[This article was originally published August 6, 2015]
Having a mechanical problem when you are a long way from home is never much fun, much less so if it’s raining and cold, which is usually seems to be when we have a puncture. We asked the road.cc Facebook page for their best roadside maintenance bike fixes and here are some of the best suggestions.
From the submissions we had, it clearly looks like punctures and ripped tyres are the biggest cause of roadside mechanicals, but there are some ingenious solutions to rarer mechanicals like snapped gear cables and spokes. And it appears many mechanicals can be fixed with nothing more expensive than zip ties, gaffa tape, empty gel sachets and even plasters.
Darragh Delaney has a good solution for repairing a puncture if you’ve not got a spare tube or patches. “If you puncture your only tube, find the hole, slice tube at this point. then make a knot and pull tight. It will be a squeeze to put back into tyre but it can be inflated and will get you home," he says.
It's probably preferable to Andy Fraser’s solution: “I once stuffed my mtb tyres with grass to get me home.”
Punctures are never much fun, but a split tyre is even worse. Mark Bleakley simply says it’s “all about the energy gel wrapper to fix the hole in a split tyre!”
Plasters are an unlikely method. Simon William Robertson O'Brien says he "fixed a burst tyre on the coast to coast with blister plasters!"
Martin Evans prefers to be even more prepared in the case of a split tyre. He says to “cut out a section of old tyre to carry and use as a boot in the event of a tyre split.”
As our own John Stevenson discovered back in 2017, new-style Bank of England plastic notes can also make highly effective tyre boots.
Matthew Rollinson reckons gaffa tape is an essential roadside tool. “Wrap several lengths of gaffa tape around the handle on the mini pump you keep in the saddle bag, you can wrap it round and round on itself straight from the roll. It will fix literally anything," he suggests.
What can you fix with gaffa tape? How about a split tyre, as this photo shared by Andrew Mcgurk demonstrates.
In the unlikely event of a wheel spoke breaking, Pete Spittles shows that it is possible to use nothing more than a couple of zip ties to fix the broken wheel. Here's a photo he shared of a hastily repaired mountain bike wheel spoke.
Broken chains are rare, but still it pays to be prepared, reckons Richard Rothwell. He says to “tape a split link to your chainstay. Knock out damaged link. Join chain in seconds. Always there if you need it.”
Snapped gear cables are a bit more troublesome, but not impossible. “Fixing a broken front derailleur cable by jamming a short stick between the mech and seat tube, so it stays on the big ring,” is the top tip from Rob Smith, who shared this photo of his fix for the RideLondon 2014. He rode the last 40 miles like this.
But what happens if your rear derailleur cable snaps? A rear derailleur will force the chain into the small cassette sprocket when the cable is removed, which will make pedalling hard work. Steve Cutler shows here how he managed to force the rear mech into a middle gear using nothing more than an inner tube and some precision knot tying.
In fact, there are many uses for a spare inner tube. Azeem Pirbhai tells us how a broken rack was fixed with one. “On a ride from Wittmund to Bremerhaven along the coast, the rear rack snapped at the bottom, of course in the middle of nowhere," he recalls. "A strip of old inner tube was employed to lash what remained of the rack to the frame. I carried on with fully loaded panniers for the remaining 450km of the tour. old inner tube has many emergency uses!”
Sometimes though, there’s nothing else you can do but “call a cab,” suggests Julian Bright.
Do you have any good roadside fixes? We'd love to hear them in the comments below.
David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.