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Table of Contents

General Tips for Maintaining Your Bike

A Basic Bike Maintenance Tool Set

Typical Tool SetFigure 1

  • Allen-key set (1)
  • A cross-point and flat blade screwdriver (2)
  • 8mm T-grip Allen-key (3)
  • Bowden cable cutter (4)
  • Disc straightening tool (5)
  • A T-25 Torx T-grip tool (6)
  • Spoke key (7)
  • Shock pump (8)
  • Tyre pressure gauge (9)
  • Torque wrench [2 – 20Nm] (10)

The Handlebar Top Tube, Tyre Pressure & Pedals

Vertical PlayFigure 2 Top Tube FasteningFigure 1 When mounting the fork into the top tube, adjust the spacers between the stem and the frame/handlebars to set the height of the bar above the top tube. Use an Allen Key to tighten the Allen screw in the centre of the fork (Fig. 1) so that the fork/wheel combination can move freely from side to side on their own, but ensure that there is no vertical play in the top tube (Fig. 2).

Stem AdjustmentFigure 3 It is important to experiment with the forward rake (height) of your bars, though this will depend on their width and rise as well. Rotating the bars slightly forward (i.e. rotating them away from you when viewed from behind) can also help with climbing slopes as this will position you slightly forward on the bike. When the height of the handlebar has been set, lightly tighten the stem Allen screws and then align the front wheel and handlebar to be at 90 degrees to one another. If torque settings are available and you have a torque wrench, use it to tighten the Allen screws. You will be surprised at how little force is needed to give a torque of 5Nm! See Fig. 3.

Securing the HandlebarFigure 4 Check the tightness of the Allen screws holding the handlebar to the stem and if necessary loosen them slightly so that the handlebar can be rotated to the angle best suited to your riding position. When the position has been set, tighten the Allen screws. If torque settings are available and you have a torque wrench, use it to tighten the Allen screws; particularly if your bar is carbon. See Fig. 4.

Tyre TableFigure 6 Tyre PumpFigure 5 Make sure that the tyres are pumped up to the correct pressure. Often, the pressure used is far too high resulting in a skittish bike as soon as the going gets a bit wet or rough. Between 2 and 2.2 bar is usually about right. See Fig. 5. A table of body weight versus tyre width and rim width versus tyre width can be seen in Fig. 6 and can be used as a general guide.

L & R Pedal MarkingsFigure 8 Fitting a PedalFigure 7 If you are fitting new pedals or perhaps just changing them, it is worth noting that the left side of the bike has a left hand threaded pedal and the right hand side of the bike has a right hand threaded pedal. Pedals are usually clearly marked with L and R. See Figs. 7 & 8.

Adjusting the Seat

Grease the Seat TubeFigure 1 Before fitting the seat tube, lightly grease the tube and the inside of the frame as this will stop the ingress of water and prevent corrosion. See Fig. 1.

Fore-Aft AdjustmentFigure 3 Fore-Aft Seat SettingFigure 2 The height of the saddle is determined by the outstretched leg on the pedal and the distance from the handlebars by the knee joint in relation to the pedal. See Figs. 2 & 3 which pictorially describes this. If the distance from the handlebars can’t be set correctly, you may need a seat tube that has an offset clamp.

Saddle HorizontalFigure 5 Horizontal Seat AdjustmentFigure 4 About 90% of bikers are happiest when the saddle is absolutely level. Adjustment is made by loosening or tightening the Allen screws on the underside of the saddle mount (Fig. 4). Level the saddle using a spirit level (Fig. 5). If you are mounting a dropper seat post, take care to ensure that the uppermost position of the post doesn’t stretch the hydraulic hose.

Setting Up the Cockpit

Lever AngleFigure 2 One Finger BrakingFigure 1 Fig 1. Shows how to set the position of the brake and gear shifter in relation to the grip. The brake lever should be mounted inside of the gear shifter mechanism if your parts allow this. One finger braking can then easily be set up. Fig 2. Shows the way to set the angle to which the brake lever should be adjusted. The wrist and lower arm should be aligned when seated normally on the bike.

Adjusting Gear Changer PositionFigure 4 Brake Lever ReachFigure 3 Setting the distance of the brake lever from the handlebar can be done using a thumb wheel if available or a small Allen screw in the lever. Adjust the position for easy reach by the first joint of the index finger. Adjusting the gear change mechanism is a matter of trial and error until a comfortable angle is found. See Figs. 3 & 4.

Adjusting a Minor Wheel Wobble

Using a Zip Tie for AlignmentFigure 1 Sometimes spokes become loose or you have a minor mishap and a wheel gets a slight wobble. It can quickly be straightened if the wobble is only minor. You don’t need an expensive wheel truing jig to do this, a simple zip tie will suffice. Attach the zip tie to the front fork or the rear down tube and rotate it so that the protruding end is close to the affected wheel. See Fig. 1. Use this as your guide for adjusting the spokes to pull the wheel back into shape.

Using a Spoke KeyFigure 3 Chack for Loose SpokesFigure 2 If you are not sure which direction to turn the spoke nipple, make sure you take note of what you do. Say one turn clockwise, test the wheel against the zip tie and if the wobble is worse, reverse the one turn clockwise and make a turn anti-clockwise. Fig. 2. Shows a spoke key in use. These adjustments take time, but are relatively easy to perform. Also test spokes for looseness (See Fig. 3) and gently tighten them. Always check for wobble after an adjustment.


Repairing a Flat Tyre

Inserting Tyre LeversFigure 1 This sounds a bit basic, but not everyone has had to remove a tyre from the wheel before. First, press one side of the tyre bead towards the middle of the rim. Slip a tyre lever under the tyre bead and then a second tyre lever about 15cm from the first. Use both tyre levers at once to lever the tyre bead over the edge of the rim. Use one of the levers clipped to a spoke to hold the tyre off the rim while you use the other to slide along between bead and rim, removing one side of the tyre from the wheel. If the tyre is particularly stiff (the non-foldable variety for example), a third tyre lever may come in useful. Fig. 1 shows the tyre levers in position.

Removing the TubeFigure 2 Once one side of the tyre is off the rim, unscrew the valve retaining ring and remove the punctured tube from the tyre. See Fig. 2. Check the inside of the tyre carcass for the object that punctured your tube and remove it if it is still there. You can either fix the tube or use a new one to make the repair. Find the valve hole in the rim and insert the valve of the tube through the hole. Screw the retaining ring onto the valve, but don’t tighten it. Using both hands, work away from the valve in opposite directions, tucking the tube under the tyre bead onto the rim. Inflate the tube slightly to ensure it beds into place. Starting at the valve, push the tyre bead over the rim until you reach the last few centimetres. This is the hardest portion to get back on the rim. If pushing with your fingers doesn’t work, use the ball of your hands. Once the tyre is back on the rim, check that the tube isn’t pinched and if everything looks good, inflate the tyre. Fig. 3 is a table with guideline tyre pressures. Firm up the valve retaining screw ring.

Tyre Pressure TableFigure 3 If you are using a tubeless tyre, you can repair a puncture by patching the inside of the tyre wall, or if you prefer, by fitting a tube. Be aware that getting a tubeless tyre off the rim is a lot harder than removing a tubed tyre. The key is to push the tyre bead completely off the sealing ridge of the rim all around the tyre before trying to insert tyre levers to remove it. A tubeless tyre will contain a substance in it that automatically seals small punctures. You will need to renew the sealant about every 3 months as it becomes less fluid over time. To renew or replace it, fit the tyre as normal using a few drops of washing up liquid diluted in a little water to spread around the rim with a paint brush to help "pop" the tyre onto the sealing ridge of the rim by pumping air into it (use a compressor if necessary). Now deflate the tyre and push a small section off the sealing ridge. Carefully pour the sealing liquid into the opening between tyre and sealing rim. "Pop" the tyre back onto the rim and inflate to the desired pressure. Fit the wheel to the bike and spin it for about 2 to 3 minutes to evenly distribute the sealant. If you omit this step, you may end up with a big lump of sealant where you poured it into the tyre and a very imbalanced wheel!

Setting-up Your Suspension

There are three main criteria for setting up your suspension. Firstly, the so called Sag, the amount the suspension compresses when you are static and sitting on the bike at your riding weight. As a rule of thumb, this should be about 20% of your overall suspension travel for Cross Country and Marathon bikes and 30% for All Mountain and Freeride bikes. Secondly, the Compression Damping, this controls the rate or speed of compression of the suspension.  And thirdly, the Rebound Rate of the suspension, which determines if your bike behaves more like a pogo stick than a Mountain Bike!

Sag Height on the Frong ForksFigure 2 Sag height on the Rear ShockFigure 1 Setting the Sag on both the forks and rear shock is best done with helpers. If your fork and Shock don’t have an O-ring, you can substitute them with a zip tie. Get your friend(s) to hold the handlebars while you get onto the bike (use steps or a beer crate!) wearing your usual riding paraphernalia. Bounce the bike a few times to loosen the suspension and then remain static on the bike. Get your friend to push the O-rings or zip ties to the fork and shock body (he or she will need to be a contortionist) and carefully dismount from the bike. Measure the Sag as shown in Figs. 1 & 2.

Inccreasing Fork Air PressureFigure 4 Increasing Rear Shock Air PressureFigure 3Increase or decrease the air pressure in the shock or fork (Figs. 3 & 4) so that you end up with the appropriate Sag. Makers often provide a table with their fork or shock that gives you an air pressure versus riding weight as a starting point.

Shock Rebound Rate AdjustmentFigure 5You can test the shock Rebound Rate by riding the bike off a kerb. It should bounce less than 1.5 times, leaving your rear wheel firmly on the ground as quickly as possible. If it bounces more than this, you will need to stiffen the rear shock. Fig. 5 shows the red ring on a Fox shock that is used to adjust the shock Rebound Rate.

Rebound Rate Adjustment on the Front ForkFigure 6To test the fork Rebound Rate, set the rebound to the lightest setting using the (mostly) red knob on the fork, see Fig. 6. Grip the handlebars, front brake engaged, then quickly depress the fork and then let go. A well-adjusted fork should return to rest at a damped rate, leaving the front wheel still on the ground. Adjust the rebound knob to a harder setting, one click at a time and retest until you achieve this.

Adjusting a Rubbing Brake Disk

Gently tighten the Calliper Clamp ScrewsFigure 1 A rubbing disk brake can have several causes, not least of which can be a seized calliper. That’s a major repair and isn’t covered here. Initially, you can try centring the calliper mechanism on the disk (See Fig.1). Loosen the retaining Allen screws, and then squeeze the brake lever to get the calliper to bite on the disk. Tighten the Allen screws gently alternating from one to the other until the calliper is firmly re-seated. This self-centres the calliper on the disk.

Tweaking the DiskFigure 2 If the disk still rubs, it may be slightly bent. You can adjust this by localising the spot that rubs and, using a disk straightening tool (yes, there is such a thing) or a suitable alternative that won’t damage the disk, gently tweak the disk to true it up. See Fig. 2. This is really fiddly work, so some of you may prefer to buy a new disk!

Adjusting the Gear Shifters

Adjusting the Front ChangerFigure 2 Bowden Cable AdjustmentFigure 1 Most gear shifting problems can be solved by a few turns on the Bowden cable adjustment knob on the handlebar gear shifter, shown in Fig. 1.

Figs. 2 to 5 show the end point adjustment screws that only need a tweak if the dérailleur or front changer mechanism isn’t moving far enough, too far, or rubs on the chain.

Adjusting the Reach of the Front Mech.Figure 3These screws are usually marked “L” (lowest gear) and “H” (highest gear) and apply to both the front and rear mechanisms. In Fig. 2 on the front mechanism, the screw shown adjusts the changer mechanism so that it doesn’t rub on the chain. The “H” screw adjusts the outer limit of movement of the mechanism and ensures the chain isn’t forced off the largest cog (Fig. 3).

"L" Screw AdjustmentFigure 5 "H" Screw AdjustmentFigure 4 On the rear dérailleur, tighten the “H” screw if the chain is forced off the smallest cog (Fig.4). Conversely, if the chain is forced off the largest cog, tighten the “L” screw (Fig. 5). If the chain doesn’t engage the largest cog, or is slow to engage it, turn the Bowden cable adjusting knob anti-clockwise on the gear shifter to tighten the Bowden cable (Fig. 1). Unscrew a half-turn at a time and check the results until the shifting works well. If the chain doesn’t engage the smallest cog properly, turn the adjusting knob clockwise on the gear shifter. Again, a half-turn at a time until the shifting works well. You may need to revisit the “H” and “L” screws after either of these adjustments.

Hydraulic Hose Routing for Dropper Seat Posts

Seat LoweredFigure 2 Seat ExtendedFigure 1 The long hydraulic hose used for controlling the dropper seat post can suffer badly if kinked, routing it is therefore very important. It’s actually very easy to prevent kinking if you simply turn the seat post one turn (direction to suit left or right hand handlebar mounted control levers) so that the hose concertinas and doesn’t kink. Figs. 1 & 2 show how this is done.

How to Make a Waterproof Toilet Roll Dispenser

Gently tighten the Calliper Clamp ScrewsFigure 1A good way to create a toilet roll dispenser is to have a “ziplock” bag that can easily hold the roll. Cut the closed end corners off. Take a piece of stout string and thread one end through the cut you have just made in the “ziplock” bag. Take it through the toilet roll and then back out of the other corner of the “ziplock” bag. Cut the string at a length that allows the bag to hang over your neck to a convenient position resting on your chest. Puull a bit of toilet roll out of the “ziplock” bag and then close the the "zip" at either end so that you have a nice opening through which to pull the paper. Join the string that goes around your neck using one of those sprung loaded "grips" that you find for example on the string that tightens an anorak hood or similar. That way the bag is a bit safer and changing a toilet roll is easy. It's also adjustable for length if you leave the string a bit long. You now have a waterproof toilet roll dispenser! Figure 1 gives you an idea of what is described.

How to Ride Steep Slopes onto the Flat

One of the biggest issues to getting safely off a slope onto flat ground is riding too fast and not being able to slow up at the bottom. Therefore, approach the slope cautiously and slowly - walking pace is good. Try to start the slope "square on" giving you a straight ride down so that you arrive at the bottom perpendicular to the slope.

As your bike rolls onto the slope, move your weight off the saddle, hanging literally over the back wheel with your right foot on the pedal at about 15 or so degrees above the horizontal (for "lefties", use the left foot). Don't try to grip the saddle with your thighs, that isn't necessary and means you probably aren't far enough back over the rear wheel. The position should lower your centre of gravity and put the weight firmly over the back axle, which provides you the control you need.

The bike is now descending the steep slope with the weight correctly distributed and under full control. Braking can be a 50/50 mix of front and back to control speed. As you approach the flat, check the speed with controlled braking and at the last moment, release the brakes and move slightly forward again, at the same time take your weight off the bars for the moment just before you hit the flat. This is crucial to stop a harsh compression at the bottom of the slope. That was it, you are safely down the slope and comfortably on the flat again.

Dealing With an Equatorial Spitting Cobra

Equatorial Spitting CobraFigure 1Common in Borneo, Singapore, Sumatra and Malaysia but for some unknown reason in Singapore only comes out during daylight. They can grow up to 1.5m in length.

Typically this snake prefers to avoid confrontation and is not considered 'aggressive', however, large adults will stand erect, expand their hood and hiss loudly if feeling threatened. If the perceived attacker does not back off from this threat display, the snake will then attempt to spray venom into the eyes of its tormentor. Unless such venom is washed away immediately, permanent damage to the tissues surrounding the eye can occur.


As of 2013 there is no proven anti venom although the haffakine anti venom used in India for other cobras has mixed results. They can spit venom 2m accurately.

This species presented an IV LD50 of 0.50 µg/g to a mouse which means it is in the medium range in terms of dangerous snakes and half as dangerous as the Thailand spitting cobra.

  • Do not use tourniquets, cut, suck or scarify the wound or apply chemicals or electric shock.
  • All rings or other jewellery on the bitten limb, especially on fingers, should be removed, as they may act as tourniquets if oedema develops.
  • The bitten limb should be immobilised as effectively as possible using an extemporised splint or sling; if available, crepe bandaging of the splinted limb is an effective form of immobilisation.
  • The snakebite victim should be transported as quickly and as passively as possible to the nearest place where they can be seen by a medically-trained person (health station, dispensary, clinic or hospital).
  • The bitten limb must not be exercised as muscular contraction will promote systemic absorption of venom. If no motor vehicle or boat is available, the patient can be carried on a stretcher or hurdle, on the pillion or crossbar of a bicycle or on someone's back.