10 Emergency Road-Side Maintenance Tips for Cyclists

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This post originally appeared on Naked Women's Racing blog. Read the original post here

Rachel has had her fair share of mishaps while riding in the dirt and on the road. Here’s her top 10 road side maintenance tips, and yes, they all have happened. Do you have any to add?

1.  Don’t PANIC! What’s done is done and you’ll get back riding much more quickly if you keep a level head. You can’t think clearly when you’re freaking out. I know, speaking from experience here.

2.  Know how to change a flat. Not that you’ve watched someone change one, but actually practice doing it.

  • Always have at least 1 size appropriate tube, CO2 w/dispenser or hand pump, and two tire levers.
  • Patch kit can be your best friend.
  • Stand with a tire between your legs to get some leverage to roll it back on. It helps, promise.
  • If you need to bum a tube from someone and it’s not the right size (too small or too big), some sizes can work in a pinch but not recommended.
  • If you rip your side wall of the tire, you can use a dollar bill, tire boot or a food item wrapper to plug the hole.
  • Always bring cash in case you need to buy something along the way. Also, many remote gas stations or markets only take cash.

3.  Check your spare tube occasionally. Don’t just stuff it in your saddle bag and fugetaboutit! Many times I’ve had flats, my spare tube was already punctured from having been in my saddle bag. Bummer:( This is why you need a patch kit.

  • To see if your tube is flat BEFORE you put in your bike, you can blow air in it. You should do this before changing your flat anyway so you don’t get a pinch flat when putting the tire back on.

4.  Multi-tool. Know it, use it. I’ve had cleats come off mid-ride, head sets come loose, bolts come loose, handlebars come off, derailleurs rip off, and so on. You don’t want this to happen.

5.  Weather. It’s Colorado and you always need to be prepared and dressed appropriately when it begins to snow/rain/sleet/hail etc.

  • Pearl Izumi makes a great protective barrier that wads up in a tennis ball size.
  • Rubber surgical gloves year round! Great for changing flats so you don’t get dirty or for warmth in a pinch. And pack really easy.
  • If you must, newspaper for an extra layer in your jersey and plastic bags on your feet make for great emergency layers.
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There’s no such thing as cold; only inappropriate clothing.

 

6.  Broken spoke. This one is a bit tough depending on the spoke count of your wheels.

  • You can use your knee to try to bend the wheel back in a less-wobbly position.
  • Open your brakes up to allow the wheel to spin through.
  • If you have a lighter rider with you, switch wheels so you can get back. The lighter rider will put less pressure on the weak spot in the rim and potentially prevent more spokes from breaking.
  • If you’re a serious randonneur, they do make spokes on the fly called Fiber Flight.
  • Check to see if your multi tool has a spoke wrench, and also, learn how to use it. (Youtube it or Google and practice on a spare set of junk wheels)
  • Low spoke count wheels are great if you have a team car and your paycheck depends on you getting to the finish ahead of the other guy/girl. Get a higher spoke count wheel, especially if you’re heavier.

7.  Broken Chain.

  • More applicable to mountain bikes but make sure to have a chain breaker, know how to use it, and a spare pin to reattach your chain.
  • You could also reuse the pin but make sure to not back it all the way out because you may lose it.
  • Remove broken link by removing 2 segments of the chain at the damaged end.  You need to remove 2 segments instead of 1 because the two types of segment alternate. If you just remove 1 segment you can’t re-attach it.  Fixing a broken chain is no more difficult than fixing a flat tire if you’re prepared.
  • You won’t be able to shift normally so make sure to not shift under a lot of load.  However having a derailleur allows you to remove links more easily. If you have a single speed, it’s a little different.
  • Get out those rubber gloves! This is a dirty job and you don’t want to mess up your sharp kit.

8.  Broken Cable (Coincidentally encountered this tonight).

  • If you have a geared bike, you can manually move your chain where it needs to go in the big and small rings (get out those rubber gloves).
  • If Rear Der. goes out, you can still shift in the big and small rings up front. No biggie.
  • Get cable replaced asap when you get back.
  • Could be an array of reasons why this happened, but take it to a shop if you don’t know how to diagnose or change your cables.

9.  Crash:( It happens.

  • Straighten whatever is crooked with your multi tool (seat post, stem, wheel, etc) and scope out your helmet to make sure you it’s not broken. If you crashed in your helmet and hit your head, replace your helmet. No ifs, ands or buts. Most have a crash replacement policy and they should be replaced every 2 years anyway.
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Also, don’t back over your helmet in your car.

  • If you have carbon bars, as much as this is a pain in the ass, you should unwrap and check to make sure your bar isn’t cracked. Never a better time to replace your bar tape, especially if it’s white.
  • If you’re missing clothing, use spare clothing to cover up revealing rips in your kit.
  • Make sure to scrub your road rash (you must) and buy some tegaderm! If it’s a BOGO, buy extra. (YES, that happened).

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10. Prevention is a great way to avoid road-side emergencies! It’s always a good idea to simply keep your bike clean, lubed in pivot points, make sure bolts are tight (with a torque wrench) and inspect each time you clean or crash for cracks.

  • “ABC Wheel Quick!” Make sure to check the following:

    • Air in tires
    • Brakes and Bars
    • Chains and Cables (nothing fraying or obviously out of place)
    • Wheel –check for trueness and spoke tension
    • Quick Release – Make sure it’s tight. Nothing worse than lining up for a race and you notice your front skewer just dangling.

Rachel Scott