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Adventures in Bike DIY Repair

My dad taught me that if you break something you should try and fix it. Even if you don’t really know what you’re doing. Even if it might burst into flame (although he did recommend taking care). While he didn’t end up with a super-DIY daughter (I was a terrible apprentice), I do have the guts to solve problems and fix things with a quick Google and a little trial and error.

Enter the bicycle. I don’t know must about bicycle repair, but Dan managed to blow out his back tire (inner and outer)and the local bike shop is all back up, so I figured, how hard can it be?

Step One: Tools

We have very few specialized bike tools, but Dan & I have picked up a couple of things. Dan’s first bike needed to have the wheel nuts tightened every few km (don’t ask), so we picked up an IceToolz wrench for that a year ago. We also have a patching kit that includes a couple of strangely shaped metal tools intended to help me pull the tire off of its frame. They are actually pretty handy even if I haven’t a clue how they are suppose to work.

In addition to these things, I also hunted down and used a hexwrench, a screwdriver, and pliers.

Step Two: Evaluate? Nah, Just Jump In

Dan’s bike is a lot different from mine but I just jumped in on this project head first anyways. He had ripped a hole in the back tire, requiring the replacement of both the inner tube and the outer wheel. To get to it I disconnected the back disk break, pulled out a pin related to the shifting mechanism (gee, what’s this for…), and half dismantled the chain guard (which judging from the rust I saw isn’t doing much good anyway).

I carefully manhandled the tire most of the way off its frame, but part of the braking system looked too complicated to disconnect completely with the tools on hand, so I left it dangling. Then the easy part: taking off the old tire and putting the new one on. I just tucked the new innertube inside the new tire, aligned the pump spout on the frame and tugged the entire mess back on.I wrapped up by putting the entire sha-bang back together in more or less reverse order. See, that wasn’t so bad.

Step Three: Testing

Of course if you’re going to do things by trial-and-error, its best to do the trial part so you can catch your errors. After we ate dinner (Dan cooked. How’s that for role-reversal.), I pumped the tire up and took the bike out for a spin around the block.

Brakes? Check.

Good Alignment? Check.

Shifting? Oh crap… So that’s what the pin was for. It turns out that I needed to screw it in deep inside the ‘mystery cylinder’ at the middle of the back tire. I had originally thought that was the break, but apparently not.

That done, I tested the bike again and had regained one gear. Unfortunately that’s about the time that the light starting giving out and I had to give up. So Dan has a bike with functioning wheels and brakes, but only 2 of 3 gears. It’ll get him to work for now, but I’ll have to figure out what’s missing to get that last gear back in place.


Bike repair is fun, but I probably should have paid more attention to Dad. Actually I’m not sure Dad ever tried to teach me about bikes specifically; I seem to recall a weed-wacker.

Google better be able to help me finish this fix.

I love getting dirty (but I already knew that).

4 Responses to “Adventures in Bike DIY Repair”

  1. Dave Hampton says:

    Good observations: I had a hammer, wrench, and screwdriver in my kit for rapid repairs when things came loose on my vintage Locomotief. It’s a sign of living among the Dutch when you bring those to business meetings, I guess. The other thing I’ve found is to have a relationship with a local bike shop who can analyze and advise in a pinch. Sometimes the 5 euros for them to fix a bunch of things beats an afternoon lying on the ground wrestling chains and tires.

  2. Amanda says:

    What do you use a hammer for?

    I still haven’t ruled out getting expert advise on the gears problem. I’m not sure that’s one I can fix alone.

  3. Dave Hampton says:

    Embarassingly, when the bike would blow over in the wind, the ‘clamp’ style bike lock would jam. This is the one that goes over the back wheel, and you put a key in and push a lever down to move a bar between the spokes? Anyway, the wind would blow, the bike would fall over, the lever would get bent, and I’d have to knock it out straight again to move it. I’m a sad case even to admit this, I know…

  4. Amanda says:

    Hehe. I hope you’ve had it replaced in the mean time. That would be frustrating, although I’ll remember to keep a hammer handy just in case.