There are many cyclists who would make excellent bike mechanics and have a fully stocked repair shop in their basement. This article is not for them. Rather, it’s for the rest of us who are only looking to perform the most basic repairs and adjustments before passing our bike off to a professional.
When out on a ride, the most common remedy for a flat tire is a spare tube. Find your bike’s tube size, and keep one in your saddle bag or in your back jersey pocket.
Tire Patch Kit
The alternative to swapping in a spare tube when the original one goes flat is to repair the original tube with a tire patch kit. This is more time consuming than the spare tube method, but on the plus side it comes in a very small package. If you’re pedaling a century, consider carrying both a spare tube as well as a patch kit.
You will most likely end up with two tire pumps: a floor pump that you keep at home and a smaller, more compact pump to keep on your bike. The floor pump can pump your tire very quickly with very few strokes, while a compact pump is small enough to take with you on the road.
An alternative to a bike pump, CO2 inflators are small and use disposable CO2 cartridges. These are slightly more difficult to use than tire pumps, but they work much faster and are fairly inexpensive. However, you run the risk of damaging your tubing if you're not adept at using this tool, and the average cartridge is only good for one use.
Tire levers are essential for replacing a tube or tire. Usually made of plastic, they are lightweight, cheap, and compact. Carry a set of three in your saddle bag alongside your spare bike tube.
Occasionally on a long trip, your front or rear derailleur may fail to shift the chain through the entire gear assortment. Maybe the cable has stretched, or possibly the derailleur was knocked askew. If you have a #1 Phillips Screwdriver, you’ll be able to make that adjustment with ease.
The handle bars, seat post, and brake pads are all adjusted using Allen wrenches. Take time to identify which sizes your bike uses, and then bring them along on any trip.
Whether you’re making an adjustment or repair at home or on the road, a bike-specific multi-tool comes in very handy. Instead of carrying individual wrenches, screwdrivers, and chain tools, you can carry just one device and have everything you need readily available.
Keep this tool at your bike bench. Chain tools make taking out chain pins a breeze—and they are absolutely necessary for replacing your chains. There are a variety of types you can buy, but a standard model will get the job done and is relatively inexpensive.
A run-of-the-mill bike lubricant is nice to have with you on the road or in your workspace to keep your chain clean and greased up. Just make sure you get the right kind (wet, dry, or wax lube) for your specific riding habits.
After any ride where your bike picks up dirt, spend some time afterward wiping the bike down. Cleaning liquids specifically designed for this are available. Also periodically clean the bike chain. For this, you will need chain degreasing liquid.
These tools and items will enable you to perform basic repairs and maintenance. For yearly tune-ups and more involved repairs, go to a professional bike tech.
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