Emergency cycle repairs

Emergency cycle repairs

Sometimes disaster strikes. You're miles from anywhere and you need to fashion a repair in order to get back to civilisation and safety. Hilary Stone reveals some tried and tested - if unorthodox - remedies, which may save you a long walk.

A good bodger's kit should include:

Puncture repair kit
Puncture repair kit
  • Zip ties
  • Toe strap
  • Short length of wire coat hanger or fencing wire
  • Penknife
  • Gaffer tape
  • Essential spares:
  • Inner tube (or better, two)
  • Puncture kit
Tools - always carry:
  • Chain link extractor
  • Pliers
  • Spoke key
  • Adjustable spanner
  • Allen keys to fit your bike
  • Tyre levers
Sometimes disaster strikes and you have to fashion a repair to get you home, or at least to the nearest safe haven (don't rely on mobile phones - you may not get a signal, or find anyone available to rescue you). If you want to save yourself a very long walk (not always easy in cycling shoes, or dragging a non-rolling bike) you'll have to make some repairs, which may be unorthodox.

Cycle repair
Cycle repairThe repairs suggested here have all been tried successfully in the past. Your situation may well be different, but it's often possible to find a solution by thinking 'outside the box'. Safety must be paramount. Don't ever bodge a broken handlebar stem, handlebar or broken forks unless your life depends upon it.

Check the repair again every mile or so. Progress may be slow but it will be safe and still quicker than walking. Think of emergency road or trailside repairs exactly as that. Always carry out a proper repair once you are home. For example, seriously buckled rims will have overstressed the spokes and will never retain their straightness again. Similarly a chain that has failed once is likely to fail again, so replace it once you are home. It's always worth carrying a spare inner tube or two.

Buckled wheel

In the event of a crash it's not unusual for a wheel to end up looking like a potato crisp. The rim is so bent that it will not turn in the frame.
  1. Remove the wheel from the frame
  2. Hold it so the sections curving away from you are at the top and bottom.
  3. Place the wheel against a wall or tree at an angle of about 45° to the ground
  4. Grasp the sides of the wheel that are curving towards you and push hard to bring it back into shape.
  5. Prevent the wheel from slipping by holding your foot against the base of the wheel. 
  6. Once the wheel is fairly straight replace it and with a spoke key or small adjustable spanner loosen all the spokes by three complete turns.
  7. Using your brake blocks as guide (you may have to undo the cable to allow the wheel to turn), true the wheel by tightening the spoke nipples.
  8. Work around the wheel a little at a time until it is straight enough to pass easily between the brake blocks.
  9. Try and keep the spoke tensions as even as possible.
  10. Don't rush, and make certain that you are truing on both sides of the wheel evenly. 
Burst/cut tyre wall or tread  

This is not an uncommon problem - but if you regularly check your tyres for cuts and slits and check that your brake blocks do not foul the tyre you should be able to avoid becoming a victim.
  1. Find some heavy-duty polythene (as used on fertilizer bags) or some other thin, but heavy-duty material such as canvas.
  2. Double over a largish section of whatever you plan to use. Trim off a piece about 10cm longer than the gash and 5cm wider than the tyre.
  3. Remove the tyre and tube completely from the rim.
  4. Centre your patch under the cut and wrap it (double thickness) around the inside of the tyre casing.
  5. With the patch overlapping each side of the casing, refit the first bead of the tyre trapping the emergency patch.
(If the tube blew out, fit a new tube) - see below if you haven't a tube
  1. Inflate the tube so that it just rounds out.
  2. Fit the tube and refit the second bead of the tyre with the patched section last.
  3. Make certain that the patch is trapped both sides.
  4. Reinflate the tyre and trim off the excess patch.
  5. The patch will be held in place by the air pressure in the tyre and will bridge very large gashes in the tread or sidewall. 
Tube with large blown hole, no spare tube
  1. Forget all the old wives' tales about stuffing the tyre with grass. Dried hay and straw might work but grass just mushes up in no time.
  2. If you have no spare tube and the tyre has blown off the rim blowing a large hole in the tube or has a large slit the only solution is to cut the tube in half where the hole is.
  3. Tie the two ends very tightly together in a reef knot. The tube will be quite a bit shorter.
  4. Stretch it around the rim and inflate just a little.
  5. Refit the second tyre bead and inflate to about half normal pressure. 
Small punctures, no puncture repair kit
  1. For this you will need something, which is a bit sticky, which will stick to the tube. Postage stamps, insulation tape, chewing gum and handlebar tape have all been used successfully.
  2. Refit the tyre carefully with the patched section last. Two pairs of hands often help here.
  3. If this doesn't work revert to the emergency repair in 3.
  4. Don't pump your tube up until it's completely inside the tyre and then press down on the tyre over the area of the improvised patch until the tyre is inflated.
Broken freewheels
  1. If the pawls have become stuck, pour some oil through the freewheel to free them; a little oil can often be found in an old can.
  2. Pour the oil down the gap between the rotating part of the freewheel or freehub and non-rotating part.
  3. Keep pouring until it comes out the other side.
  4. If this does not work, the pawls may be broken. Tie the largest rear sprocket to the spokes with as many attachments as possible using binding string, zip ties or wire.
  5. Remember you will have to pedal all the time - you cannot freewheel - and note that the repair may not be strong enough to enable you to ride any very steep inclines. 
Broken or badly bent rear derailleur
  1. Disconnect the cable and split the chain (using the chain link extractor you always carry, right?).
  2. Remove the rear derailleur and inspect the rear dropouts for serious damage.
  3. If the rear mechanism went into the spokes, you may need to straighten the right hand dropout with an adjustable spanner.
  4. Shorten the chain so that it runs fairly tightly over a middle ratio gear - middle chainring on a triple / small chainring on a racing double and one of the smaller rear sprockets.
  5. Derailleurs can sometimes be straightened but this can cause more damage to the derailleur hanger. 
Broken spoke or spokes

Most spokes break at the their head, next to the hub, and you're unlikely to be able to remove the freewheel to replace a spoke properly by the roadside. You'll need pliers for this repair to bend the rest of the spoke into a shape which will slot behind the freewheel and then create a 'link' between top and bottom.
  1. Unscrew the broken spoke from the nipple.
  2. Cut the spoke in half and bend one end into an S shape.
  3. Leave the lower bit of the S-shape longer than you need until you have the bend just right. 
  4. Then trim off most of the long bit and push the S-shape through the hub's spoke hole.
  5. Bend over the other end and tie it to another piece of wire.
  6. Bend over the end of the threaded section of spoke and tie it to the other end of the wire.
  7. Rethread the spoke into its nipple and gently tension the spoke. The wire's length may need careful adjustment.
Bent forks
  
If, after an impact, the front forks are bent back so much that the front wheel is touching the down tube, disconnect the front brake cable and turn the fork backwards with the wheel still in place.
  1. Stand the bike vertically on the front wheel and gently bounce the bike.
  2. The forks will gradually straighten.
  3. Don't do it too hard or you may bend the top tube or down tube!
  4. Check carefully for any cracks on the forks, fork crown or frame tubes before riding.
  5. Do not attempt to straighten aluminium, titanium or carbon-fibre forks. They are guaranteed to break if bent a second time! Replace them at the very first opportunity.
  6. Have your frame checked over by a good dealer or framebuilder as soon as possible.

Search site