If you rode your mountain bike for a full season this past year especially if it’s a full-suspension bike, chances are good it needs some basic maintenance, servicing, and replacement of high-wear parts, such as brake pads and tires. If you wait until spring, you will be in a long line of people at the bike shop waiting for parts and service, and don’t expect any discounts.
Upgrading and maintaining your bike during the winter not only means it will be ready to ride in the spring, there’s a good chance it will also save you money.
Parts are cheaper.
Check the internet and you will see lots of deals from online companies that are sitting on inventory and closing it out. You can find some great prices, and if you’re a really savvy shopper, take advantage of extra discount coupons, post-holiday sales, price matches (which allow you to deal with one company and save additional shipping costs), etc.
Ditto for eBay. There are lots of deals to be found. A note of caution: read carefully about every item you buy, and make sure it is compatible with your bike. We all know how frequently the industry changes its “standards,” and sometimes those screaming deals are on components that won’t fit on your bike.
Your LBS is in its slow period.
Unless it’s a bike/ski shop, or you live in Arizona, there’s a pretty good chance your shop is dealing with the post-holiday slow period. Some shops will give you discounts on parts and/or labor. They might also be willing to install some of those parts you bought off eBay or online, but be prepared for some delicate bike shop diplomacy. It might be in your best interest to also buy some parts through them, too, or you might find the savings you got online is offset by the cost of shop rates.
You won’t miss riding time.
If you have to order parts, get them installed, have your suspension serviced (and parts ordered), it’s better to do it now than wait and have a critical part sold out and/or back ordered in the spring. You don’t want to miss the first rides because you waited too long.
It’s a good time to do it yourself.
Even if you ski or do other winter sports, the days are short and you typically have more time on your hands during winter. It’s a good time to learn bike maintenance skills. Buy a book about bike maintenance or spend some time with your laptop or tablet watching videos to learn some of those basic-but-tricky skills, such as adjusting a derailleur or bleeding hydraulic brakes. Another option is to invite a mechanically-inclined buddy over to help and lure him (or her) with pizza and beer.
Be prepared to spend money on special tools to do the job, but look at it as a long-term investment. A tool that allows you to fix something yourself is usually cheaper in the long run than having to take your bike to the shop for basic maintenance. Doing your own basic maintenance also helps you better understand how your bike works and make emergency repairs on the trail.
Fix those creaks, squeaks, and leaks before they turn serious.
I’m a notorious procrastinator, not to mention cheapskate. When I hear an annoying creak that doesn’t otherwise hamper the bike’s operation, I tend to ignore it and tell myself, “I will deal with that later.” I also don’t want to pay shop rates to have a mechanic searching for a mystery squeak, so I become conveniently tone deaf to certain sounds. But a squeak or creak is often a sign of a problem that will get more serious later, so I try to ferret out the problem and fix it.
Ditto for slow leaks in my tubeless tires. Winter is also a good time to pull your tires off the rim, get rid of the dried wads of sealant inside, redo the rim tape, and add fresh sealant.
Doing repairs and upgrades will get you excited about the upcoming season.
Not that you need it, of course, but having a finely-tuned bike sporting a few new components will make you eager to ride, and having a bit more knowledge of how your bike operates and how to fix problems will make you a more competent and confident rider and a better riding companion.
And remember, winter is only 89 days long. The clock is ticking, so you better get started.