SURVIVAL GUIDE: Emergency Bike Repairs in the wild

Posted on 24th June 2011 by livetomtb in bike maintenance - Tags: , ,

First off, a lot of problems discussed here can be prevented by proper maintenance (an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure), however, when you’re out on the trails your bike is getting beaten up and some part are bound to pop, break, bend, or snap.  The best thing to do is carry a set of tools with you wherever you go.  Here are some basic tools I carry with me:

  • Hand bike pump OR CO2 cartridge (A MUST)
  • Allen wrench
  • Patch kit
  • Chain tool

I’ll go over some basic problems you can run into on the road/trail and how you can fix those problems in a jam.  I won’t go over how to patch a tire as that was covered in the last post you can view that here.

How to fix a punctured inner tube WITHOUT a patch kid:

Take the inner tube out of the tire.  After locating the hole, slice the inner all the way through where the hole is at.  Now you should have a long piece of rubber tube.  Tie both ends of the inner tube together as tight as you can in a knot.  Carefully put the air back into the inner tube and refill and ride home!  It will be a bumpy ride but at least you won’t be walking home.

How to fix a torn sidewall or a big puncture:

Ideally you want to get something between your inner tube and the tire; what you can do is either wrap a dollar bill or a candy wrapper (cliff bar, power bar, etc.) around the inner tube where the hole and pump your tire back up.  Make sure you place the inner tube back in very carefully so the wrap lines up with the hole.

How to fix a broken chain link:

Use your chain tool and take off a link and attach it to the next link shortening the chain by one link.  This is going to limit the range of gears you can shift into but you should be able to finish the ride and/or ride home.  IF you do NOT have a chain tool you can you a rock and pliers to attach the links.

How to fix a broken Rear Derailleur:

When you’re going over rock’s and tree limbs sometimes it’s probable that your rear derailleur can get mangled up.  If that happens in the middle of a ride you should: 1) dismantle the rear derailleur using your allen wrench, 2)take off as many links off the chain necessary to make it snugly go around the middle cog in the back and the middle cog in the front, 3) reattach the chain

How to fix a Broken Real Derailleur cable:

You can use the H (high) and L (low) screws next to the derailleur to adjust the settings so the the derailleur doesn’t move and lines up with the gear you want.  Keep in mind you’ll be stuck in that one gear for the rest of the ride so choose wisely!

How to fix a broken handle bar:

Yikes! Hope you’re ok after something like this but this is a problem that can be temporarily fixed until you get home as well.  Find a branch or tree limb that roughly matches the diameter of your handle bars and using a knife, trim off all the bark until it’s can fit snugly inside the handle bar opening.  Use this piece of wood as a “splint” and jam it into the handle bar opening.  Take the other broken piece of handle bar and attach it onto the splint.  You should be able to steer and make it home.

Note: All of these repair methods above are just serviceable repairs to get you home somewhat safely if you’re missing proper tools.  The best thing to do is keep your bike maintained properly and ALWAYS carry tools with you either in your saddle bag or in your backpack when you leave home.  Good luck!


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