Repairing a broken mountain bike chain

On-Trail Mountain Bike Repairs – Jans Expert Series

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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Welcome to our Jans Expert Series. This growing compilation of videos is focused on providing advanced technical tips in a way that is clear, concise, and most importantly, viewer-friendly.

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On-Trail Mountain Bike Repairs

In this installment of our Jans Expert Series we’ll show you how to perform the on-trail mountain bike repairs that every rider needs to know before they hit the dirt. Mountain biking experts Scott House and Cindi Grant will show you how to fix flat tires and broken chains, and discuss ways to address common issues with your shifting and disc brakes.

Before you head out on your next ride, make sure you have the knowledge and skills needed to deal with minor bike malfunctions when they happen. All of these fixes are simple once you get the hang of them, and can mean the difference between a quick pause in your ride or a long walk home. Check out the videos below for step-by-step demonstrations and detailed descriptions of how to perform four key mountain bike repairs out on the trail.

Part 1: How to Fix a Flat Tire

The most common of all on-trail malfunctions, flat tires are an inevitable side effect of riding bikes in the mountains. They are also an equipment failure that can’t be ignored – if you try to limp home with a flat, things will get expensive in a hurry. But that doesn’t mean the threat of a flat tire should confine you to mellow trails close to home. With the right tools and enough practice, flatting halfway through a lengthy out-and-back ride will become a small annoyance that can be solved with a quick and easy fix.

Part 2: How to Adjust Shifting

200 yards from the top of the biggest climb of the day, you push on your shifter looking for a little mercy. But instead of dropping a gear and letting you push through to the top, your shifter cables send sloppy messages to the derailleur, the chain and cassette fall out of sync, and your weary legs pay the price. Mountain biking is hard enough – you don’t need an indecisive drivetrain adding to your troubles. Learning how to use your barrel adjusters to keep your bike shifting with smooth precision is a key skill for riders of all ability levels.

Part 3: How to Fix a Broken Chain

If you’ve never broken one, it’s easy to forget how vital the chain is to your bike’s ability to…bike. And whether it was overzealous shifting or you were “just riding along,” when you break a chain things can get real dramatic, real quick. If you’re lucky, there’s a bunch of clanking, some Road Runner pedaling, and then a stroll back down the trail to find your chain. If you’re not, there’s a seized back wheel and a whole lot of sketchiness. But once you’ve gotten over the initial startle of a broken chain, this ride disruption can easily be fixed if you’ve come prepared and know what you’re doing. It can’t be stressed enough that, if you don’t have a chain tool and quick link, you won’t be fixing your chain. Never ride without them!

Part 4: How to Adjust Disc Brakes

When they’re functioning with freshly tuned precision, hydraulic disc brakes allow you to ride fast and aggressive with the confidence you’ll be able to shut it down in a hurry. When they’re out of whack, however, disc brakes can become a momentum-killing nuisance. And while you might not always be able to eliminate that distinctly annoying sound of rotor hitting brake pad, there are some useful tricks to try that can limit the unwanted resistance. Just keep in mind that heat-warped rotors, spent brake pads, or misaligned calipers don’t work themselves out over time. Any on-trail brake repair is performed based on immediate need and should always be followed up with a closer inspection from a trusted mechanic back in town.

Mountain bikes are intricate machines – the sum of many finely tuned parts reliant on other finely tuned parts. That’s not to say that mountain bikes are delicate. Their malfunctions have more to do with the rough and unforgiving nature of mountain bike trails than a predisposition to screwing us over.

When we choose ambitious lines through haggard rock gardens, our bikes forgive the lack of precision and help us through in one piece. We’re not perfect, and neither are our bikes. Taking the time to learn how to repair your ride when it falters out on the trails is the best way to ensure you both make it home no worse for wear.

Nate Tomlinson, Senior Content Writer

We hope this helps you keep your mountain bike running smoothly on the trails this summer. Be sure to subscribe to Jans Mountain Recreation Experts on YouTube to make sure you don’t miss out on any of our upcoming Jans Expert Series videos.