DIY Mountain Bike Tune Up: 7 Key Steps [With Video Guide]

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With spring well and truly upon us, we’re all itching to get the mountain bike out of the shed and hit the trails.

And that means one job has risen straight to the top of our maintenance to-do list: a mountain bike tune up.

Keeping on top of your bike maintenance is a vital part of cycling. A bike is made up of many parts, and if they are not all working in harmony, then you are not going to get the best experience and will probably end up having a miserable ride.

In this guide, we’ll be covering:

  • What Is A DIY Mountain Bike Tune Up?
  • 2 Vital Benefits Of A DIY Mountain Bike Tune Up
  • How To Tune Up A Mountain Bike In 7 Steps
  • Robbie’s Video Maintenance Guide: DIY Mountain Bike Tune-Up

Let’s dive in!

DIY Mountain Bike Tune Up: Title Image

What Is A DIY Mountain Bike Tune Up?

A mountain bike tune up is something cyclists often do to keep their bikes in tip-top condition and also ensure the components last as long as possible. It’s a simple job that can be done at home and requires minimal tools. 

Typically, it starts with a clean and some general maintenance tasks. It will keep your bike in optimal shape and running as quietly and smoothly as possible.

A 1x oval mountain bike crankset with a Shimano pedal attached.

2 Vital Benefits Of A DIY Mountain Bike Tune Up

DIY tune-ups are vital for keeping on top of your bike, and we highly recommend every cyclist regularly do them. Here are the benefits:


If you keep up with the DIY tune-ups, you will get much better performance. Not only will your components work much better, but they are going to run smoother and with much less resistance against you. 


If you look after your bike with regular tune-ups, then parts last so much longer. A well-oiled chain that is free of dirt is going to last hundreds of miles longer than a chain that is dry and dirty and starting to rust.

How To Tune Up A Mountain Bike In 7 Steps

What Tools Do You Need For A DIY Mountain Bike Tune Up?

A kit to wash a bike alongside a pump, bike lube, and an Allen key set.
  • Cleaning Supplies (including degreaser)
  • Oil Or Lube
  • Allen Keys 
  • Bike Pump
  • Bike Stand (optional)

Step #1. Preparation

A matte black mountain bike in a wall bike stand.

Find a safe workspace where you’ll be able to make some mess if required. Have all your tools next to you and allow yourself around an hour to complete the job. 

Step #2. Clean Your Bike

A hose pointing directly at a mountain bike which is about to be washed.

Next, we need to get the bike nice and clean.

We recommend starting by rinsing the bike off with water and letting the water soak in to release the dirt. Don’t be shy of really soaking it and leaving it for a few minutes. 

Next, take the degreaser and spray it all over the drivetrain. Focus on the cassette, chain, and chainrings and let it settle in. 

Scrub the drivetrain down to help break down any old grease and dirt. Then spray the drivetrain down with water, and it should be lovely and clean. For a superior finish, we recommend using a chain cleaning device. 

Now, use a sponge and scrub the whole bike down, ensuring not to miss anywhere. Once you have scrubbed everywhere, you will want to rinse it and let it dry naturally or use a towel.

Step #3. Bike Inspection

A mountain bike fork against a brick background.

With all the dirt off, it’s the perfect time to inspect your bike to see if there are any issues or if parts will require changing soon. Here’s what we recommend looking for:


Check to see how worn they are and for any cracks or splits. You should pay extra attention to the rear tire, as they wear down quicker than the front.

Some cyclists swap their tires around now and then to make the set last longer and balance out the wear. 


Ensure they spin freely and there’s not any gritty sound. You should expect them to spin for around 15 seconds before stopping. Also, check for any play in the wheel by pushing it left to right. 

A matte black mountain bike resting against a brick wall.


Check the pads are not too worn and still have some compound left on them. Then, check the discs are not bent and not too worn down. Anything less than 1.5 mm should be changed.

Finally, check they’re working as they should.


Check the gears all shift smoothly and that all the combinations of the front chainrings work with all the cogs on the rear cassette. Check the cassette and chainrings for wear.


Check the cables to ensure none are broken or starting to rust out. If you feel anything is on the way out, then it’s worth changing now.


Check the suspension travels well, there’s no pitting on the inner forks, and that the seals still look in good condition. 

Step #4. Change Any Parts Required

A derailleur cable being adjusted on a mountain bike.

Now it’s time to change any parts you find in need of replacing during your inspection.

We found two parts that needed changing on this bike we are working on. We required a new chain and inner and outer cable set for the rear derailleur. We are using Shimano parts.

To change the chain, we removed the old chain using a chain link tool. Once off, we measured the chain next to the old one and then cut it as required. Once cut, we rethreaded it back through the drivetrain and inserted the new link. 

We also needed to change the cable inner and outer as the shifting wasn’t very good, and the cable looked worn. We undo the pinch bolt, remove the cable from the system, and then remove the outers. 

We cut new outers using the old ones as a guide and then thread the cable through the system. Once in, we pulled the cable finger tight and then cut it an inch after the pinch bolt. We will be making adjustments next.

Step #5. Make Adjustments

The perfectly tuned bike will require adjustments every so often.

Learning how to adjust your bike will come in really handy. Only make adjustments if required, for example, if your brakes feel slack or gears are not shifting properly. 

Adjusting the Brakes

A mountain bike disc brake with a Allen key set adjusting the caliper.

Generally, the only disc brakes that need adjusting on the cables are mechanical disc brakes (cable operated).

If you have hydraulic brakes, these typically are self-adjusting, but you still need to tweak the caliper’s position. 

If you have mechanical brakes on your mountain bike, you must first release the tension by undoing the pinch bolt. Once the tension is released, you will want to screw in any barrel adjusters.

Then, pull the cable tight and tighten it back up again and use the adjuster to get the right leverage on the brake lever. 

Next, you need to centralize the caliper on both mechanical and hydraulic disc brakes. You can do this by slightly loosening off the caliper’s bolts, pulling the brake lever, holding it, and tightening the bolts back up again. 

You shouldn’t have any brake rub, but if you do, you can fine-tune it by releasing one bolt and moving it with your hands slightly before tightening it back up.

Adjusting the Gearing

Adjusting the barrel of a mountain bike shifter made by SRAM.

We only recommend adjusting your gears if they are not working correctly. Avoid messing with them if they’re already working well, as you could make them worse!

To adjust the derailleurs, use the barrel adjuster. Over time the cable can stretch, and gears become slack. Run the bike in the stand while working your way from the smallest cog upwards. 

When it doesn’t jump up to the next gear slightly, adjust the barrel adjuster outwards until it does, then continue working your way up the cassette until you hit the top and ensure it drops down just as well.

For a more in-depth guide, check out our video guides on How To Adjust The Front Derailleur and How To Adjust The Rear Derailleur here!

Step #6. Get The Right Tire Pressure

Putting a pump onto a Schrader valve.

Next, you will want to get your pump and then find out what PSI is required for your tires. You can find out here with the Silca tire pressure calculator.

Pump both tires up to require pressure by removing the valve cap, unscrewing the valve if you have Presta valves, attaching the pump, and pumping it as required. Once done, return the caps.

Step #7. Lubrication

Muc Off wet bike lube being applied to a mountain bike chain.

The final part of how to tune up a mountain bike is getting the bike properly lubricated.

When it comes to lubrication, less is more. You only want just enough on, too much will attract dirt quicker.  

We recommend good-quality, purpose-built lubes from companies such as Finish Line and Muc Off. Avoid using WD-40 or other similar products as a lubricant, as they’ll only work briefly before causing their own problems!

Once you’ve run the lubricant around the drivetrain for around 30 seconds, leave it to soak in for about 10 minutes. Then, hold a rag loosely around the chain and run it through, without putting too much pressure on the inside of the links.

Robbie’s Video Maintenance Guide: DIY Mountain Bike Tune-Up

Check out the BikeTips YouTube Channel here for walk-through bike maintenance guides and more!

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Robbie has traveled the globe as an endurance athlete and bikepacker, challenging world records and competing in international ultra-cycling events such as the BikingMan series and the Transcontinental Race. He's also worked as an ambassador for some of the industry's leading names, including Shimano and Ritchey. If Robbie is not on a bike, he's either fixing them or out walking with his dog.

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