Cycling is beautiful for its simplicity, but that doesn’t mean things don’t go wrong. When you’re out on a ride and you get a flat or your chain breaks, it shouldn’t mean the end of your ride. Although these things can be fixed with ease back in your garage with all the right tools (or at your local bike shop), it’s important to learn some of the most common on-the-road bike repairs that will come up. Being stranded miles from home is no fun, and although it may be easier to call for a ride home, you’ve got what it takes to do a quick fix and keep riding!
Tools to Bring
You should be prepared with the right tools on the road or trail and know how to use them should a mechanical or flat tire occur. The tools to bring are:
- Spare Tube
- Pump or CO2 Inflator with an extra cartridge just in case.
- Tire Levers
- Patch Kit
- Multi-tool with a chain tool on it
8 On-the-Road Bike Repairs
1. Fixing a Flat
If you ride a bike more than just around town you should know how to fix a flat. Fortunately it’s pretty easy:
2. Broken Chain
Broken chains don’t happen too often when riding but when they do, you’re not going very far until you fix it. A chain will either break completely or a link will become kinked. To fix it, all you need to do is to remove that link.
- First locate the broken link. There should be two plates that are loose, and flapping around or a link that has a bend in it. These are the ones that get removed. You do not need to remove the chain from the bike. Keep the chain threaded through the derailleurs if you can as it will save you time.
- Examine the chain breaker tool. You’ll notice a circular cradle that the push-pin moves through. Rest the link in this cradle where the pin lines up with the push-pin of the link you’re removing.
- Turn the push-pin to push the pin through and out the other side. If you’re using a master link, you will need to have both ends of the chain an inner link as the master link is an outer link. If you don’t have a master link or another connector pin, do not push the pin all the way out the other side of the chain. Leave it so the pin is over enough to remove the inner link but not so far that it falls out. This will be important in the next step. Now do the same one full link removed, one inner link followed by one outer link or vice-versa, from the pin you just pressed out with the broken link being in-between.
- If you removed the chain from the derailleurs, thread it back through being sure that it’s going the right way. Then place the chain in the smallest gear in the back and rest the chain to the inside of the chain rings on the front against the bottom bracket to give enough slack.
- Now install the master link if using one through both the inner links and lock into place. If you have a connector pin, line up the ends of the chain and press that through breaking off guide end with your chain tool. If using the same pin that you just pushed out and left on the outer link, line the end up and push the pin back in. You want it so both sides of the pin are flush with the outer plate of the chain. If you pushed the pin too far through when you were removing it, line the chain up in the chain tool and set the pin on the resting plate to then press the pin in. It may be a bit off at first but it should line up as you continue to push it through the hole.
- That’s it. The link with the pin you just installed may be a bit stiff but if you bend it laterally slightly with your fingers, it should loosen up to where you can’t even tell which link it was. The chain is now one link shorter, unless using a master link, but will still be good to go.
- One note is that reinserting a pin is now the week point of the chain. When you do make it home, take out that pin and put in a connecting pin which will better strengthen the chain. The problem is you may not be able to tell which link it was so it’s recommended that you replace the entire chain.
3. Tire Tear
A tear in a tire can end your ride. If it’s not extremely big however, you can fix it with a few little tricks. The first is the dollar bill trick where you fold up a dollar bill and place it between the tube and the tire where the hole is. This will only work if the hole is small enough. Once the hole is past a few millimeters in size, you are going to need a tire boot which should also be carried in your saddle bag. This rubber strip will be large enough to place over the hole and not allow the tube to poke out. The problem with both the dollar bill trick and the tire boot is that the tire can continue to split particularly if you’re on rough roads or terrain. Adding a piece of electrical tape in place of or in conjunction with, will help to hold the tire in place and not have the hole continue to grow.
4. Broken Spoke
First, you need to get the spoke out of the way so that it doesn’t interfere with your wheel turning. If you have a broken spoke on the front wheel, you should be able to just slide it out of the hub. If it’s on the rear wheel, bend the broken spoke around one of the spokes adjacent to it. Then you can adjust the tension on the rest of the spokes in your wheel.
To adjust the other spokes to accommodate for one missing spoke, you’ll need a spoke wrench, conveniently on many multi-tools, to tighten or loosen them by turning their nipples at the rim. Turn each spoke on either side of the one that just broke clockwise as if you’re looking from the hub of the wheel toward the rim. This will loosen those spokes. If this doesn’t move the rim back to center enough, ie. it’s still bouncing off the brake pads, go one more spoke in either direction and turn them counter-clockwise. This will tighten the spokes pulling the rim back toward the side of the broken spoke. fIf the rim is moving too far to the right, you’ll want to either tighten the spokes that attach to the left side of the hub or loosen the spokes that attach to the right side of the hub. You’ll make this decision by testing the spokes and determining whether they feel too loose or too tight.
Never make drastic changes to the tension of a spoke at any one time. Just make half-turns with the spoke wrench each time and check and see how true the wheel is. It is easy to go too far. Once you get it roughly straight, you can ride the wheel. If the rim is still slightly touching the brake pads, open the brake quick-release to allow for more space. Once you get home, check out this article on how to finish up the repair.
5. Broken Front Derailleur Cable
With a broken front derailleur cable you are going to be stuck in the little ring for the rest of the ride. With a triple chain ring, you might be able to turn the limit screws enough to line up the derailleur up with the middle chain ring but it depends on your derailleur and set-up.
6. Broken Rear Derailleur Cable
With a broken rear derailleur cable you are going to be stuck in your smallest gear, normally an 11 or 12 tooth. To get the chain up to a bigger, easier gear, turn the H or high speed limit screw in as far as it can go. This should push the derailleur up at least a cog or two. You may have to back it back out a tad if it doesn’t line up well.
7. Broken Brake Cable
It’s going to be rare that you have a broken brake cable as they’re made not to fail. If you’re riding anything other than perfectly flat roads without many intersections or traffic you might be able to gingerly make it home otherwise it’s best to get a ride and not risk needing to stop quickly and not being able to.
8. Shifting Becomes Off
A lot of times, particularly after a new cable is installed, your rear derailleur shifting will become slightly off. This is because the cable stretched ever so slightly. To tighten it, simply turn the barrel adjuster on your derailleur counter-clockwise a quarter turn until the pulley wheel lines up exactly with the gear. You won’t have to turn it much unless it’s way off.
Working on your own bike can be satisfying, plus it can save you a bunch of money and trips to the bike shop. Having the essential bike tools for the job is necessary on both accounts. Seeing as you are the one who rides your bike all the time, only you really know what’s going on with it. If it’s making a certain noise, or feeling weird in a way, it can be tough to describe those smaller issues to a bike mechanic. With the right tools and general know-how, you can diagnose and fix the problems– and even have fun doing it!
That being said, botching a quick repair or making it worse because you’re trying to get through it with some multi-tools you had lying around can make for an embarrassing trip to the bike shop. Make sure the tools you have are up to the task, and ensure your also know how to use them. Seek out someone to teach you, watch videos online, read articles and practice on an old beater in a low-stakes repair before moving on to your top bike.
7 Essential Bike Tools
1. Floor Pump
While a floor pump is not the most exciting bike tool, proper and regular use can avoid the most common bicycle repair: a flat tire. Correct inflation pressure for the rider/tire/rim/surface condition combination can lead to fewer flats, along with better handling for your bike. Pressure that is too low risks pinch flats and pressure that is too high can lead to more puncture flats. Finding the right pressure will keep your bike rolling, keep you more comfortable on the bike, and more confident in your bike handling.
2. Tire Levers
Bad tire levers are really frustrating. If you’re out on a ride and get a flat, struggling to get your tire off with your bare hands can be tough, so you reach for your tire levers. If they proceed to break, then you’ll most likely be ready to pull your hair out. Good tire levers are the difference between a simple fix and the above situation. It is not a huge investment, so get the good ones and they will last you.
3. Hex Keys/Torx Keys
Most bolts on bicycles have metric hex bolts, so a good set of hex keys with ball-end drivers will make repairs a breeze. They will fit in your bolts securely, minimizing the chance of stripping the bolts. The ball end allows you to tighten and loosen hard to reach bolts at angles other then perpendicular. The set should have a full range of sizes to accommodate all of the bolts you will work on. Again, this is not a huge investment.
More and more bike parts have Torx bolts, six pointed star heads that give their wrenches more surface area, reducing the chance of stripping them. The same rules that apply to hex keys apply to Torx keys, except that they cannot accommodate ball-ends.
4. Cable Cutters
Replacing cables is not a complicated job with the right cable cutters. And there is only really one right cable cutter, which is often copied. With the wrong cable cutter, you risk fraying the cable or housing you are working with. A frayed cable is useless as the frayed section can spread and will not go cleaning through the housing, compromising its function.
5. Chain Tool
Cutting your a new chain to the correct length and installing it is one of the most satisfying repairs to do. It increases the longevity of your drivetrain if done at the correct intervals and makes it more efficient with crisper shifting. The only way to push the pins through a chain is with a chain tool.
There are a few adjustment screws on bikes, usually for derailleur limits (although some have moved to small hex heads) and usually number two Philips heads. But not all screwdrivers are equal, a good fit goes a long way to preserving your screws. Additionally, you should have a flat head screwdriver around, but this is mostly for scraping clean derailleur pulleys and other hard to reach places.
7. Torque Wrench
The last tool, the torque wrench, is a recent necessity. With the explosion of lightweight parts that require a certain torque to both hold fast and not fatigue prematurely, a torque wrench is the only tool for the job. Fortunately, most bike parts that require a certain torque have it printed right on them. Make sure you get the right bits for your bikes. Lots of people say they can do it by feel, but that has been proven wrong time and again.
Your own work is always more satisfying than relying on someone else’s, and it can also give you a sense of ownership of your bike. These bike tools should get you on your way to mastering most basic repairs. Remember to learn how to use a tool properly before attempting any repairs.
What’s the one part of your bike that has the most individual pieces to it? Not many would guess the chain, but today’s chain has eight parts per link which makes for a lot of moving parts with over fifty links in the average chain. Maintaining your bike chain will make it shift more smoothly and quieter, it will also last longer and help preserve the life of your cassette. With that many moving parts there’s more than one step to keeping it rolling like it should.
Things You Need to Know About Maintaining Your Bike Chain
Bike Chains Wear Out
As with any other part on your bike, chains wear out, often quicker than we would like. Chains wear by ‘stretching’ and no longer lining up perfectly with the teeth of the cassette. This stretch is not the actual metal stretching but rather the pin in each link wearing against the inner and outer plates of the chain causing the hole in each to be ever so slightly larger. This happens the fastest when it is metal on metal when the pin rotates within the plates. To keep this from happening as much, oil keeps these contact points properly lubricated so the metal doesn’t grind into each other and wear out as quickly.
How To Measure Chain Wear
A little bit of chain stretch over time is ok and will always occur. The problem becomes when it stretches too far and the teeth on the cassette begin to wear out as well. Before long you will not only have to replace the chain, but the cassette as well.
There is a handy tool that measures if a chain is stretched but you can do the same with a tape measure. A full link measures one inch in length when brand new. To account for a number of links, measure one foot from the exact same point on the chain to see how much it has stretched. If the foot mark falls less than 1/16th of an inch from the same point on the link, the chain is still golden. If it’s over 1/16th of an inch you need to replace the chain, but probably don’t have to replace the cassette.
The only real way to test if you have to replace the cassette as well is to ride the bike with the new chain and put pressure on the pedals in a few of the smaller gears. If the chain slips, they don’t line up enough, but if there are no issues, you’re good to go. If the chain measures over 1/8th of an inch off you will need a new chain and cassette.
How To Wash a Bike Chain
There are a number of approaches to washing a chain including taking it completely off the bike, but the best and easiest way is to clean it while on the bike with a degreaser. Before washing your bike, spin the pedals backwards applying a degreaser. Then with a sturdy bristled brush, scrub the chain to get the degreaser further into the links while also dislodging any grit and grime.
One added effective way to clean your chain is to use a chain cleaner mechanism that has a number of rotating brushes in a small plastic box that is filled with degreaser. Running your chain through this not only coats it with degreaser but also brushes a lot of the grit and old oil off of it easily.
After degreasing and brushing, wash the chain with regular soap and water as you would the rest of your bike and then follow it up with a good spray through the links to make sure all the grit is out of it as well as any leftover degreaser.
Wiping Your Chain
Following a thorough wash, spin the pedals backwards running the chain through a clean rag to get as much moisture out of the chain as possible. This should actually be done after every ride because when you ride, oil seeps onto the entirety of the chain while collecting debris from the road. If left on, this debris will eventually work its way into the moving parts of the chain causing it to wear out even faster. Plus wiping your chain leaves your it looking like new for every ride and not black which can cause a nice mark on your leg if you’re not careful.
A good trick is to leave a rag easily accessible next to where you leave your bike and whenever you finish a ride, give it a quick wipe down. And then any oil that does get on your hands can just be washed off as you go inside.
Applying Chain Lube
Now that we’ve gotten all of the prerequisites out of the way – washing and wiping the chain, we can now apply bike specific chain lube. Chain lube isn’t just oil. Oil specifically for bikes is thin enough to get into the tiny spaces between the pins and links yet thick enough that it doesn’t wear off super quick.
Where To Lube and How Much
The objective of oiling a chain is to get the oil inside the moving parts of the chain, not on the outside as it doesn’t do anything there. The best way to do this is to use an oil can that has a small nozzle that you can apply directly to the rollers of the chain in the center with a drop or two on each. Do this while spinning the chain backwards; once if you’re certain that you applied enough oil on the first go around, otherwise a second or third time. Once you stop dripping oil on the chain, keep spinning the pedals backwards. This will keep all the parts of the chain moving to get the oil further into the chain itself.
After the oil has made its way inside the chain, take another clean rag and wipe off all of the excess by spinning the pedals backwards through the rag a few times. You need to do this because you don’t need oil on the outside of the chain as it can collect road grit more easily and get into the chain itself along with just being dirty in general.
If you keep your chain properly lubed as well as washed on a regular basis to keep grit from getting inside of it, your chain will last much longer and will shift and sound better. It doesn’t take a lot to keep your chain lubed and running smooth but it does take knowing how to do it. Just keep a rag and bottle of lube next to where you keep your bike and you’ll be sure to remember especially after now knowing exactly what causes your chain to wear out and stretch.
It’s normal for brakes to start to squeak or get a little soft over time. This may mean it’s time to replace the pads (for calliper brakes) or that the cables need some adjusting. Here’s how to adjust road bike brakes, whether at home or in the shop.
No matter what kind of bike you have, the tension on your brakes is controlled by one of two things: a brake cable or hydraulic fluid. If you have hydraulic disc brakes, there’s not a lot that you can do to adjust them, other than bleeding them, which is generally a job best left for professional mechanics. However, if you have rim brakes or cable-actuated disc brakes, adjusting your brakes is pretty simple and should be something you can do at home.
What You’ll Need
- Allen Key/ Hex Wrench Set
- Brake Wrench
How To Adjust Road Bike Brakes
If you have a mountain bike, hybrid, or city bike, you’ll notice that there are screw-like adjusters on your levers where the brake cable housing meets the lever. If you have a road bike, you’ll notice a similar adjuster on the brake itself, again, where the cable housing meets the brake. These are called barrel adjusters, and they allow you to take up cable tension, which brings the brake arms closer to the rim of the bike (or the pads closer to the rotor in the case of disc brakes).
If your brakes are too loose, and you have to squeeze the levers all the way to the handlebar to get any kind of stopping power, you’ll want to loosen your barrel adjusters a few turns. This actually tightens the brake cables and therefore tightens the brakes. If your brakes are so tight that they don’t let your wheels turn, then you can tighten the barrel adjusters back down and make some room.
These small adjustments don’t require any tools, and you can even do them while you’re riding your bike if you have good enough bike handling skills (but it’s much better to do it while the bike is not in motion). If you’ve already turned a barrel adjuster all the way out or all the way back in, though, you’re going to need to grab either a five-millimeter hex wrench or a ten-millimeter box-end wrench (depending on your brakes).
With your wrench, loosen the pinch bolt that holds the brake cable in place. Then roll your barrel adjuster about halfway out. Pull the cable tight and put enough tension on the brake that it lightly touches the rim. While you do this, tighten the pinch bolt down again. Then roll the barrel adjuster back in, and you should have a well-adjusted brake. If not, you can play with how far you roll the barrel adjuster out and/or how much tension you put on the cable as you tighten the pinch bolt back down. With a little bit of patience, you should be able to adjust your brakes without much trouble at all.
Good luck, and, as always, if you run into too much trouble, don’t hesitate to take your bike to your local bicycle shop for some professional care.
When you’re looking to replace a tube or tire, it’s important to understand tire sizing. You’d think the markings on tires would make this simple, but all those numbers can be confusing. It doesn’t help that in the early days of cycling, there was no standard system for marking the sizes. Here’s what you need to know about bike tire sizes.
A Guide to Bike Tire Sizes
Traditional Sizing Systems
The traditional sizing systems were based on the measurement of the outside of diameter of the tire, so it would be listed as diameter x width. However, the evolution of tires and rims has made these measures inaccurate when it comes to compatibility. Each manufacturer had their own set of sizing standards that only applied to their bikes, so it was hard to buy tires, tubes, and wheels from different manufacturers with confidence that they would be compatible.
To remove the headache that was trying to decipher manufacturer’s varied measurements, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) created a system to regulate tire measurement. Most new tires will now show the ISO measurement of: width x diameter.
The most important measurement of the tire is the diameter, then the width. The actual outer diameter of the tire may vary based on the tread pattern, so the BDS (bead seat diameter) is the measurement of the inner diameter of the tire. You can find this measurement on the side wall, where you should see two numbers separated by an x (ie: 700×23 or 26×2.10). The BDS is the larger of the two numbers, listed in either inches (700) or mm (26).
The second, smaller number is the tire’s width. As the width increases, the tire will have more contact surface with the road, making it more stable and comfortable. As the width decreases, there is less rolling resistance or friction, and therefore is faster. Road bike tires generally come in three widths: 23c, 25c, and 28c (their width in mm). The letter at the end of a tire size is a throwback to an old French system when the letters a, b and c designated different inner tire diameters – it DOES NOT stand for cm.
When it comes to choosing width, there are two major factors at play. First is what will fit your bike and wheels, and second is what best fits your riding style for comfort and speed. Generally speaking, a width of 25mm will work for most riders. They are widely recognized as the best compromise between comfort, weight and performance. Racers will opt for a smaller width, or if you’re tackling rougher roads, going up to 28mm may be the best option.
In most cases, if you’re replacing a tire you can just look at the numbers on the old one and match them. However, this can become an issue if the old tire isn’t available, or if you’re not sure which number to go off.
For more on bike tire sizing and ensuring you choose the right one, check out the video below.
With the days getting shorter and the temperature dropping, winter is fast approaching. Riding in the winter not only requires a little bit of extra prep in the clothing department, but also for your bike to keep running smooth and minimize breakdowns.
Having a mechanical issue in the warmer months of the year can be inconvenient, but during the winter months it can spell disaster. Avoiding situations before they arise is the best solution, but mechanicals do happen, so being prepared to fix them quickly will ensure you’re not in a bad situation for long. Other measures for the bike can also be taken to keep you warmer as well as safer with the waning light.
Winter Maintenance – Fix it Before it Breaks!
The biggest reason things break on a bike are due to over wear. Newer, well-functioning parts are very rarely going to fail unless due to a crash or some other catastrophic event. Cold temperatures, snow, ice, and grit can quickly deteriorate parts, but starting winter with a few fresh additions will help ensure that they last until spring and beyond.
With the possibility of snow as well as water spraying up and freezing in your chain along with added road grit, the chain takes a lot more stress in winter months. Start the season with a new one to minimize the risk of it breaking.
In a lot of areas winter brings with it wet roads which wear down your brake pads much more quickly. This combined with the possibility of roads being slippery due to snow as well as loose sand, cinders, and grit means that you have to brake harder to slow your speed to safely navigate corners, thus further wearing down your brake pads. Start winter with a set that is dedicated to moist conditions.
With the grit of salt, cinders, sand, and who knows what else in winter, anything that moves is going to start to experience more drag and friction. Derailleur and brake cables in particular are going to take a lot of abuse and will snap if not properly looked after. Don’t only get new cables on your bike before winter starts, but also new housing if they look worn.
The dirt and grit on the roads is the biggest factor in what can cause breakdowns. Flats will be much more frequent with this unless you get a more durable tire as well as bigger. A good tire is going to be the biggest deterrent to flats along with keeping enough air in your tires to help prevent pinch flats. Two potential additions to new tires to further help prevent flats are tubeless tires with sealant and thorn proof tubes which are tubes with thicker rubber.
Winter Additions For You Bike
During the summer months the bike is generally stripped down to be the lightest and fastest possible. During the winter, however, it’s highly unnecessary as well as much less functional. Having a few add-ons to the bike will keep you more comfortable, safer, as well as get you out of a situation you would otherwise be stuck on the side of the road with.
Even on warmer days as the snow melts, if that’s a thing in your area, the roads are probably still going to be wet. Having fenders will not only keep you dry but will also keep your bike cleaner. In many areas around the country you not only need fenders on group rides, but also a “buddy flap” which is essentially a mud flap that hangs off your rear fender preventing wheel spray into the rider behind you.
With the shorter amount of daylight, having lights permanently mounted on your bike for when it does in fact get dark or even if it’s just starting to, is more than a good idea and could potentially be a lifesaving decision. In winter in a lot of areas, drivers aren’t always looking for cyclists so even if it’s just starting to get dark, it’s a good idea to turn them on.
Even with a new chain, they can still break, particularly if you get snow packed into your cassette. Many multi-tools come with a chain-tool that can be used to take out the broken link and shorten the chain to make it home.
Another valuable addition to your winter setup is a pump instead of CO2 cartridges. With CO2 you only get one try with each and ifit doesn’t work, that’s it. During winter especially, the valve can become frozen while open, letting out all the air you just put into the tire.
With all the grit on the roads, flatting is an increased possibility and thus having one extra tube might not be enough. Bringing a second or third one can give you piece of mind to keep riding longer on your original route instead of just looking to make it home.
Although separate from your bike, having insulated water bottles will keep you warmer on the road by keeping your liquids from freezing solid as quickly. Put warm water in them when you start and make sure you close the top to push any liquid out that can get trapped in the opening to keep it from freezing shut.
Riding in winter does require more dedication and planning, but if you take the necessary steps to make sure you’re prepared along with your bike, it will keep it fun and enjoyable like every ride should be. Stay ahead of the curve on winter and your rides will stay pleasant and enjoyable all the way until spring.
A good multi-tool can be the difference between a minor roadblock in your ride or a long walk home. If your chain breaks mid-ride and you don’t have a multi-tool with you, then you better hope it’s not getting dark.
There are a ton of great multi-tools out there, with pretty much every major cycling brand bringing something to the table. So what makes one better than the other? Let’s start with some features to look for in a tool, and why you need them.
Features to look for in a multi-tool
- Allen keys – At the core of most multi-tools is the allen key. You’ll want a wide range included, from 4-8mm sizes.
- Screwdrivers – Most bikes still include a mix of flathead and Phillips screws, so these remain essential. Take a look at the adjustment screws on your derailleur to make sure you have the right fit for your bike.
- Torx drivers – Torx screws are becoming increasingly popular, and more and more screws on your bike will most likely have a Torx head. The Torx 25 is the standard size that will work for most parts, so make sure there’s one included.
- Chain splitter – You probably won’t be doing an extensive chain repairs or sizing out on a ride, but if your chain breaks you’ll need a chain tool to dismantle the old broken link. Always carry a joining link for a quick fix.
- Tire levers – Your best friend when you get a flat, tire levers may or may not be included in a multi-tool. Some include them in the body of the tool itself, or as separate pieces. Regardless, they’re always a good staple to carry in your bag.
- Spoke keys – Spokes can break and bike wheels can buckle due to a crash while out on a ride. Although this can be a tough fix, you can correct it enough to get you home by tightening various spokes to pull the wheel back into shape with spoke keys.
5 of the best biking multi-tools
Great for both road and mountain bikes, this multi tool by Hero Kit has 12 features in one lightweight, compact package. Made of stainless steel it’s tough, if not a little on the heavy side, but a great product for the price.
Tools: A chain tool, 6 sizes of allen wrenches, 2 spoke wrenches, T25 Torx bit, and both phillips and flathead screwdrivers.
The Crank Brothers M19 has all the features you would expect in a multi tool, minus tire levers. A little on the heavier side, the M19 is a mix of tensile steel tools and stainless steel. The stainless steel case included is impossibly hard to open, but the tool itself seals up tight and the case is unnecessary.
Tools: Seven sizes of Allen wrenches, four spoke wrenches, small and large Phillips and flathead screwdrivers, T-25 Torx driver, universal chain tool, and 8- and 10-millimeter open wrenches.
This multi tool is perfect for those rides where you’re not carrying a whole lot of gear. It has a compact design, is lightweight, and the 20 tools is a feat in design alone. However, as it’s so compact, it can be tough to get each of the tools out, and the short reach can make getting into certain parts of the bike a challenge.
Tools: 9 sizes of Allen wrenches, T25 Torx wrench, spoke wrenches, tire lever, steel chain hook, chain tool, chain pin tool, Phillips and flathead screwdrivers, bottle opener and a spoke holder.
The Topeak Alien II is the big brother to the Mini-20 with a two piece body and a tool count of 26. As the tool separates in half, you can use both simultaneously and with more ease. With the wide range of tools, it’s perfect for use at home or on the trail, and remains one of the most popular multi tools out there.
Tools: 14g and 15g spoke wrenches, two integrated tire levers, a T25 Torx wrench, Phillips and flathead screwdrivers, a mini pedal wrench for field repairs, eight sizes of Allen wrenches (2 through 10mm), six box wrenches (two 8, 9, and 10mm sizes), a steel wire chain hook, a stainless-steel knife, a chain tool, and compartments for two chain pins.
Very similar to the Crank Brothers M19 multi-tool, the IB-3 by Park Tool is just 2 grams heavier with the addition of a 1.5mm Allen key and a tire lever. It’s compact design gives you everything you need for minor repairs out on the road.
Tools: 7 sizes of Allen wrench, straight blade screwdriver, T-25 Torx, tire lever, two spoke wrenches, and a 10-speed compatible chain tool.
We all make mistakes, but when it comes to our bikes they can be costly. Here are some of the most common mistakes to avoid while fixing your bike.
1: Tube and Tire Mistakes
One common issue always comes up when fixing a bike becomes necessary. It happens when you fail to seat the bead, and attempt to air up the tire. The tube bulges out between the tire and rim and then BANG! There goes a new tube. Always check around the perimeter of the tire to make sure it’s inside the rim. You will also want to make sure that you can’t see the inner tube when you push the tire inward so you can see the inside of the rim. A tube between the tire and rim will flat instantly as well. Keep checking all the way around also as you add pressure so it doesn’t slip out.
Many a new tube has been pinch-punctured by using tire levers to g
et the tire back on, leading to any amount of frustration, bad words, and a tire that won’t hold air. It happens when you mistakenly get the under-inflated tube between the rim and tire lever. When you use the lever to pry, it pinches a hole, and you never know it till you try to inflate the tube. It’s best to skip the levers and use your thumbs and finger to apply brute force to get the tire back on the rim. Sometimes though the tire is simply too tight and you need to use levers; just be careful.
2: Bad PSI
Failure to air up the tire to it’s proper PSI (Pounds per Square Inch) promotes premature tire wear, poor handling and performance. Too much air is dangerous. Always check the side of the tire for the printed info and get the PSI right. If you’re heavier, error with a few more pounds, if you’re lighter, you can take a few out to soften your ride.
3: Not Understanding Tools When Fixing A Bike
A multi-tool might sound like it can repair anything that can go wrong when fixing a bike, and most of them do. But if it doesn’t have the right bits or tips to adjust your saddle height, shift your slipped handlebar, adjust your headset, or fix a broken chain, then it’s a waste of space and added weight. Get to know what your multi-tool is capable of. The chain breaker is probably one of the tools that you should practice with ahead of time. They can be difficult to use if you don’t know what you’re doing especially on the side of the road.
4: Failing to Change a Cable
A fraying cable is ugly. There’s nothing worse than to look down and see a frayed cable hanging from the derailleur or emerging from your shifter or brake lever. Once cables start to fray there’s no going back, replace it as soon as possible. Don’t make the mistake of trying to run it any longer than you need to.
Make sure that the cable end caps — they look like silver bullets — are installed at the ends of cables. You can pick them up for pennies at any bike shop. There’s no excuse for running cables without them. When pinching the caps on the end of the cables, make sure you don’t pinch them too hard causing them to split or cut.
5: Messing with Your High and Low Limit Screws
The limit screws in your derailleurs rarely, if ever get loose. They are there to set the limits of your derailleur’s movement up and down. If your bike shifts clean and crisp when you first bought it, chances are you’ll never need to touch the limit screws ever again. Don’t make the mistake of messing with it unless you know what you’re doing. Once you get it out of whack, it can be a pain to get it back where it belongs.
If your shifting has suddenly gone awry, it’s typically NOT because the limit screws are off. It’s because of a dirty cable, cable housing or cable tension or a bent derailleur hanger. Never use a screwdriver on limit screws before trying everything else. Normally it’s just a simple adjustment of the barrel adjuster.
6: Bad Lubing Techniques
This one is one of the most common first time cycling maintenance mistakes; using the wrong lube on your chain (lube that’s not bicycle-specific) and lubing without cleaning first. Adding lube to a dirty chain is a recipe for chain wear and eventual failure. It’s smart to wipe down your chain with a clean rag after every ride. You probably won’t do this, but it’s still a good idea. Then apply the correct lube and give it a light wipe down after to wipe off any excess.
7: Tightening the Quick Release Wrong
The cam (up and down) action of a quick-release is the only way to secure your wheel to the hub. It prevents the wheel from getting wrenched out of the fork when put under sudden, extreme loads. Adjust the skewer nut to allow the lever and cam to swing past top dead center and ﬁrmly into the closed position with adequate pressure. The lever is tight when it leaves a small indention in the skin on your palm. Don’t rotate the nut or lever to tighten after it’s closed.
8: Over-Tightening Headset Cap
Modern headset systems are threadless. They work by pre-loading the bearings with the cap on top ( the vertical bolt on top of your steerer-tube is not used to hold the stem in place). The torque to secure the stem is added with pinch bolts perpendicular to the stem.
If you can hear a clunking coming from your front end or if your handlebars feel unstable — then it’s fine to add some pressure to the stem by tightening the cap on top a bit at a time with the bolts on the side loose until the clunking stops. Then tighten down the pinch bolts on the side of the stem. You only need this top bolt tight enough to remove bearing play. If it causes resistance in your steering — it’s too tight. A full run-down is explained here.
9: Failure to do Maintenance on Your Seatpost
Don’t leave your seatpost in the bike for extended periods of time. Three months is doable. Six months is way too long. Seatposts tend to seize up and it makes it impossible to change saddle height. Forcing it up or down results in breaking it. Even if it’s been greased, the grease breaks down and eventually allows oxidation to occur, and moisture seeps into the frame. Not only do metal seatposts seize, carbon posts seize as well. Apply a generous dollop of grease to metal after cleaning. Use carbon specific grease or lube for carbon.
10: Not Closing the Quick Release on Your Brakes
The most common mistake when fixing a bike is saved for last; failure to close the quick release on the brake after changing or removing a tire. All cyclists are guilty of it. The brake quick release allows you to easily remove or install a wheel as the brake opens up further to allow the pumped up tire to easily fit through the brake. If you forget to close the quick release after, you are going to have to pull your brake lever a lot farther for the pads to touch the rim. If they’re too far, they may not have the ability to stop you because your brake levers will bottom out against your handlebars.
There is no doubt that the emergence of tubeless mountain bike tires and rims have changed the industry for the better. Riding tubeless enables the rider to run less pressure, giving the rider more grip, better ride feel and also less weight. Adding a sealant to the system adds an extra measure of security as many small holes or cuts in the tire can be patched internally by the sealant. Should a cut happen that is too large for the sealant to do its magic, then the rider can install a tube as normal to get home!
Tubeless has come a long way since the emergence of UST (universal system tubeless) over 10 years ago by Mavic and Hutchinson (two french companies, hence the french abbreviation). Now most rims and tires on the market can be made tubeless very easily, BUT there are few hidden tricks that both shop and home mechanics can use to make the system easier and more affordable.
Editors note: Most Bontrager rims do not apply to these tricks!
Tubeless rim companies have developed their own tape to ‘tape’ over the spoke holes on the inside of the rim causing it to be sealed. The valve is then poked through the tape. When sealant is added, the combination of these things is what makes the system air tight.
This tape is on the expensive side as it is designed to work with the specific rims. Many professional mechanics, from local shops to World Cup DH, tend to use ‘Gorilla Tape‘. This tape is basically duct tape on steroids and can be bought on the cheap at any local hardware store. Not only that, it comes in many widths to accommodate different rim widths and tends to be thicker than the proper tape. In some opinions, it can lead to a more solid tire seal.
One of the main benefits to Gorilla Tape is how easy it can be found. Being able to buy it at Wal-mart at 10:30pm the night before a race is handy when you break a spoke on the course pre-ride! The key to it working well is to make sure the rim surface is clean for proper adhesion.
Like tubeless tape, specific valves are recommended to go tubeless. The main benefit of the specific valves is that the rubber base (what hugs the rim) is built up. This works to prevent sealant from going into the valve, clogging it, and also preventing it from pulling through. If you are on a very tight budget or in a pinch, you can cut up an old presta tube. This valve is very similar and can work. If you have a couple of extra bucks you can buy the proper tubeless valve.
We have all been there. Installing a new tire and cutting it on the first ride. Tubeless tires don’t come cheap these days and it is very frustrating to cut one before you get your moneys worth! It is possible to patch tubeless tires, but it is very tricky. It’s recommended to buy patches in the automotive isle of the hardware store as they tend to be thicker, more stiff, and generally cheaper. Your DON’T want a flexible, thin, patch with some stretch to it.
Be sure to clean the inner part of the tire thoroughly with alcohol and scuff it up with sandpaper. Once clean, buy the best crazy glue you can find. A favorite is ‘KLEBFIX’ from Wurth brand. It is a fantastic glue and doesn’t corrode rubber. Be careful as it will bond ANYTHING in a matter of seconds. Traditional patch glue doesn’t work well. Keep in mind, this is to get the remaining life from your tires. If you are concerned about it holding up before the biggest race of the year, you should error on the side of caution and buy a new tire.
The Rim-Pop technique:
Lets face it: Tubeless is annoying to set up without a compressor. Thankfully Bontrager has come out with a pump that stores air inside of it causing a burst of quick air popping the tire into place. This is the definition of “Why didn’t someone think of this sooner?” type products.
However, there is another way! Once the tire, valve, tape, sealant are all installed, run your tire lever just under the bead of the tire, gently pulling it up onto the high spot of the rim (where it should sit when inflated). Run the lever all the way around the tire. You will feel it getting tighter and tighter as the lever approaches your starting point. From here, gently pull the lever out and do the same to the other side.
The goal here is to pre-set the tire on the high point of the rim so when you start pumping there are fewer places for the air to escape which aids in the force of the air ‘popping’ the tire into place so the sealant can do its magic.
You will almost always make a mess with this system, but it works. Once you get good at it, it usually works the first attempt. Again this is handy for those without a compressor or who happen to be at a race or on the road. Another good method is before you put the sealant in, install the tire with a tube and inflate it to seat the bead. Then carefully remove one side of of the tire to remove the tube, install the tubeless valve, and add sealant. Then do the above trick on the one side. Also wiping the bead of the tire with a warm, wet, soapy sponge will help the tire to seal.
The bicycle industry has come a long way from UST over the past 10 years. Tubeless tires are more accessible, more affordable, and much lighter compared to then. Is the ‘Stans’ system easier to use than UST? Depends who you ask, but these tips will help you out if you’re in a pinch.