Pivots & Bearings Oh My

Squishy bikes are awesome!  There are a handful of the diehard, old school, know-it-alls that’ll insist you don’t need suspension for mountain biking. And they’re right you don’t need suspension to hit the trails, hell you don’t even need a bike, you could run. If you like fun, you like suspension bikes. 

Suspension is more than the shock and the fork. The flowy feeling you get riding over rough terrain is created by the suspension contracting and expanding, and the frame geometry flexing and rolling at pivot points. Pivot configurations vary, bolts and bearings along with the chainstay, and seat stays, are all part of the physics that keep your wheels down and your spirits up. These parts are all worn components: Linkage, pivot bolts, pivot bearings, and suspension should all be maintained, cleaned, and replaced periodically.

Keeping your bike clean is still the best thing you can do to protect it. All that stuff about keeping your drivetrain clean, it’s serious. Often lower linkage, bearings, and pivot bolts are caked in layers of lube-dust-splatter, an artifact of poor drivetrain maintenance. This lube-dust-splatter works like wet sandpaper wearing down pivots, and invading bearings.

Bearings do wear over time. Sealed bearings exist in your headset, wheels, bottom bracket, and pivot points. The pivot bearings seem to take the worst beating, perhaps because they are also weight-bearing and never rotate 360 degrees. It is easy to check the integrity of your pivot bearings, after removing a pivot bolt you can use your finger to roll the bearing and if there is no nocking, or grinding and it’s not totally seized it’s good. **Always use a well-calibrated torque wrench to install your pivot bolts.

Given the opportunity to do a Major Tune on your bicycle, we remove all the pivot bolts and linkage, clean them, and replace bolts and bearings as called for. This service often results in a bike that feels better than new. You should have your shock and fork serviced regularly. Some suspension components call for service every 45-50 hours of ride time… Our darling Teton Valley shredders often log those hours in a week. New seals and oil is a simple thing to do, and with shock and fork service costing less than $100 it is a whole lot less expensive than replacing those components. 

My recommendation for preserving the flexy flowing smoothness of your dirt surfing rig are simple:

1.Do not use high-pressure sprayers to clean your bike, those make your bike look shiny but can force dirt deeper into places it does not belong.

2.Have your bearings checked, you can do it yourself if you have a calibrated torque wrench or bring your bike to us. Chances are if you’ve never had pivot service, you need it. 

3.Wash your bike, the whole thing, even your tires. Use a clean dry old tshirt to thread through the small places between your frame and the pivot points.

(Pictured above, disintegrated ball bearings from a worn out pivot point on a Yeti SB150.)

Thank you for reading! At Habitat, we are happy to answer any of your questions about your bike. We are open from 10am to 6pm every day of the week. Habitat on the mountain, located at the base of Grand Targhee is also open from 9:30am to 5:30pm. Woot! 

Images and words by Carolyn Keefe