Home
Hands up if you’ve ever turned your bike upside down?

Do you ever put your bike upside down? It’s a question that is sure to cause heated debate amongst cycling friends anytime a mechanical occurs and somebody flips their bike over to get a better look. Here in the office, we couldn’t agree if it’s just fine or social death.

So we did a poll on Twitter, and from 926 votes an impressive 67% of you said it’s just fine, you can’t see a problem with flipping the bike. Some of the accompanying comments were quite illuminating too.

Bad cycling etiquette or just common sense?

It’s clear that turning a bike upside down is an act of bicycle etiquette that divides opinion. The phrase it’s “not very pro” is often bandied about, so suggest it’s the sort of thing a pro would never do.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Name the #professional cyclist.

A post shared by Richie (@richie_porte) on

But the pros do it sometimes, as this photo shared by Richie Porte on Instagram shows Michael Matthews turning his Cervelo race bike upside down.

However, it’s clear from the accompanying comments that it is frowned upon by fellow pros and ex-pros. Robbie McEwan said: “Can’t be a pro....a pro NEVER turns his bike upside down.”

It’s inevitably not long before the “rules” get quoted here. Thumb through the Velominati rules and number 49 is “keep the rubber side down. “It astounds me whenever I see a bicycle helplessly turned upon its handlebars and saddle while the pilot optimistically leverages every muscle in their face to inspect the vehicle for evidence of its mysterious ailment,” it says.

Why would you not turn your bike upside down?

The only time you want to turn the bike upside down is to see to a mechanical issue. The most common reason for turning a bike over is to fix a flat tyre. Let’s face it, getting a wheel out of the bike can tricky, especially as you have to hold the bicycle frame in the air to avoid scratching the dropouts on the ground. Flipping the bike makes it much easier, you can get to the wheels and the bike is upright, not lying in a grass ditch.

Fettling gears and brakes can also be a bit easier too, especially if you’re indexing the gears and need to spin the drivetrain.

Reasons to avoid an upside-down bike

There are some valid reasons why you might not want to turn your bike over, other than the look you might incur from other cyclists.

The biggest problem with spinning your bike upside down when you have a mechanical is that it risks damaging/scuffing the saddle and hoods of your pride and joy. You’re also going to get dirt, mud or water on your main contact points when you get back on the bike.

upside down bike7.JPG

You’ll also have to pick up your water bottles as they’ll have dropped out of their cages and rolled down the hill. It the cages haven’t relinquished their grip on the bottles, they might not be leaking sticking energy drink all of your frame.

The other reason you don’t want to turn your bike upside down when you have a mechanical is that it rarely makes it easier to fix the problem that occurred in the first place. It can actually make it more difficult to diagnose or repair the problem.

More problems arise with the risk of getting covered in dirt from the tyres or grease from the chain when you turn the bike over.

What about hydraulic disc brakes? The disc brakes are a totally sealed unit with oil in the lever, caliper and hose, so in theory, the orientation of your bike shouldn’t make any difference to the brakes.

That said, we have seen people hang their bike up, or turn it upside down, only to then find the brake lever is all mushy. What is the likely cause is a small air bubble that was in the system has risen to the highest point, the caliper, and this has altered the feel at the brake lever.

Pinarello Prince FX - front disc brake.jpg

Shimano even recommends against turning the bicycle upside down. In a manual for its hydraulic disc brakes it says:

“The disc brake is not designed to work when the bicycle is upside down. If the bicycle is turned upside down or on its side, the brake may not work correctly, and a serious accident could occur. Before riding the bicycle, be sure to operate the brake lever a few times to check that the brakes operate normally. If the brakes do not operate normally, stop using the brakes and consult a dealer or an agency.”

In reality, you’ll probably be okay with a temporary upside down bike, but you don’t want to be storing it upside down.

What are the alternatives?

You could hang the saddle from a tree, hook the handlebars over a fence or gate, or get a friend to hold your bike for you. You can even try the method of hooking the saddle over your head which is better demonstrated by the picture below.

hbj_product_06.0_1024x1024@2x

We’ve even had our attention drawn to a product designed specifically for this usage. The Handlebar Jack is a portable bike stand that clips to the handlebars and protects the grips and controls from the ground and makes it more stable. It’s something else to spend money on and carry with you though, so we’re not sure it’s really a solution. 

Summary

It seems there's really nothing wrong with putting your bike upside down then providing you're careful, making it easier to sort a mechanical or flat tyre. It's an interesting debate that clearly gets some people worked up though, and there are pros and cons for doing it. We'd love to know what you think so getting down into the comments section and let us know.

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. 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.

61 comments

Avatar
craigr [16 posts] 1 week ago
1 like

Watch out if running deep section wheels too. Did that when repairing a puncture and bike blew over too easily causing a bit of paint damage. no

 

 

Avatar
Pilot Pete [248 posts] 1 week ago
6 likes

People can do whatever they want with their bicycle. If they wish to turn it upside down whilst fixing a puncture, so what? You don’t like it because it’s not ‘pro’ or ‘written in the ‘rules’; get over yourself.

Its not difficult to put a bike upside down without scratching hoods or saddle for a temporary repair, and if you slip your bottles out of the cages first if they leak or will fall out (cage not tight enough then, which is a different issue) then once again, a non-issue. Even this article is clutching at ‘potential’ problems like your bottles will roll away... really, how often as ANYONE seen this happen when someone puts their bike upside down?

And the speculative disc brakes not working after being put upside down can only mean they weren’t bled properly in the first place, which I suspect has another warning in the dealer manual...

If disc brakes were bled correctly in the first place it wouldn’t lead to so many forum posts about brake rub after hard braking downhill, etc. So a properly bled hydraulic brake will suffer no ill effects from temporarily being put upside down. Again, a non issue. 

In my opinion a bigger issue is watching those determined not to put their bike upside down standing it on the rear derailleur with the rear wheel out, or hanging it over a metal field gate with the forks or stays rubbing against the metal gate - and this article claims you might scratch your hoods...

Lay the frame chainset side up in long grass, CAREFULLY or turn the bike upside down and place it carefully on a soft surface, or even more carefully on the tarmac. Or alternatively get a trusted mate to just hold it.  It’s really a non-issue.

And remember, the OWNER of the bike can do whatever he/ she wants to do with THEIR bike and quite honestly if you are that judgemental you’ll end up riding by yourself ALL THE TIME.

PP

 

Avatar
IanEdward [354 posts] 1 week ago
3 likes

Multi-comment click bait battle!!!!

I'll bite because I'm bored.

Never turn my bike upside down, why would I want to cover all my most intimate contact points (bars, saddle) in grit and muck, just out of laziness in not learning how to do everything with bike the right way up? 

Worst case if windy or rear wheel is out I will lay bike on side (drivetrain up) and trying not to lay bar tape in puddle/mud/dog eggs.

Also another strike against hydraulics in my book, the fear of accidentally pulling lever whilst bike upside down/wheel out, and your lovely brakes never quite feeling the same again unless you're a pro mechanic with countless hours brake-bleeding practice under your belt.

Avatar
hawkinspeter [4270 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes
IanEdward wrote:

Multi-comment click bait battle!!!!

I'll bite because I'm bored.

Never turn my bike upside down, why would I want to cover all my most intimate contact points (bars, saddle) in grit and muck, just out of laziness in not learning how to do everything with bike the right way up? 

Worst case if windy or rear wheel is out I will lay bike on side (drivetrain up) and trying not to lay bar tape in puddle/mud/dog eggs.

Also another strike against hydraulics in my book, the fear of accidentally pulling lever whilst bike upside down/wheel out, and your lovely brakes never quite feeling the same again unless you're a pro mechanic with countless hours brake-bleeding practice under your belt.

I very rarely turn my bike upside down - maybe if I have to remove the rear wheel and I'm nowhere near to a bike stand.

Pulling the lever on hydraulic brakes with the wheel out probably won't do too much harm. It might move your pads too close together, but a tyre lever and an application of force/swearing will usually get them separated enough. I don't see why you'd need to bleed the brake afterwards - that's usually for much more drastic work (e.g. replacing a caliper).

Avatar
kil0ran [1733 posts] 1 week ago
1 like

There's no choice really is there? If you're out on a ride and get a puncture, how do you protect the dropouts and rear mech without flipping the bike over?

Avatar
jollygoodvelo [1893 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes
kil0ran wrote:

There's no choice really is there? If you're out on a ride and get a puncture, how do you protect the dropouts and rear mech without flipping the bike over?

Last time the fairy visited me, a rear flat on a filthy wet evening on Bethnal Green Road, I turned the saddle 90 degrees and used it to hang the bike on some railings.  Worked nicely.

Avatar
dodgy [260 posts] 1 week ago
5 likes

I don't care what the pros do, they're not paying for their own equipment.

Avatar
Shouldbeinbed [63 posts] 1 week ago
2 likes

I do whatever makes it easiest to get at the bit that needs fixing. Bar tape is cheap and easy enough to replace if you feel you have to scrape it about on the ground and fill it with grit and muck, I invariably have a rain cover (AKA Tesco plastic bag) to protect the seat with me. Each to their own.

Avatar
JohnnyRemo [317 posts] 1 week ago
4 likes

I used to respect Bling Matthews and hoped he'd wear the rainbow bands one day, - but he's dead to me now...

Avatar
danhopgood [60 posts] 1 week ago
1 like

I've got security quick release spindles on my main commuter (90's vintage) that don't allow the whels to come off unless the bike is upside down.  They and the rest of the bike have  worked . fine all that time so certainly no problem for old school bikes.

Avatar
ktache [2228 posts] 1 week ago
1 like

I was in the LBS the last week and the mechanic mentioned to one of the lads not to use the brake whilst wheeling the bike around upright.  Upon further questioning by me, as I was rather alarmed, doing every day to get my bike in and out of the flat, he said mine were alright, but other manufactures brakes can suffer.

I tend not to turn the bike upside down, too much stuff on the handlebars and the nose of the saddle is a bit delicate.  I tend to lay it down on the non-drive side if I need to remove the rear wheel. 

I had a bad experience wheen a lad, with the bike upside down I really messed up the chain and hanger as I couldn't visualise the way everything ran when it was upside down.

Avatar
Mungecrundle [1610 posts] 1 week ago
1 like

At home I use a stand, just a cheap one I picked up in Aldi a few years ago. I'd be perfectly happy throwing down a rug and putting my bike upside down on that, but the stand is more secure against being knocked over and working off the floor is so much better for my poor old man spine. Plus it looks like I might actually know what I'm doing.

In the field, whatever works and whilst I'll be careful not to scratch anything I have seen people cause more serious damage to important components by titting about with trying to keep their bike off the ground whilst removing bits.

Avatar
PeteCol [2 posts] 1 week ago
3 likes

When I get a puncture I always turn the bike upside down. Wheel out sorted. Ok rubbers may get marked but it's better than a scratch on the frame in my book

Avatar
Boatsie [538 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

I'll flip them to puncture repair but can't remember last puncture and riding fatties mostly indicates punctures probable during nice days hence probably lay if windy, flip if still.
When I ride flat bar to work I always flip. Bullhorns prop bars up clearing clipin torch, computer, big fat comfortable seat another secure footing, just easier than normal which is lay against fence. Can't pull flip though because of guard. Ndo flip on front clamps, over balance point, takes about a second after pannier removal and is quicker than finding rest of seat and a drop bar handle on a fence lay.

Avatar
Pilot Pete [248 posts] 1 week ago
3 likes
ktache wrote:

I was in the LBS the last week and the mechanic mentioned to one of the lads not to use the brake whilst wheeling the bike around upright.  Upon further questioning by me, as I was rather alarmed, doing every day to get my bike in and out of the flat, he said mine were alright, but other manufactures brakes can suffer.

Mechanic at LBS sounds full of shite to me, just trying to tell one of the lads off for some made up reason. I’d have questioned him further as to which manufacturers brakes ‘can suffer’ and in what way by being used with the bike upright. How on earth do these brakes stop the bike when you are riding it upright then? Hefty dose of BS if you ask me.

PP

Avatar
flobble [153 posts] 1 week ago
3 likes

Air bubbles in the brake fluid reservoir entering the hose is the only technical reason for keeping the rubber side down (same issue with lad wheeling bike around the shop). And that (perhaps obviously is only an issue with hydraulic brakes). The rest is 'looking after your stuff', and/or vanity, which is fine - each to their own.

Otherwise, a bit of a 'non-article' IMO. Must be a slow week...

Avatar
Pilot Pete [248 posts] 1 week ago
3 likes
IanEdward wrote:

Also another strike against hydraulics in my book, the fear of accidentally pulling lever whilst bike upside down/wheel out, and your lovely brakes never quite feeling the same again unless you're a pro mechanic with countless hours brake-bleeding practice under your belt.

I think your book needs a dose of reality. How often does one ‘accidentally’ pull a lever whilst leaving their bike upside down and fixing a puncture?

And why, if one did, would one’s ‘lovely brakes never quite feel the same again’? 

And why would you need to be a ‘pro mechanic with countless hours of brake-bleeding practice under your belt’ to correct such an ‘accident’?

Im genuinely interested to hear your explanations because I think you are making up reasons to confirm your bias against hydraulic disc brakes, which is really rather silly.

PP

Avatar
Pilot Pete [248 posts] 1 week ago
3 likes
flobble wrote:

Air bubbles in the brake fluid reservoir entering the hose is the only technical reason for keeping the rubber side down (same issue with lad wheeling bike around the shop). And that (perhaps obviously is only an issue with hydraulic brakes). The rest is 'looking after your stuff', and/or vanity, which is fine - each to their own.

Otherwise, a bit of a 'non-article' IMO. Must be a slow week...

So, as I mentioned earlier, it’s ONLY an issue for an incorrectly bled brake that has air bubbles in the reservoir. Remember, manufacturers put loads of potential court room statements into manuals etc to avoid prosecution - doesn’t mean it won’t work, just means that if someone does it, bubbles from an incorrectly bled brake get into the hose/ caliper and the lever reaches the bars with no braking and the operator has an accident they (or their NOK) can’t claim, or any compo is reduced because they ignored the manufacturers advice.

PP

Avatar
ktache [2228 posts] 1 week ago
1 like

I must apologise, when I said upright I meant standing the bike on the rear wheel and manouvering it around like that.

Avatar
Pilot Pete [248 posts] 1 week ago
1 like

Oh I see, but still BS!!

PP

Avatar
Kapelmuur [477 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

How do you clean underneath unless the bike is upside down?

Avatar
IanEdward [354 posts] 1 week ago
1 like
Quote:

Im genuinely interested to hear your explanations because I think you are making up reasons to confirm your bias against hydraulic disc brakes, which is really rather silly.

OK it's a fair cop, I exaggerate, but only after 20 years working on my own and other people's hydraulic disc brakes, I tend to run all the bad experiences together.

So yes, the likelihood of pulling a lever whilst the bike is upside down AND there being air in the reservoir AND being unable to carry out a perfect bleed to correct it is all pretty unlikely, I'm just remembering the times when at least 1 or 2 of the three has happened (bikes hanging by rear wheels in trains, bikes being stored hanging from rear wheels, people pulling a lever when bike is upside down to check piston movement, etc. etc etc.)

I'm at a stage where I  prefer my bikes as simple and 'precaution free' as possible so am immediately averse to anything that adds any complication to the mix. My garage time (when I'm lucky enough to get it) is turbo trainer time! 

Avatar
reippuert [123 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

The important question is: Is it a boat?

Avatar
Cal C [10 posts] 1 week ago
5 likes

I always bring a Park PRS-33.2 Power Lift Shop Stand with me.

Avatar
EddyBerckx [724 posts] 1 week ago
3 likes

upside down every time.

 

hoods can get scratched but I don't particularly care...I'd more likely scratch the paint if I faffed about trying not to turn it upside down whilst fixing a puncture etc.

 

each to their own...that 'Guy Fartin' comes across as a massive bell-end though. Don't know why road.cc decided to include troll tweets like that. 

Avatar
Stephan Matthiesen [79 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

On the hydraulic brake issue, how is it when taking the bike on trains with these terrible hook/hanger systems?

As the bike will hang for a considerable time with much shaking, is there a risk of hydraulic fluid getting out or bubbles accumulating that's not fixed with a few pulls of the brake lever afterwards?

Avatar
jollygoodvelo [1893 posts] 1 week ago
3 likes
Kapelmuur wrote:

How do you clean underneath unless the bike is upside down?

Lift it higher up.

Avatar
IanEdward [354 posts] 1 week ago
1 like
Quote:

As the bike will hang for a considerable time with much shaking, is there a risk of hydraulic fluid getting out or bubbles accumulating that's not fixed with a few pulls of the brake lever afterwards?

No, the only air that might get into the system is if someone pulls a lever whilst the calliper is higher than the lever AND (see my semi-retraction above...) there happens to already be air in the reservoir. This has happened to me when e.g. inquisitive train guards pull the lever on your downhill bike on the way to a race, d'oh!

If this happens the best bet is to leave bike overnight with brake levers held down by rubber bands, hopefully bubble will sneak back into place.

The fact that this is a relatively well known fix suggests that there are a LOT of improperly bled brakes out there, my guess is that it's harder to put reservoir cap/diaphragm back on without also introducing some air into reservoir. I've not bled a brake in a few years now so don't know if newer levers/diaphragms are easier.

Avatar
maillotpois [1 post] 1 week ago
2 likes

Never; I take the following approach: the world is full of street/ lane furniture, such as gates, and chain fences, etc.

When I get a puncture, (the only reason why I might need to remove a wheel) I look for a convenient post, gate, etc. On which I can hang the rest of the bike.

This keeps the rear mech. and chain from coming into contact with yet more filth, in the case of a rear wheel puncture, whilst I change the inner tube.

Avatar
Weiman [8 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

Hell yes I do!

Pages