Why does my mountain bike feel slow?

If your mountain bike feels slow, there could be several reasons, and I’ve encountered a few myself. Firstly, tire pressure and tread can significantly affect speed. Mountain bike tires typically have more drag due to their knobby design and softer compound, especially on paved surfaces. I always check if my tires are inflated to the correct pressure for the terrain I’m riding on.

Another factor could be the bike’s overall weight and geometry, which are optimized for stability and handling over rough terrain, not necessarily for speed. Additionally, the condition of the bike plays a role. A dirty or poorly maintained drivetrain, for instance, can cause significant resistance and power loss. I make sure to regularly clean and lubricate my chain and check that the gears are shifting smoothly.

Suspension settings can also impact speed; overly soft suspension can absorb too much pedal power. And lastly, it might simply be a matter of fitness or riding technique. Mountain biking requires different muscles and skills compared to road cycling, and building these up can make a big difference in perceived speed and efficiency.

Common Causes of Speed Problems

You’ve been using your MBT or even road bikes for a while, you keep your feet on the pedals, but it is getting harder, making your rides unpleasant. Some spots are accessible, while others need the motivation to keep you moving.

You dread that next ride when shifting those gears, and many cyclists feel the same way even when pedaling on a smooth surface. The possibility is that you’re facing mechanical problems if your bike is older using a bearing system.

So to help make your legs move easier to peddle, we gathered a list of possible mechanical concerns that are worth investigating. As mentioned earlier, there is no reason to get a new bike at this point, as it might be a minor problem worth examining. With some tweaks, you might be able to end up with a fast mountain bike.

bike speedometer

Things Worth Checking

You might be in good shape when riding, but at the same time, your bike might not be. The good news is that you can check out the following points before considering investing big money in a new MBT.

Do your wheels spin freely?

Okay, you have had your cycle for a while, and pedaling seems to be impossible. Have you checked to see if the tyres are spinning freely or not? Maybe you had it at the bike shop, and since it arrived back, the rolling endurance does not seem up to par even on a flat road. The likeliness is that it can bet the main hub bearing, drum, or the freewheel mechanism. To check and isolate the problem, you can do the following:

  1. Place your bicycle on a stand and start rotating the crank. Listen to hear if there is any noise coming from somewhere.
  2. Does the cassette cause a torque to start turning again while still turning when you stop the crank? Look along the rotor to see a small space on either side of it.
  3. Use a piece of paper on the other side to see what might arise in the caliper.
  4. The chance is that there is some grit inside the caliper mechanism.

Or you can remove the wheels from your bike and turn the axle, but it does not work with a quick-release model. Again, use your fingers as you may feel a sealed drag but should remain smooth with a bit of play. The important thing is there should be no play when the drum is locked on the bike and skewer.

If you see a dragging problem, follow the instructions to adjust both braking systems. Check if there is no grime if it has a freehub problem between the body and the cassette. Or, if you see an axis problem, it is best to take it to the bike workshop to adjust it.

Tire Pressure

Another problem is that you may not have the correct tire pressure or set on the rims. As you know, tires come with different specs from mass, thickness to thread for bikes. So if you have the incorrect wheels, it slows you down. For example, using downhill wheels on your road bicycle slows you down.

Choose a model that works for your specific terrain. Further, make sure your casings are mounted in the correct riding direction found printed on the tire walls. Lastly, check the tire force as it has an impact on the rolling resistance.

Having under-inflated tyres makes it hard for you to pedal, and the rule of thumb is to inflate it according to the terrain and your load. Here is the recommended pressure for different transportations:

  • Mountain 25 to 30 psi
  • Road 80 t 130 psi
  • Hybrid 40 to 70 psi

Brake Rub Caused by The Brake Caliper

Another concern is the brakes brushing against the pads and might need adjustment. Yes, we know your bicycle is not squealing when pulling the brakes to stop the front wheel, making it harder to spot. So for disk brakes, it helps to test the trueness by removing the drag block from the frame and fork. Next, turn the wheel to check if the rotor is wobbly. If it is, the rotor needs turning.

For this, you need a unique tool known as a turning rotor tuning fork. Do this by turning the wheel slowly to readjust the caliper. Then start tightening the bolts slightly, leaving a space between the rotor and pad of 1mm.

Now, if the rotor has a crack, then rather have it replaced. Another note is that a loose axle on the wheel can also cause rubbing sounds, so make sure there is no play when giving the wheel a shake. Finally, for rim brakes, inspecting them is easy by checking the trueness.

If it has a wobble, give it a turning and check the caliper’s alignment in the middle. Lastly, check if you should return it for proper alignment or not.

Framing Weight

Having a heavy frame can also hinder your pedaling when adding the mass of the components included. So instead of buying a lightweight one, you can always replace the parts with lighter ones, similar to checking the casings and pressure.

Drive Chain

Check if the drive chain needs some lube as it might be rusty or dry. Unlubed roller chains become challenging to align with the drivetrain sprockets causing strenuous pedaling. Even good chains can provide some power loss of up to 5%.

To know if this is happening, you’ll notice a grinding sound when you pedal. So grab some WD-40 and remove the chain from your cycle to give it a good cleaning. When placing it back, use a quality lube to make the drivetrain system work smooth yet flexible.

Bottom Bracket

While an over-tightened bracket is not ordinary in bottom brackets or cartridge bearings, it can still happen. The reason is that your bottom bracket works with a cup and cone bearing system. So a stern tightened ring locker can make the crank-set spindle challenging to spin.

The first thing is to remove the crank-set to give it a spin to see if any resistance is seen and if you need to lose up the lockers. You may find a difference in bottom brackets working with this type of system. So you might need to get a dedicated tool to adjust.

If you have cruiser tires on your MBT, you have already made adjustments in the design. Yet riders feel a variation when cycling and the descending speed that is more pronounced cycling between 2.6 inches and 2.8 inches than one between 2.3 inches and 2.6-inch tyres. This can result from the depth that is the vertical thickness of your tyre between a 2.3 inch and 2.6 inch that is smaller.

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