What to Do When Your Bike Breaks Down in the Middle of Nowhere
Adapted from an article by JOE LINDSEY
Things break on rides all the time, and sometimes it’s not as simple as a flat tire or a failed chain. Here’s how to handle it when something breaks for which there’s no easy fix:
- Start by Bringing Tools
This one’s a no-brainer. How many times have you been on a ride where someone along has a flat and asks to borrow a tube or a pump? Don’t be that rider; ride prepared. Thankfully, that doesn’t have to mean the kitchen sink approach – times have changed enough for one tool to do the work of 15. A multitool—a Crank Brothers M-19 or similar—plus a tube or two and some way to inflate it, makes you self-sufficient for handling most common breakdowns.
- Improvise, improvise and improvise!
Even if you don’t have the exact part handy, you might have an option you can improvise. If a crucial bolt fails and you don’t have a spare, look for a spare elsewhere on the bike on a part that’s less essential to your ability to get home. That hose clamp? It can also help keep a fork or shock fully extended if one fails mid-ride.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for HELP
You should definitely ask for help when you need it – either if your tools are incomplete or if you need more technical advice or expertise. If you’re on the road, you can try to flag down a driver. Most people are willing and eager to lend a hand.
- Focus on Getting Out
The difference between a routine mechanical like a flat or broken chain and a serious one is not just in how difficult they are to fix. A serious breakdown changes the focus of a ride from having fun to getting home. Whether you can fix it temporarily or not, you need to abandon your ride plans and just get back to the house or car or bike shop.
Possible fixes include rolling gently on bent wheels, since they’re prone to more damage. Even damaged drivetrains are sometimes workable; for instance, you might be able to zip-tie a chain together and, on flat terrain, pedal half revolutions on the good section, like a ratchet. And if the bike rolls, chain or no, you can coast. You can push-ride like a scooter, standing on one pedal and pushing with the other foot, or drop the seat and go Fred Flintstone-style. If you’re with other riders, the group can push or pull them (an otherwise-useless inner tube can be rigged up as a tow system, for example).