One of my fears as a new cyclist was getting out on a ride and having something go wrong. Thankfully, I have learned to trust my bikes. I have also learned that things don't fall apart nearly as often as I feared, and that when they do it is usually far worse than I could imagine.
Are you prepared for what might go wrong on a bike ride? You should at least have some essential bike tools with you for every ride. But just having the right tools may not help you when you don't have the right replacement part. Here are some ideas that can help you be prepared for problems on the road or trail.
Emergency Bicycle Repair â€“ Slashed Tire
Assuming that you are able to deal with a normal tube repair, how would you repair a slashed tire? One of the common ways many of us have heard is to carry a dollar bill to wrap around the tube which then covers the gaping hole in the tire. The idea is that the bill will not stretch and will hold the tube inside the rubber tire and not let it bulge out of the large hole.
You are not limited to just dollar bills though. You can use just about any material that will not easily stretch. A piece of cloth can work as long as it is tough enough to handle the tire pressure. You are not having to hold any air in, so it does not matter if the patch is porous or not. You can use the wrapper off of a gel pack or a strip of tape stuck to the inside of the tire. Carrying a foot or two of duct tape wrapped around your water bottle will serve you well in other possible repairs.
Another tire problem you can have is to get a flat without having a patch kit. There are several suggestions to help with this problem, but you will have to see which one works best for your tires. Some won't work with road tires and others are harder with larger volume mountain bike tires.
Cut the tube at the puncture point and tie tight knots in each of the cut ends. Put the tube back in the tire and bring the tire almost up to pressure. You don't want to get it to full pressure as it can blow out your tied sections. This will be a lumpy bumpy ride to a bike shop, but it should keep you from tearing up the rubber tire and rim.
Whether stuffing a tire full of leaves will work or not, it certainly can't hurt to try. The idea is that you shove your tire as full of leaves as you can and ride home on. Again, you are attempting to keep your tire and rim from getting mangled in the process.
If you don't have any tire levers to help you remove a tire, try to find anything flat that can be inserted under the tire, but not puncture the tube. Have a spoon handy? The quick-release skewer from your hub assembly can be used. Not the poky part, but the lever that tightens the skewer.
Another suggestion for removing a tire without levers is to remove the wheel from the bike and place it on the ground in its normal orientation. Stand beside the wheel and lean over it pinching the tire and working it down the front and back of the wheel. Move your hands to the bottom of the wheel while squeezing the tire and you might find that you have created enough slack to get the tire off. The reason this works is that you are feeding the bead of the tire into the channel in the rim which is smaller than where the bead normally sits. Some rims don't have this channel and therefore it may not work for your wheels.
Emergency Bicycle Repair â€“ Broken Spokes
If you break a spoke, one of the best things you can do is remove it. You don't want a spoke randomly flopping out to cut you in the leg or get caught in your dÃ©railleur or chain. If, for some reason, you are not able to remove it, then wrap it around the next closest spoke.
However, if possible, you want to replace the spoke. Without a bike shop on the corner, where are you going to find a spoke? Carry one with you. You can duct tape a couple of spokes underneath one of your chainstays and always have one with you. You may or may not need to carry a spoke nipple in your tool pouch. Most of the time you can use the nipple from the broken spoke, but if the spoke sheered at the nipple, then that may not be possible.
Emergency Bicycle Repair â€“ Taco Tire
If you were in an accident, or just rode through a rough patch of road that taco-ed your wheel you can get it straightened enough to get back home by using a spoke wrench. With or without a wrench you will need to get the taco-shaped wheel into its more natural tostada-shape. If you have a spoke wrench, it might be helpful to loosen all the spokes a bit.
Place the taco wheel on the ground balanced on its axle with the high point of the bend on the ground. Grab the wheel with both hands and push the wheel back into shape. You will not be able to get it completely flat with this method, but it will get close. Use your spoke wrench to help true up the wheel a bit more so that you can get on it and make the ride home. If you don't have a spoke wrench, then keep working the tire as much as you can to flatten it out.
Leave the brake releases off so your wheel won't rub them. And, remember that the brakes on that wheel won't work.
Emergency Bicycle Repair â€“ Broken DÃ©railleurs And Cables
When a dÃ©railleur cable breaks the machines have springs that bring them into certain positions. You can set this position by tying off the cable to an unmoving part of the bike. This will set the gear in one spot. You won't be able to adjust gears, but you will be back on the road.
If you have a small screwdriver, you can set the minimum and maximum travel distance on the dÃ©railleur movement to lock the chain into one position. You can also wedge a hard object (stick, rock etc.) into the spring area of the dÃ©railleur to keep it from traveling that direction.
If you have a tool to break the chain, you can bypass the rear dÃ©railleur. You will need to shorten the chain and set the tension manually into the gear you want. Be sure to not adjust your front gears when you do this. Since you have eliminated the automatic tensioner, an attempt to change gears on the chainrings will probably throw the chain off. If it doesn't, it will at least put undue pressure on the front dÃ©railleur possibly causing you to break the front cable as well.
Carrying a few extra parts (various bolts) and some wire and cable ties (zip-ties) will help prepare you for some of the more challenging emergency bicycle repairs.
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