DIY fixes

Home bike-repair tips for the mechanically disinclined

Pullins Cyclery mechanic Dan Cernuda.

Pullins Cyclery mechanic Dan Cernuda.

Photo by Jason Cassidy

The best way to keep your bike out of the shop, of course, is to simply take good care of it.

“Keep it clean, keep it oiled, keep air in the tires,” said Pullins Cyclery mechanic Dan Cernuda. “[That] is a darn good start.”

But even well-maintained machines break, and even if you’ve never worked on a bike, there are some common repairs that most bicyclists could quickly be shown how to do on their own.

Cernuda, of course, makes his living fixing bikes. And he understands that not everyone is comfortable with mechanical work and that many people would rather take their bike to a professional. “Some people don’t want to spend the time to do it—especially with mountain bikes and the rear gears.” But he pointed out a few basic jobs—adjusting brakes, straightening wheels, reconnecting cables and replacing tubes—that are relatively easy to complete for those who want to do it themselves.

A few basic tools will cover most of your simple repair needs, and Cernuda suggested picking up a good set of Allen wrenches, an all-in-one socket wrench, a flathead and a Phillips screwdriver, and some Tri-Flow lubricant for chains and cables. Plus, to fix your own tires, you’ll need to put together a kit that includes a couple of tire levers, a pump, a patch kit, and even a spare tube if you can afford it.

“Absolutely the most common repair is flat tires,” Cernuda said, explaining that in Butte County, with its mats of rampant puncturevine all over local trails and plenty of broken glass along the sides of the road, a cycling trip is often a flat tire waiting to happen. And so it was that most inevitable of repairs that he decided to share with those cycle-repair beginners with a DIY spirit.

How to remove a bike tube and replace it with a new or repaired one (for back tire):

Step 1

1. Release the brake by lifting the end of the straddle cable out of the brake.

2. Crank the pedal and shift gears until chain is on the smallest cog of sprocket.

Step 3

3. Open the quick-release (or loosen the nuts holding the wheel to the frame), and take the wheel off the bike.

Step 4

4. Grab your two tire levers: Use one to break the seal of tire against the rim, and pull tire out and over rim. Holding the first lever in place, tuck the other one under the tire, pull tire over rim, and rotate around the rim until the entire tire is over the lip. Remove tire and tube from the rim.

Step 5

5. Remove tube from the tire and check the inside of tire for any thorns or other items that may have punctured the tire and remove any you find.

6. If you have talc, lightly coat inside of the tire to allow for tube to seat more easily once it’s ready.

7. Pump enough air into new or patched tube to give it shape (do not fully inflate). Fit tube into tire.


8. Insert tube valve into valve hole on the rim, then tuck one side of tire into rim, rotate and continue tucking. Flip wheel over and repeat on the other side. If the fit is too tight, use tire levers to gently tuck tire in.

9. Inflate tire to proper air pressure and spin the wheel to ensure tire is on the rim evenly. If uneven, deflate a little and push the tire in at uneven points. Re-inflate.

Step 10

10. Place the wheel back on the bike. Make sure that the wheel is lined up evenly in the frame and snap the quick-release on (or tighten nuts on both sides of wheel).