Spring Service Basics
Wrench Now, Ride Later
Spring is... springing.
It's actually snowing again here on Vancouver's North Shore. But I promise - Promise - that Spring is right around the corner.
And your poor, poor bike. It squeaks, it groans, it clicks, it shudders at the thought your sweaty crotch loading and unloading the two creaking un-lubed bolts holding your saddle in place.
Your bike hates you. But it can learn to love again.
Marin Hawk Hill
Before Marin's $1500 (USD) Hawk Hill found itself in this work stand at Bikeroom it had quite the adventurous life. Out of the box it was recruited into the demo fleet for Interbike in Vegas. Then it lived with Uncle Dave for a time.
I'm sure under similar circumstances any bike would be clamoring for a spa treatment. The Hawk Hill is very well appointed for its price point - kudos to the product manager for maximizing performance on a tight budget - but I certainly expect to have to pay more attention to the consumables like cable and housing and bearings.
That is to say that this type of Spring maintenance is applicable to any mountain bike - and a great idea with a long season of hard riding approaching - but a bike with higher end components may not need this level of love as soon.
When I inherited the Hawk Hill the shifting was already seriously compromised. It was to the point that I was concerned about wrecking the Deore shifter when forcing it through shifts. The culprit was a basic galvanized steel shifter cable that had corroded inside the full-length housing.
With the housing in okay shape, I pumped it full of Tri-Flow and fired in a stainless steel shift cable. Instant, and massive, improvement in shifting. The current generation of Shimano Deore shifter and Deore clutch rear derailleurs are really impressive. The chain moves up and down the bike's SunRace 11-42 cassette a half-step slower than a boutique drivetrain but shifting speed is totally acceptable.
Included in the basics I refilled the tires with tubeless solution, checked the spoke tension, and bled the Hawk Hill's Shimano brakes.
The 'entry level' non-Servo Wave Shimano M396 brakes are the sleeper hit in their line-up and a great spec choice by Marin. Big reservoir, massive leverage from long lever blades, and a firm but easily modulated lever feel. I'll go into greater detail in a future review of the brakes themselves but suffice it to say that the bleeding process is exactly the same as Shimano's higher end components (i.e. very easy).
X-Fusion O2 Shock Service
The Hawk Hill comes equipped with a basic X-Fusion O2 shock and suspension performance benefited greatly from a simple re-lube. This practice is equally simple with the vast majority of air shocks and technically only requires a strap wrench.
It is totally possible to lube the air can on X-Fusion's O2 without removing the shock from the Marin - just be sure to let the air out - which negates the requirement for a vice. As much as I love some ghetto mechanic-ing I removed the shock since I was servicing the frame bearings at the same time.
With the shock out of the Marin and the wheel removed, the rear end wasn't cycling as smoothly as I expected. I guess this comes back to what's fair as a bike reviewer.
I always re-pack bearings on my own bikes. I haven't re-packed frame bearings on any of the bikes I've tested for NSMB.com. Then again, usually the bikes I'm riding are fresh out of the box and this is a piece about easy maintenance anyone can do at the start of the season - so I'm justifying it.
With the exception of the IGUS seatstay-dropout pivots and the main pivot bearings, all of the Marin's bearings are housed in the linkage plates. I can't complain about easy access.
With the linkage plates removed I simply popped off the bearing covers with a razor blade. Then I pushed as much grease as possible into the bearings while cycling them - I didn't remove the bearings from the linkage plates so there were no special tools required. Any excess grease is easy enough to clean up when the shields are reinstalled.
For the main pivot bearings, I repeated the same process with the bearings in the frame.
Basic Fork Service
With the Marin's back end moving beautifully - more on that in the coming review - the poor RockShox Recon felt like a slurry of crap and glue sticks. True, the Recon is a very basic fork, however, it is equipped with RockShox's excellent Solo Air system and the steel stanchions make for a robust, albeit heavy, chassis.
The Recon's seals were relatively new and looked clean so it was just a matter of performing a basic service and lubing everything up. I took the lowers off. Lubed everything with Slickoleum and with Jeff's advice I added 5cc of heavy fork oil to each side of the lowers before sliding them back on.
The fork was instantly better and I'm now running significantly more air pressure for better support while still experiencing way better small bump performance. The Recon is still the weak link in the Marin's suspension - it has a very, very, basic damper - but it is surprisingly rideable on aggressive terrain.
The fork did purge a bit of the Slickoleum from the seals for the first couple rides after service but it is clean and very smooth now.
I greased the stem bolts, seat post bolts, and the little screws for my lock-on grips. Then I proceeded to do a complete bolt check on the rest of the bike.
No squeaks and no creaks. The Marin is performing to its maximum capabilities which is a lot better than a bike many times its purchase price that is totally roached. Especially since the Hawk Hill proves that good geometry and suspension kinematics aren't only the purview of boutique bikes.