Getting Trail-Ready With JRA Bicycle Co.
Words by Meg Elliot
Have you ever hopped onto your bike for a spontaneous ride? It’s just you, the bike and the trails, no tools to weigh you down. You’re itching to get out – just for a short one – the bike should be fine.
Cross your fingers and hope for the best.
The irony of mountain biking is that it’s often the short rides that can be the ones most wrought with small but ride-ending mechanical issues, and the slow pedal back to the car where accidents seem to happen the most. I am the first to admit my lax attitude to bike maintenance and basic ride prep, but in the spirit of collective improvement…
What essential things do we need to know to make sure our bike is fit for a ride?
Alex Kingsley and Rick Woodward of JRA bikes are our maintenance gurus, and shared with me their top tips on how to prep for the perfect ride. Their shop in Wānaka is dedicated to fixing bikes and fixing them well, and their loyal customer base is testament to their success. Even before JRA was fully fitted out in Level 3 lockdown, people were rolling their bikes in for repairs.
They’re bicycle riders first and foremost. Rick raced on the road at College, before swapping tramping boots for mountain bikes in ’88. Alex can be found riding the trails around Wānaka and Queenstown, or out coaching his own kids on push bikes.
They work well together, and their small team is part of what makes JRA so special: “a customer can walk into the shop, say “hi I was just talking to Alex” and I can say “hi, I’m Rick, now you’ve met everyone!” None of this ivory tower stuff where you never know who the boss is – which is fine in bigger shops, but we’re only little.”
They contribute to their community differently, too. Just like their customers, Alex and Rick enjoy riding the local trails, and donate regularly to their local riding club, Bike Wānaka, to keep them in peak condition, “so everyone gets something.”
“With the exception of the bike parks, there’s no pay-to-ride here in Wānaka, and I think sometimes it gets taken for granted,” says Rick.
“Someone paid to get these trails put in – a huge amount of money – but we don’t pay to ride, so we feel like let’s allocate some money to put back into the club to keep the trails in great shape. It works for everyone.”
If something happens when you’re out on those trails, the most important thing to do is stop, keep calm, have a drink of water or a bite to eat, and then look at what needs doing, Alex tells me.
And if you’re ever near Wānaka, drop in for a yarn and a bike check.
The "M" Check
For a mountain bike tyre that is between 2.3 – 2.5, you should run 20-28psi, with a little more in the rear tyre.
Or, as Alex learnt from Jo Guest, think of tyre pressure in fruit terms: “an apple is too hard, a banana is too soft, an orange is just right, it still has a little give. You want the tyre to conform to the ground.”
Make sure your axle is done up, give it a wobble and make sure there is no play. Spin the front wheel to make sure nothing is catching and your brake pads have enough life left in them.
Hold your front brake, push the bike back and forwards and make sure your headset isn’t loose.
Down to the crank
Give it a wobble and check there is no play.
Check the seat isn’t about to fall off and that the dropper post works as it should.
Make sure your axle is done up, give it a wobble and make sure there is no play. Spin the wheel to make sure nothing is catching and your brake pads have enough life left in them.
Final bike check
Pick the bike up and drop it down. If something is really loose, you’ll hear it. It is important to get to know the sound of your bike, so that you’ll know if something isn’t sounding right.
Basics to carry on the trail
– spare tube
– multitool with a chain breaker on it
– split links for the chain
– tyre plugs
– If you’re going back country riding, think about bringing a personal locator beacon
– For bigger rides, bring a small first aid kit with the essentials (and make sure you know how to use everything!)