the areas that may be stressed or cables that are frayed. Two things I do not normally carry with me on long rides are extra cables and a spare frame. Catastrophic failures in either area can end a great day on the trail quickly.
Check All Brakes and Brake Lines
Make sure your brakes are adjusted correctly and are ready for a full day of riding. With post mount disc brakes, it is extremely easy to adjust the calipers, so I normally readjust them before every long ride. IS mounted brakes are a little bit more involved by using washers to set the caliper positioning, so as long as they are not dragging…I leave them alone.
After The Bike Checklist
After I have gone over the entire bike, it is time to get everything together for the ride. What do I bring with me? Check out this post for a complete listing.
Getting everything ready the night before these mountain biking adventures makes my morning much more enjoyable. I am able to get my coffee, load the bike and head on my way. Trying to scramble the day of gets my morning started the wrong way and takes away from the overall experience. Is there anything else that you guys do the night before a long, epic mountain bike ride? (pray for the legs to get through it…)