Remember when your teacher used to give you a copy of the syllabus and say “if you learn everything that’s on this sheet, you’ll pass the exam"? Well, in our adult lives we really miss having that. So we’ve put together a little crib sheet with advice on how to be fully prepared for the most common roadside emergencies.
If you can learn to do everything in this article, we’re pretty confident that you’ll be able to make it home. Let's do this ladies!
1. Be able to change and repair an inner tube
One of those most annoying things about people who've been riding longer than you is when they skim over the details of puncture repair cause it's 'sooooo simple'.
That’s the kind of talk that stops people from asking how to change an inner tube for fear of embarrassment, and results in you being tearful on a kerb.
In reality it is an easy thing to do, but it requires a little bit of practice. We recommend having a couple of trial runs at home so things will be smooth and effortless in the thunderstorm that God saw fit to let you get a puncture in.
- The first step is to read our ‘How to: Change an Inner Tube’ article, which includes a helpful video and step-by-step breakdown of the process.
- The second step is to prepare your always-on-you maintenance kit: ensure that you are always carrying tyre levers, a multitool, a new inner tube and a pump. And keep a couple of quid on you, just in case you need to buy something.
- If you’ve hit something pretty epic and managed to rip your tyre open, don’t panic. Try and use something like a biscuit wrapper to plug the hole until you get home.
- Didn't bring a tube? Or there's a hole in your spare one? (Remember to check your spare for holes, ladies!) Time to get out your puncture repair kit and learn how to repair an inner tube using our guide.
2. Love your multitool
Everything that can come off your bike probably will at some point: derailleurs, cranks, pedals, head set, even your handlebars.
- Although proper bike maintenance and handling will minimise the likelihood of things loosening and falling off, you'll probably find yourself in a pickle at some point. Especially if you own an ageing bike that you bought second-hand.
- So spend money on a multitool that you find easy to use and which, ideally, sits flat in your pocket. One of our TWC writers carries a multitool AND her most-used Allen key in a full size because she's weak and doesn't trust herself to fully tighten things without the extra leverage.
3. Broken cables, chains and spokes
All of these are more advanced roadside jobs, but if you get confident at doing them, you'll totally be owning the road. Also remember that even though it won't always work in the countryside, watching TWC 'How To' videos on your phone is not a sign of weakness!
Lost your gears? You've managed to fray or break a cable.
- It's good to know that you can manually change things up by moving your chain between the big and small rings. Carrying some marigolds as part of your kit will help stop you looking like you've had a fight with some oil.
- If you live in a hilly area and feel like you'll need to make a more substantial repair, check out the GCN's guide.
A broken chain is more likely to be an issue for girls that go mountain biking. If you're heading to the hills this weekend, consider taking a chainbreaker with you (some multi-tools have one) and a spare pin for reattaching.
- To remove the broken link, ensure to remove two segments of the chain at the damaged end, as there are two types of segment that alternate and removing one won't let you reattach it.
- After that you won't be able to change gears as usual, so be mindful. Again, GCN have a good video on the subject.
Ping! One of your spokes is gone. This can ruin your ride by making your wheel warp.
- You can do the very scientific method of using your knee to try and bend the wheel back into place. Then open up your brakes enough to let the wheel spin through without rubbing. Hopefully these measures will get you home.
- If your multi-tool has a spoke wrench you can attempt to equalise the tension on the roadside. Loosen the two spokes immediately opposite the broken spoke, and tighten it's two next-door neighbours. Replace the spoke when you get home.
4. After a crash or fall
Even the most careful cyclists can fall victim to unexpected terrain, slippery surfaces and bad drivers. If you or a friend has a crash, you should seek medical advice if necessary.
- Consider downloading the CTC crash app to be prepared for a road collision. It helps you remember all the information you need to take down in such a situation.
- As for your bike, you should check it over for damage. It's likely that the impact of hitting the ground (or a car) will have thrown bits out of whack. Get to work with the multitool, straightening things back up.
- If you must ride home, do so slowly and carefully. Aside from the fact you may have missed something on your bike that got damaged, you're probably a little dazed from the experience.
- Read through our First Aid for Cyclists article, and bring a First Aid kit on rides when you can. You can also download the St John's Ambulance First Aid for Cyclists App here.
- If your helmet got a knock, THROW IT AWAY! Unless you use a skateboarding-style helmet that's designed for numerous falls (which is very unlikely), your helmet will now NOT offer full protection. Some helmet brands even have a crash replacement policy to make getting a new one even easier, so you have no excuse!
By following our general bike maintenance advice and being mindful of what can potentially go wrong on your bike, you'll greatly reduce your risk of having emergencies!
Remember to do a quick check of the air in your tyres, your brakes and your cables before you go out for a ride, and you'll be conquering the road (or mountain) in no time.