When out on a bike ride, you never know what may happen.
Although a lot of the time these unknowns are brilliant, memorable events such as seeing crazy new things or meeting new friends, they can also include mechanical issues.
Fortunately, the most common things that may go wrong with your bike when out on the road are easy to address, provided you have the right knowledge, and of course, the right tools!
Here’s a guide to how to carry out the most common roadside bike fixes:
PUNCTURED INNER TUBE
This is the most common roadside repair you’re likely to encounter, and definitely something you need to be able to solve. Luckily, it’s pretty straightforward. You simply need a spare tube, a tire lever or two, and a bike pump or CO2 inflator – all of which are things we recommend you always carry with you in our blog on the key things to take on every ride.
Firstly, unless your tube has gone totally flat, you need to let the remaining air out of the tube, which is done by simply pushing down the valve and expelling any remaining air.
UNSEAT THE TIRE
Now you need to get the punctured tube out – and this is easily done with your tire levers. You just have to push the ‘sharp’ end of the lever between the rim and the tire’s bead, and get it beneath the tire. You then use the tire’s rim as a pivot to lever the tire out and over the rim.
SWAP OUT THE TUBE
Now that you can get inside the tire, pull out the old inner tube, and push the new one inside. The best way to do this is to put a small bit of air into the tube first so as to give it some shape, pop it inside the tire and push the valve through the valve hole. Then roll the inner tube into the rim of the tire. Make sure it’s inside the rim all the way around the wheel – this will prevent you from ‘pinching’ the tube with the tire when you re-seat the tire. Pinching the tube will only result in another puncture – putting you back to the beginning!
RE-SEAT THE TIRE
Once the tube is fully inside the wheel, you can pop the tire back on by simply pushing the tire over the rim. It’s best to start at one side of the wheel, say at the six o’clock position, and then work both hands away from each other (i.e., one hand towards three o’clock, one towards nine o’clock), popping the tire over the rim as you go. You’re likely to find the final inches of the tire hard to get over the rim due to the rubber stretching. You’re best off using your thumbs to do this, but if you really need to, use a tire lever to flip it back on. Try to avoid using a lever though as you risk snagging the tube and causing another puncture!
PUMP IT UP AND PEDAL AWAY!
You’re now ready to pump up the new tube with a pump or CO2 inflator. Just remember that if you use CO2, you’ll need to re-inflate the tube with a pump when you get home, as the gas will dissipate through the tube over time.
Sometimes, if you’re just plain unlucky, or if your chain hasn’t been well cared for or is particularly old, your chain can snap. This fix can require a bit of getting mucky unfortunately, but that’s all part of the fun, right?!
Get the chain ready for repair
First things first, if the chain snapped at the top of your drivetrain, you need to thread the chain back through the derailleurs and get the two broken ends so that they are ‘hanging’ at the bottom of the drive train (i.e., underneath your cassette and chainrings).
Out with the old… In with the new: If you have a master link
If you’re well prepared and you have the correct type of chain (i.e., a newer KMC or Shimano chain), you can use a quick link to reconnect the chain.
Firstly, you need to use a chain tool to drive out the pin of the broken link, so that you can remove the link and then use your master link to reassemble the chain.
To use the master link, simply assemble the master link plates on either end of the chain, ensuring they are the correct way around. If you’re extremely well prepared and have chain pliers on your ride, you can then use these to apply the relevant force to reconnect the chain.
However, we accept that you’re not likely to be carrying pliers with you. Fear not; that’s not the end of the ride! Instead, you can re-connect the chain by putting your weight through the right hand pedal when it is at a three o’clock position, while holding the rear wheel still. Just be careful as you do this!
In with the new: If you don’t have a master link
If you don’t have a master link, you can still make it home without a taxi, however, it is a little more tricky and only a temporary measure to get you home.
In this case, you need to use your chain tool to very carefully push the pin out of the broken link just enough to enable you to remove the link altogether. This will create a new end of the chain, with a fresh link. Make sure you don’t push the pin all the way out of the chain though, as this will make the next step of the process a whole lot easier when you’re on the side of the road. Now you use the chain tool to reconnect the chain using the new end of the chain and the semi-extracted pin from the broken link.
Re-using a pin like this is not a long term measure, so when you get back home you need to make sure you replace the chain fully.
BROKEN GEAR CABLES
Although electronic shifting such as Shimano Di2 or SRAM etap is becoming more popular, most of us still ride on mechanical groupsets, and with those comes the risk of a snapped cable. Fortunately these issues aren’t ride-enders, but can be fixed, with a little know-how.
If the front derailleur cable snaps, the derailleur will move into the small chain ring. You could ride home like this, it just may require a very high cadence! In most cases, it’s easier and faster to get yourself home in the big chain ring.
To get the bike into the big chain ring, you simply wind the low limit screw (that which is closer to the bike’s frame) of the front derailleur right the way in, and this will move the derailleur across. Most limit screws use a philips head screw, and so you simply need a multitool or mini tool set with a philips head screwdriver – like our 8-in- 1 Multitool or Mini Ratchet Toolset.
Conversely, if the rear cable snaps, you’ll be shifted into the smallest sprocket on your cassette, which, if you’re in the big ring at the front, will leave you in your hardest gear. Unless your ride home is all downhill, or you’ve got legs the size of treetrunks, this gear is going to make for very hard work.
You can move the derailleur so that your chain is lined up with a sprocket in the middle of the cassette to give you a slightly easier gear by winding in the high limit screw (this is the upper screw of the two at the back of the derailleur) of the rear derailleur. This may not let you shift a whole lot of sprockets, but you should get a much more rideable gear to ride home in. And don’t forget shifting to the front chain ring will also make your life a lot easier! Again, in most cases a philips head screwdriver should be all you need to make this adjustment.
A lot of the time, a puncture is caused by a tiny flint or thorn working its way through the tire and cutting the inner tube within. However, if you’re unlucky, glass or something similar can create a large slash in your tire, which causes an inflated inner tube within it to bulge through the hole and burst due to the high pressure being placed on that one spot. In this case, every time you change the tube with the damaged tire, it will just pop again when you inflate it.
FOR THE PREPARED…
The best fix in this situation is if you have a pre-cut piece of an old tire with you – and we advise you do include a ‘tire boot’ such as this in your ‘every ride essentials’. To make a ‘boot’, when you next change your tires, find a patch of the old tire that you are replacing that is still in relatively good condition, and cut a small strip a few inches long out of it. This can be placed inside the damaged tire to cover over any cuts that you may get out on the road.
FOR THE LESS WELL PREPARED…
If you’re less well prepared, and don’t have a tire boot, a little intuitive thinking and DIY is required. There’s a lot of other things that you can use in place of a piece of old tire you’ve cut up; you just need to use your imagination! Ideal items include an empty gel or energy bar wrapper, or any rubbish you may find at the side of the road that looks robust enough to get you home. A folded bank note works too and is cheaper than a taxi home.
BOOT IT UP…
Whether you’re using a pre-cut boot or an empty gel wrapper, to carry out the fix, you need to seat one side of the tire into the rim and insert the new tube as you would with any other puncture, and then carefully insert the boot between the tube and the tire at the point where the tire is cut. You can then carefully seat the other side of the tire into the rim and inflate the tube.
In this instance, it’s best not to over-inflate the tube so as to avoid potentially blowing out the tube again on the way home. Needless to say, make sure you fit a new tire when you get home!
This one is super-easy to fix, thankfully! Sometimes, if certain components aren’t tightened sufficiently, the bolts may slip. A common one is for the seatpost to slide down slightly under your weight on the saddle. Other places that a loose bolt may cause a component to slip as you ride include the handlebars and stem.
TIGHTEN, BUT DONT OVERTIGHTEN
If a bolt does work loose as you ride, you simply need to re-tighten the bolt with the correct-sized allen or torx key, such as those found on our 8-in-1 Multitool or Mini Ratchet Toolset. If you have carbon components, be sure not to over-tighten the bolt however, or you risk damaging the carbon beneath. In these cases, tighten the bolt a ‘comfortable amount’; that is, as much as feels comfortable without the tightening action leaving an imprint of the tool in the palm of your hand.
AND THEN TORQUE IT UP!
When home, you should use a torque wrench to then ensure that your bolt is tightened the correct amount – it’s best to do this whether you have carbon, titanium, steel or alumnium components. You can find out more about why torque is so important in our blog on the topic.