7 trailside fixes every cyclist should know
Getting stuck out on a ride or taking a long walk home due to a mechanical that can’t be fixed isn’t cool. We’ve all been there though, cursing our lack of mechanical expertise or berating ourselves for leaving (insert tool here) at home. With a little bit of prior preparation and a few unlikely tools there is a way out of many a sticky situation, here are our top seven trailside fixes to keep you rolling.
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1. Energy gel wrapper as a tyre boot
No doubt you’ll have a spare inner tube on you so any small nick or splits in the tube can be sorted out with a quick swap. A tyre boot comes in handy when the tyre itself is slashed open by covering the hole and protecting the tube inside, stopping it from protruding out of the hole. If you use the dedicated one, like this one from Park Tools, it will be made of a tough, adhesive vinyl but something like an old energy gel tube, an old toothpaste tube, or even a fiver if you are flush, will do the same job. It just needs to be able to shape to the inside of the tyre and not interfere with the inflation of the tube. Your chosen patch should be about 3x3 inches in size and all you need to do is push this into the space between the tube and hole, pump up your tyre and voila – ride home!
Gorilla tape can usually be counted on to do the same job, we’ve heard that it can also hold tubeless sealant pretty well too, but that is to be tried and tested.
2. Zip ties for everything
The trusty zip tie is are a bicycle riders best friend, they can usually be counted on to reattach brakes, chainrings, mech hangers and grips to list a few of the dodgy fixes we’ve figured out in our time. You name it, if you’ve broken it, you’ll probably find a way to unbreak it with a zip tie, although granted it might take more than the two pictured here!
Other more exclusive uses that you might not have heard of are; fixing a puncture by blocking off each side of the hole with two zip ties, fixing parts of a shoe or helmet’s with a zip tie (warning – you might have to be cut loose at the end of the ride) and using a heavy duty zip tie as a makeshift lock at the shop/pub, just make sure you have a knife handy for that one!
We’d go as far as saying that zip ties are the single most useful thing to keep in your riding pack, Rachael once finished a couple of days of an enduro race in the Alps with a zip tied on brake lever (many zip ties were used in the making of this bodge), luckily her next stop after the race was a Shimano press camp…..
3. Quick Link
This is less of a bodge and more of a must have, a SRAM Power Link or KMC Missing Link are a ride saviour in case of a chain breaking. After removing the broken link with a chain tool leaving two ‘inner’ ends of the chain exposed, all you need to do is insert the spare link so the pins and plates interlock joining the chain. Then with the chain fitted correctly to the bike, exert some pressure on the pedal without the wheels rotating, you should hear a snap as the link extends and secures. Job done, as this isn’t a bodge you won’t need to make further repairs at home, just carry on using the chain with the quick link, assuming the chain is still the right length for your bike. Do remember to replace the link in your bag with a fresh one that is correct for your drivetrain (9,10, 11 speed etc) though!
4. Quick release skewer or Maxel as a tyre lever
No tyre levers? No problem, just use the lever end of your quick release skewer or Maxel. Or even two of the above if you have an equally ill-prepared mate with you!
5. Turning to single speed if you have a broken mech
This hack is for those times when you irreparably wreck your mech and there is nothing else for it other than choosing one gear and going single speed. In short, all you need to do is remove the derailleur and stow in your pack ready to weep over later, shorten the chain and find a gear that will give you the straightest chain line. Use the middle chainring on a triple crankset or the small ring on a double then rejoin the chain (see above for useful quick link) and pedal home, trying not to walk up too many hills!
This hack won’t work as well on full sussers as it will on hardtails as the suspension moves the axle also moves to some degree when riding, either loosening or tightening the chain. To increase your chances of success on a bouncy bike then lock out the suspension and go steady! You can always pump up the shock so the suspension will no longer compress under your weight, but don’t go over the maximum pressure for the shock.
6. One size fits all
If you are going to carry a tube and don’t have the correct one for your bike, a 27.5” tube is a serious case of one size fits all. You’ll be able to stretch it into a 29er and it’s not that different to a 26” tube for those mates who are strictly “26 ain’t dead”.
7. Rotor bolt exchange
There’s not a lot worse than a cleat bolt disappearing halfway through a ride. Fortunately, your disc rotors will contain some ‘spare’ same sized rotor bolts for use in just such circumstances. The round-headed nature of this replacement bolt might mean you feel it on the bottom of your shoe but this is negligible when compared to the pain a frustration encountered when not being able to clip in. A small flat bolt from a water bottle cage will do the same trick and is a little less critical than snaffling a bolt from your stoppers!
Now, these are all tricks and hacks in order to save you from a long walk home. You won’t be able to finish your ride in quite the same style as you had intended when you set out but instead of the day being a total disaster, these tips will set you in ‘limp mode’ and get you on the road/trail once again. Most are not longstanding solutions and will require some extra attention once you get home unless, of course, that is you find yourself a new single speed fan – you never know, stranger things have happened.
I had such a large split on the sidewall on my conti x-king supersonic that I had to assist the Park tyre boot with a note, only had 20s (so little need for cash during the weirdness), it came out quite grubby and deformed but I still managed to buy stuff with it.