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DIY MTB Tuning: Best Ways to Have Pro-Grade Results!

How to Tune up a Mountain Bike
Written by Cobie Brown
Last Update: August 16, 2023

Taking care of your mountain bike with regular maintenance or tune-ups will keep things running smoothly and for longer. The amount of upkeep for your bike will depend on how often it is used and what type of terrain you ride on.

What can you expect from a proper tune-up? Your entire bike will be cleaned and tuned. This will include the chain, freewheel, chainrings, brakes, derailleurs, and rims. They will all be looked at and degreased or, if need be, replaced with fresh parts.

Here’s how to do it for pro-grade results.

How to Know When to Give Your Bike a Tune-Up?

A yearly tune-up is recommended for your MTB. But how often you use it and where will determine if you need it more than once annually. A bike is just another machine and requires regular attention to work properly.

This is increasingly true if you ride through the rain, snow, grime, and frigid weather because these all put extra pressure on the parts that move on your mountain bike – being on alert and learning the signs for when your bike needs a tune-up will save you long-term frustration and money.

Common signs your bike needs a tune-up

  • Squeaking
  • Gunk
  • Rust
  • Difficulty braking
  • Difficulty shifting gears
  • The chain wasn’t replaced in a while

How to Tune up a Mountain Bike?

Maintenance will go quicker if you start with a clean bike. Give it a thorough spray down from a garden hose.

Step 1: Service suspension

Refresh the suspension oil. Take the fork off the bike (sets it up to clean the headset afterward). Let the air out of your fork, and write down your settings if something changes (PSI, rebound, compression, and spacer settings).

Undo the rebound knob, loosen the 2 bolts on the lowers, and remove them. Clean everything you’ve taken off the bike, spray alcohol inside and let it dry.

Air up your PSI to 60. Then reassemble and place oil in from the bottom.

Step 2: Give the headset some love

Spin and turn your headset bearings to ensure that they are working correctly.

When you reassemble, snug down the top cap and then do the pinch bolts up. You will know it’s too tight if you can’t rotate the handlebars.

Step 3: Brake rotors, pads, and fluid

Look at your rotors for wear and contamination. You can always clean them with a brake cleaner but observe if any chunks are taken out that could be harmful to the brake pads.

Check your brake pads and do a cuppy bleed (or bubble bleed) to remove any bubbles in the line. If the oil is filthy, you can perform a full gravity bleed of the entire system.

Step 4: Clean the bottom bracket

Remove the crease and clean the spindle and look at the bottom bracket. Look at the chainring for any damage.

Before replacing the cranks, check the bottom brackets bearings for wear and tear. Replace it if need be.

Step 5: Regrease pivots

Pull everything out, and check the bearings to see how it runs. Then clean and regrease it, but don’t forget how to reassemble it!

Step 6: Chain, cassette, and derailleur

Clean off the bike chain. If it’s stretched out, you will need to replace it.

Next, on the drivetrain, scrub the cassette and clean the derailleur.

Step 7: Check spoke tension

At this time, you can check the straightness and tension of your wheels. Make sure spokes are tight. Only tighten the spokes that need it and don’t overtighten the other spokes. Start with a fast hand check and then, if necessary, use a tool and do small quarter turns to tighten.

Step 8: Bolt check

Always use a torque wrench for this step (whenever possible). Make sure everything on the mountain bike is snug and tight.

That’s it! You are all done and ready to ride your tuned-up MTB again!


1. How much does a mountain bike tune-up cost?

Ans. If you decide against tuning up your bike on your own, you can go to a bike shop to get it professionally done. It will depend on your area, but on average, it will cost $60 to $100. Many bike shops give you 2 options to choose from. There is a primary or minor tune-up from $60 to $90 or a major one priced at around $120 to $150.

About the author

Cobie Brown

Born and grew up in Colorado, I chose to work in the field of what I liked most, biking. I’ve been working as a full time mechanic in the cycling industry for over 13 years. I started BMXing when I was just a 6-year-old kid and got hooked from the very first day. Then I started riding and not a single day went by since then that I didn’t touch my bike.

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