Home Mechanics

Fixing your bike can be great fun, honestly, and knowing what to do if things go wrong can be the difference between a disastrous trip and one where you get home safely. We’ve listed below a few simple tips you can use at home to keep your bike in great condition, and we’ve also covered a few tips to get you home should everything go wrong.

How to adjust your brakes and why

There are many reasons for adjusting your brakes, not just because you don’t want to crash. If you have squealing coming from them, it can be even worse than not being able to slow down. Properly adjusting your brakes is easier than you think.

Rim brakes

Despite the ever onwards march towards disc brakes, many road bikes still come with side-pull brakes. These brakes are pretty simple to adjust at home, and you’ll be able to do it with no fancy tools, you’ll just need your multi-tool. Here are the steps:

  1. If you’ve been using your barrel adjusters to keep your brakes close to the rim, tighten them all back in and you should see a slacker cable. Release the cable from its anchor bolt.
  2. Loosen the brake pads. Don’t remove them just loosen.
  3. Press the brake lever and line the pads up with the rim. We want them to be around 1.5mm from the top of the rim. Tighten them in.
  4. Take the brake cable and pull it through the anchor point. While holding the brake against the rim, tighten the bolt.

Rim brake adjustment

Recommended brake shoe alignment

Disc brakes

Disc brakes come in 2 varieties. They could be either mechanical or hydraulic, and to adjust them will require similar steps, only the start is different for mechanical disc brakes.

Like rim brakes, tighten the barrel adjusters and loosen the cable anchor bolt.

The next step is the same for both hydraulic and mechanical. Loosen the calliper bolts, pull the brake lever in. Tighten the calliper bolts.

Disc brake gap alignment

How to fix a broken chain

A broken chain is a fast way to ruin your ride. It is why it is always worth it to ride with a multi-tool that includes a chain tool and an SRAM Power Link or a KMC Missing Link. Just make sure you buy the link that fits your chain’s speed.

If your chain has snapped while you’re powering along, a broken chain can sometimes be the least of your worries. Hopefully, you’ll be okay, and now it’s time to get you going again. Now look at your chain tool and you’ll see a recess to fit the chain in and hold it while you use a pin to push out the rivet from the broken link.

You’ll have to remove two rivets, and you should be left with two inner links, the thinner part of the chain that joins the outer links.

Using a chain tool to push out the rivet from a chain.

Now you’ll need to join the power link. You’ll want the chain threaded through the rear derailleur and on the bike at this point if it has fallen off. Now take the two halves of the power link and fit them at opposite ends of the chain, so you’ll be able to interlock them.

Now snap the chain together, and then give the two sections of the chain a pull and everything should come back together. A chain that snaps can be a sign of a worn-down chain, so think about checking the wear on it when you get home.

How to tune gears and check chain wear

If you want to tune your gears the best way to do this is on a work stand. It makes the whole task a lot easier. It won't be easy trying to fix gears with your bike standing against a wall, especially as you’ll have to balance your bike and try and cycle your chain through.

The Topeak Elite work stand

The best place to start when tuning your gears is to make sure that your chain is not worn. The easiest way to do this is to buy a chain checker. There are various styles, but they all work similarly. You pop it on your chain, and it’ll give you a reading which tells you if you need a new chain or not. If you need a new one, just get your chain breaker out and fit a new chain.

Lubing your gears

One of the simplest things you can do for your gears is to lube the various moving parts. Many of us will lube only our chain. When you do that don’t forget your derailleurs. Lube the pivot points, the high and low screws, the ends of the inner cables, and the jockey wheel points. Doing this will keep your parts moving and less likely to need a large service.

Don't forget to lube your derailleurs

Tuning Gears

When you get a new bike, the derailleurs will be set and you shouldn’t need to change the position of these unless you fit a new chainset or wheels. Otherwise, to keep your gears running smoothly between services all you have to do is to just use your barrel adjusters.

The simple way to understand barrel adjusters is that tightening your barrel adjuster loosens the cable tension. Loosening your barrel adjuster tightens cable tension. You’re more likely to find this to be an issue with your rear derailleur. It’ll have more index points.

Using barrel adjusters to tune gears

Change down until you’re in the smallest rear cog and the outer front ring. Shift onto the second rear cog. If it isn’t smooth, drop back down. Now turn your barrel adjuster ¼ of a turn counterclockwise. Try and shift up, if it goes smoothly go through each cog and check this if it doesn’t drop down and turn the barrel adjuster ¼ of a turn. Repeat as necessary, and it shouldn’t need that much of an adjustment if you keep on top of it.

You can also follow the video below on how to use the barrel adjusters to get the gears tuned.

 

 

If you have the barrel adjusters nearly out, it’ll be time to reset your gears and possibly a new inner cable wire. We’ll come back to that on a future article on gear indexing.

Use correct tyre pressure in your tyres, and check this often

Checking your tyre pressure is a great habit to pick up. Make this a regular Saturday morning task. And while you’re checking your tyre pressure, have a quick look around your tyres for anything that may be stuck in them like cracks or how worn down they are.

Having your tyres at the correct pressure and in good working order is the best way to enjoy a ride. We don’t want to have to stop all the time to fix punctures, and the more you do at home, the less likely this is to happen to you.

Track pump

At home, you’ll want a track pump, the Entity FP45 is a great track pump, as you’d expect, being a top of the line pump. Even though it is top of the line, it is still highly affordable, and with an easy to read digital gauge, it is the perfect tool to have in your workshop.

The Entity FP45 track pump

It is capable of pressures of up to 260psi, so if you ever want to take up track racing, you’ll be able to get your tubs up to the extreme pressures that are beloved by people who ride velodromes. At the other end of the scale being digital you’ll find it easy to see what pressure (or lack of) you’re putting in fat bike or plus-sized tyres. Lower pressures can be hard to read on an old-fashioned gauge.

A good track pump will help you get your tyres up to pressure quickly and easily; it will feel like less of a chore.

Jersey pump

A small pump to sit in your pack or jersey is also good to fix punctures. The day you forget it will be the day you get a puncture, so don’t make that mistake and try an Entity HP15. You’ll be able to keep it safely in a jersey pocket or attached to your bottle cage, and hopefully, you’ll never need to use it.

The Entity HP15 hand pump

If the worst happens though and you get a puncture, you’ll need to fix it at the side of the road or the trail. The best way to fix a puncture is to make sure you have a spare tube on you, and it is easier and quicker to replace a tube and fix the punctured tube at home. You won’t spend time waiting on glue setting, getting wrong, and starting over.

What many people forget to do is to check their tyre and rim for what caused the puncture. Run your fingers around both and try and find anything sharp, be careful though. You don’t want to pump everything up and get a second puncture.

If you haven’t had to change a tube, practice changing a tube at home, it will honestly make it easier if you ever have the misfortune to have a puncture.

What if I have no tube?

If you manage to get through any spare tubes, you’re carrying and have the misfortune to get another puncture what you want to do take the tube out. Find the hole and tie a tight knot in the tube there. It might be more of a fight to get it on the rim, but it should be enough to get you home.If the hole is huge, cut the tube at that point, your chainring may help here. Use it to cut the tube. Afterwards, tie and knot both ends. Reinsert the tube and pump it up.

Inner tube hacks for when you forget to bring a spare tube or patch kit

If you ride tubeless with sealant inside the tyre and have the misfortune of getting a hole too big for the sealant to close, the best thing you can do is to use a Slug Plug. This adds a bit of rubber to the hole in your tyre, making it easier for the sealant to close the small gaps, instead of a big hole.

Using a Topeak Slug Plug for fixing tubeless wheels

However, if you have ripped the tyre or your pump has died, then you’ll want to look at your local vegetation. You’ll have to stuff your tire full of grass, moss, lichen or leaves. It will be a bumpy and slow roll home, but you should make it.

Pumping up your suspension so that it's safe to ride

If you have air shocks, you’ll want to periodically check the pressure in them, as well as taking good care of them. What you’ll need then is a good shock pump, and we recommend the Entity SP15. One of the most important things you can do for your full suspension bike is to set the sag, and you’ll need a good quality pump for that task.

The Entity SP15 shock pump

Remember, changes in temperature and elevation can affect your suspension. So, if you're changing where you’re riding, you’ll want to check your pressures just to make sure you're keeping your suspension sag within your manufacturer’s guidelines. We have a handy guide for checking your sag.

To check your suspension’s air pressure, you’ll need your bike and a shock pump.

On either your forks or your rear shock, remove the screw on dust cap from the shock. You should now see an exposed Schrader valve and no, you shouldn’t use a track pump.

Screw the shock pump onto the valve. You’ll get to see the gauge tell you the pressure. If it’s okay, unscrew the pump.

If it needs air, pump it slowly and smoothly. If you go over the pressure, you are aiming for then use the pressure release button on your pump and let some air out. Once at the correct pressure unscrew your pump, and refit the dust cap.

You’ve turned your wheel into a taco

You’ve had a bit of a bad crash, and your wheel is not round anymore, there is a little trailside hack to fix it, but there is a more important question. That question is if you’ve taken a crash that hard are you still safe to ride?

If the answer is yes, and you’d like to get a wheel that can pass your frame or fork. Then find a tree or a rock and press on the edges of your wheel at 3 and 9 ‘o’ clock position. That should hopefully be enough to get you home, not fast but home.

Ways to straighten a bent wheel in the middle of nowhere

If you’ve broken a spoke in the same crash, your best bet is to take the spoke and wrap around its adjacent spoke and fix it when you get home. Trying to unscrew it will leave a nipple rolling about inside your wheel and that will honestly not be great for your mind as you ride along.

 


 

Are there any other trailside fixes you’d like to see on this article? If so, please let us know in the comment section below.

 

 



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