Select The Right Mountain Bike

March 2, 2009

One of you biggest investments when considering taking on an adventure race is your mountain bike. Generally, the boat for the paddle section will either be provided for you by the race organizers or you will rent it. The gear for the trekking and navigating sections is minimal, and many races do not even include a climbing section anymore, so save the bulk of your budget for your bike. With that said, you still don’t want to break the bank. Here in Colorado it’s not unusual to see a car valued in the hundreds of dollars hauling on its roof a bike worth thousands. Sure you can get a mountain bike with full suspension, the absolute lightest components and all the bells and whistles but remember, little Timmy is going to need braces someday.

If you are looking for reviews, stick to the sites and publications that can be counted on for accurate and valuable information. Most print publications have accurate reviews. When reading one of these reviews, it is important to look on the edges of the page for very tiny print that says ‘advertisement.’ If you see that, you can be sure that this is not a real review you are reading. It is an advertisement disguised as a review. Its purpose is to get you to buy the  bike – not to point out both the pros and the cons! Move on!

When looking for reviews online, stick to the better known online magazines such as Single track, Gear Head, Mountain Bike parts, and Mountain Bike. These are the online magazines that will give you the most accurate information in terms of reviews. You will also find the latest mountain biking news, as well as quite a bit of information on races and trails. These four websites are vitally important to serious bikers.

By the way, unless you are taking on an urban assault, it is pretty much guaranteed that portions of the bike section will be on dirt roads, trails, rocks and other surfaces which will launch a road bike into a formal protest, so let’s look at the two types of mountain bikes you will want to consider, hard tails and full suspension bikes.

Hard Tails

Hard tail is lingo amongst mountain bikers for a bike which only has shocks on the front forks, thus a “hard tail.” Generally, a hard tail is both lighter and cheaper than a full suspension mountain bike. The shocks on the front end are designed to absorb some of the impact and bumps on the front tire while allowing for some added comfort and control.

Full or Dual Suspension

Full suspension means a mountain bike which has shocks on both the front forks and on the rear of the bike. Further comfort and control, especially downhill, comes for a higher price and added weight. As this is being written, some full suspension bikes are catching up to hard tails weight wise, but you’ll pay a premium to shed the weight looking at a minimum price.

Recommendation:

The good news is that most entry level motorcycles these days come with adequate components and will get you through your first training session and race. If you’re a beginner or on a budget, I would recommend going with a hard tail in order to save money, keep the weight of the bike down and ease your maintenance requirements.

When it came time for me to decide on my first bike I bought a 2003 Jamis Durango for $350.00. It got me through my first race with flying colors and, with a couple of component upgrades, I still use the bike today, most recently in my first 24 hour mountain bike race.


Motorcycle Maintenance – A Basic Guide

September 25, 2008

 

Here we have a few things you should check on your motorcycle on a regular basis. I assume you have a handbook with the specs for your bike, if not, go get one. You may be able to find some data for your particular motorcycle on the net. 

Whereas with a four wheeled vehicle you may get away with being lax with things like tire pressures etc, this is not the case with a motorcycle. You should not risk compromising the safety and stability of your motorcycle, for the sake of a bit of routine maintenance.

Pre-ride checks

  • Tires – check condition and for foreign objects in the tread.
  • Tire pressures – it is vitally important to keep your motorcycles tire pressures either on spec or very close to it.
  • Oil level – always check with the bike on level ground.
  • Coolant level – only if your bike’s liquid cooled, obviously.
  • Chain – check the tension and make sure it’s well lubed.
  • Brakes – check they work and that they feel good.
  • Lights – check all your lights, especially the brake light, you don’t want to get rear ended, do you?
  • Visual inspection – self explanatory.
  • All ok – hit the road.

Periodical checks

 

  • Check battery – see that the connections are tight; I dropped a bike once because of a loose battery connection, strange but true. Also check the electrolyte level on some batteries, a lot of newer batteries are gel filled, sealed for life types, so no need with these.
  • Carb balance – if your bike is multi carbed get yourself a Morgan carbtune or similar. It can be a little tricky the first time you balance them, but when you’ve done it once, the second time will be easy.
  • Ignition timing – only necessary on some bikes, most newer models have electronic ignition which does not need touching, normally.
  • Valve clearances – unless you’re a good home mechanic, take it to a motorcycle dealer.
  • Wheel bearings – grab each wheel with it off the ground and see if there is any sideways play. There should be none or maybe a trace at most.
  • Steering head bearings – with the front end off the ground, grab the forks and push and pull. There should be no play.
  • Swinging arm bearings – with the back wheel off the ground, check for any sideways movement in the swingarm, there should be none.
  • Brakes – check fluid levels, brake hoses for deterioration, and pads/shoes for thickness.
  • Cables and levers – should operate smoothly. Get some grease on lever/pedal pivot points, and get some lube down the cables, if you can. A cable oiler is a handy tool.
  • Nut and bolts – go all round the motorcycle with your spanners and check that all nuts/ bolts/screws are nice and tight.

Well, that’s about it for some basic maintenance, obviously, unless you’re a good home mechanic, any bigger jobs will have to go to a dealer. The problem can be finding a good one with skilled mechanics you can trust. I manage to keep my Yamaha Fazer 1000 running sweet just using the steps listed above. It does help that this model only needs the valve clearances checking every 26,000 miles.