Tips and Tricks to get you limping home

Repair tips for when you are on the road and don’t have what you might need to get home.  Of course a well maintained bike is the key, don’t ignore noises or clunks they are usually telling you that something isn’t right.

SLASHED TIRE Many things will work as a tire boot. Remove the tire and find the cut put a Dollar bill, energy bar wrapper, potato chip bag, coke can, electrical tape, piece of tube, piece of old tire, between the tire and tube and reinstall.

PATCH  If you find yourself out on the road without good tubes or patches (or you find out the hard way that your patch glue has dried up) and you are desperate to get home, it is possible to use some electrical or duct tape as a patch, you’ll probably have to stop and pump your tires up a few (or a lot of) times. You could also try to fill your tire with grass or use two zip ties to isolate the hole.

JUNKY RIM STRIP? If you find that you are getting flat after flat and the holes are all facing the rim you should be suspecious of your rim strip. The rim strip is meant to cover the spoke holes in the rim. Sometimes they slip or break exposing the spoke causing a hole in the tube. You can cut an old tube lengthwise and wrap around the rim or use a piece of electrical or duct tape over the offending spoke hole.

BROKEN SPOKE Wrap it around one next to it, or remove it and true the wheel by adjusting the neighboring spokes. Beware when taking tools to your wheels, it is pretty easy to wreck a wheel if you don’t know what you are doing.

TACO’D WHEEL FIX Time to beat on it!  Generally when you taco a wheel it is bent beyond fixing so you don’t have much to lose by taking drastic action. Often, with a couple good smacks, you can get the wheel straight enough to ride home.

PUT YOUR CHAIN BACK ON  if you drop your chain off of your front chain rings you can usually pedal forward softly while holding the rear wheel off the ground and leaning the bike in the direction of the dropped chain. Shift in the opposite direction of the dropped chain.

SHOE REPAIR threading zip-ties through holes in the fabric and pulling them tight. And if your shoelaces break, you can use zip-ties in the eyelets.

REPLACE A BOLT Use a zip-tie to replace a chain-ring bolt if one falls off, or hold a rack on, or keep your fenders from falling apart. Just remember, it is a pretty fragile fix and will need to be replaced asap.

DERAILLEUR HANGER/ CHAIN If your derailleur hanger or your chain breaks you can setup your bike as a single speedcut the chain to work as a one speed by bypassing the derailleur and shortening the chain to fit.

BLOWN-OUT PAWLS? Secure a broken freewheel/cassette to your spokes with zip ties or wire. Just remember, it is a pretty fragile fix and you’ll have to pedal quite lightly just to get you to home or help.

SKIPPING CHAIN Find the offending link by slowly backpedaling & watching for the rear derailleur to jump. You’ll know it’s stiff if you move it to a 45° angle and it stays that way. Grab the chain on either side of the sticky links & flex it back & forth with your thumbs and forefingers until the stiffness is gone.

LOST BOLTS If you lose a cleat bolt from your shoe—you can pull one of the bolts off your water-bottle cage. This works for lots of bolts on your bike as they are often the same size.

BROKEN GEAR CABLE If the cable brakes near the middle or at the top, unscrew a water-bottle screw a bit, slip the cable beneath it and tighten the screw to hold the cable in place, which will keep the derailleur in the right position to ride home. Or, try tightening the limit screw on the derailleur to force it to stay in an easy gear. Or, if you don’t have your mini-tool, try wedging a small rock or stick inside the derailleur to hold it in the gear you want.

STRAIGHTEN CHAIN RINGS use a stick or rock to leverage or beat the ring back into a reasonable shape to get you where you need to go (probably to a bike shop to buy a new one). 

Do at home:

Wrap your tools or your spare inner tube in old sock.  That way the tools can’t tear the tire and you can use the sweat sock as a mitt or a rag to clean your hands after a tire change.

Old tubes – Cut old tubes cross wise  to make little rubber bands. Then use them to hold your computer wire to the front fork. Cut valve stem out and use as a bungee cord

Keep single packet hand wipes in your bike bag

Waterbottle with top cut off – great place to stash an extra tube , jacket or armwarmers.

On the road:

Newspaper wind breaker – freezing on the way home or perhaps you realized that you didn’t put enough layers on for your ride. Grab a couple sheets of newspaper and stick them under your jersey front to block  the wind.

Flashlight with rubber band or string – You can mount a flashlight by securing it with a rubberband (or duct tape. zip tie…)

 Some stories from friends:

  • About 10 years ago (weekend trip on tandem) the front derailleur body broke apart about 20 miles into the ride. We stayed on one chainring to the fire station near the Cheese Factory in Marin County. I asked for a hose clamp, which they provided. With a Swiss army knife, I made a hole through it. The derailleur was such that I could put the pivot bolt through that hole. It looked a bit funky, but shifted the inner three (of four) chainrings pretty well. We did the whole weekend on it.
  • One day while we were riding the shoulder of I-15 out in the middle of the Mojave desert somewhere between Barstow and Baker, I managed to dislodge and lose a brake pad while I was fixing a flat tire. I didn’t notice it until miles later when I tried to brake. We found the remains of a defunct car tire lying by the side of the road, hacked off a piece in the shape of a brake pad with his Leatherman tool, and attached it to the brake holder with a piece of wire.  It lasted me two days until we could find a bike shop with the proper replacement.
  • Couple of years ago, while riding the tandem on the Healdsburg Harvest ride, I broke one of the saddle rails (only about the second time). I took a spare tube and wedged it under the saddle and on top of the post to make it home.
  • Years ago a friend of mine was doing a century (on a tandem) with her sister stoking.  Her sister wasn’t an experienced cyclist, and her rear was so sore that the captain took out an inner tube, wrapped it around the saddle and inflated it a bit. The stoker was embarrassed, but everyone else thought it was a very clever solution.
  • One of the little bolts holding my fender worked its way out and fell off, leaving the fender (which was still attached by another bolt) to flop around and drag against the tire. I tried braiding grass stems together to improvise a bolt, but that only lasted about a mile. Luckily, I had a twist tie (in my “lunch kit”), which got me the remaining few miles to work, where I then upgraded to a couple of thick paperclips. Those worked fine for the 10 mile return trip home.
  • Near the top of Burnside I heard a cracking sound as the saddle lurched sideways from a broken rail. I tried to stuff riding gloves between the post and seat bottom but it was an unsatisfactory fix. We then stopped next to an old wire fence that had broken wires. I twisted a piece off and shoved it partway down one end of the broken rail then forced an inch or so down the other end. It provided enough support by being careful with weight distribution to get home without having to stand the whole way.
  • My sister and I were out riding with some friends when she rolled through a patch of goathead thorns. We were able to pull most of them out but a couple of really short pieces were stuck too deep in the tire and we knew that if they didn’t come out completely that they would just puncture the new tube. Finding ourselves with nothing small or strong enough I realized that the pearl earrings (really) that I was wearing would be perfect for pushing the thorn through. Worked like a charm! 

SHOPPING LIST and other items to carry with you when you ride

Don’t leave home without:

  • Tube or two
  • Patch kit
  • Pump
  • Tire lever (s)

 Good idea to bring too:

  • Quick link
  • Multi-tool
  • Chain Tool
  • Tire boot
  • C02 cartridge
  • Spoke wrench
  • Zip ties
  • Electrical tape/duct tape
  • ID
  • Pocket knife
  • Lube
  • Seat Bag