If you love freedom, fresh air, and the ability to stop anywhere and any time you like, a bicycle is for you! With the days getting longer and the weather warming up, May is the perfect time to plan a bike ride, whether to a nearby cafe or across the country! Biking is a great way to enjoy the scenery and it’s the purest form of traveling. There’s no fossil fuel consumption, noise and air pollution, or traffic stresses. Ready to hop on your bike and see the sights? Enjoy safe travels with the following tips:
Route Planning for Easy Riding
Before hitting the road, take time to plan your routes carefully. Seek out bike lanes, paths and lesser travelled side streets to make your rides more peaceful. The route you take on your bike may be very different from the one you would drive. Be willing to go out of your way for an easy and enjoyable ride. To find a good route:
- Seek out city bike maps or use the bike option in Google Maps.
- Bike maps are just a start. Use satellite imagery to fine tune your route by seeking out residential side streets that parallel major boulevards. Try to maximize the miles you spend on bike paths, lanes, and routes.
- Bikes and public transit go together like birds and bees. Most city buses are equipped with bike racks. Combining public transit and a bike is a great way to get around while treading lightly on the environment.
Photo credit: Scott Sporleder
Putting Together an Emergency Bike Repair Kit
There’s no CAA for bikes. When you have a breakdown, you need to be able to make repairs yourself. The following items are small enough to fit in a seat pack, backpack, or pannier bag, and will come in handy when you need to fix a flat tire or jammed chain.
- Multitool – Your multitool should include Allen wrenches, a flathead and Phillips screwdriver.
- Wrench – If you don’t have quick release wheels.
- Tire levers – At least two, preferably three.
- Patch kit – Includes a tube of glue, a couple pieces of rubber, and a small piece of sandpaper.
- Spare inner tubes – Carry at least two spare inner tubes.
- Bike pump – A mini-pump or frame mounted pump.
- A valve adaptor – If you have Presta tires.
- Spoke wrench – Used for tightening and loosening spokes.
- Chain tool – The chain tool pushes in and pops out the pins that hold the chain together. You’ll need this tool for when your chain breaks.
- Spare chain links – To fix a broken chain.
- Lights – Front and rear lights, reflectors (front, rear, side, and on the pedals) and extra batteries.
- Helmet – To protect your most important asset!
- Cash – In case DIY repairs fail and you’ve got to catch a bus.
- Cell phone – In case of an emergency.
- Bike repair booklet – We recommend "Bicycle Care Basics" from The Ecology Center
Unlike a car, a bicycle can be maintained and repaired by anyone with just a few tools, which makes it easy to do repairs on the road. Before you go on a long trip, practice the following repairs yourself so you’re prepared for almost any situation.
Fix a Flat
Keeping your tires inflated to the proper pounds per square inch (psi) will go a long way in preventing flats. But you will still, inevitably, pop a flat. Luckily, after reading this, you’ll be ready to take care of it!
- Remove any remaining air from the tire.
- Remove the wheel. Use your wrench if you don’t have quick release wheels.
- Flats usually are in the back tire where it carries the most weight. Make note of the gear position before removing so it’s easier to reinsert. Pull the rear derailleur back to give yourself enough room to remove the wheel.
- Place your wheel upright with the valve in the 6 o’clock position. Take one of your tire levers and in the 12 o’clock position, stick it under the tire bead (the gap between the tire and rim). Hook the tire lever into one of the spokes.
- Insert your second tire lever into the tire bead next to the first lever on the same side of the tire. Pull the second lever all the way around the wheel until it becomes free on one side. Use your hand or a lever to remove the tire from the rim.
- Find the leak in the inner tube. You may have to partially inflate it and work your hand around the tube to find the leak.
- Check tire for cause of the puncture and remove any fragments as needed.
- Check the rim tape – the band of rubber that covers the ends of the spokes within the rim. Sometimes the end of spokes can cause flats.
- If your tire has a large gash, you can use a dollar bill as a liner to temporarily cover the hole.
- Patch the inner tube with a patch kit. Lightly abrade the area around the hole with the sandpaper. Then apply glue and allow to dry five minutes. Apply patch.
- Lightly inflate the inner tube just enough to give shape. Align the valve with the center of the tire logo and insert the inner tube into the tire.
- Check to make sure the inner tube is fully seated in the tire. Inflate the tire to the recommended pressure written on the side of the tire.
Fix a Jammed Chain
You can prevent this by making sure your derailleurs are adjusted properly and don’t throw the chain off the cogset or chainring. In case of a jammed chain, here’s what to do:
- Insert a screwdriver or some other rigid, slim object between the chainring and the chainstay. Doing so will free up just enough space to unstick the chain.
- If it’s really stuck in there, use your chain tool to disassemble the chain.
Fix a Broken Chain
Fixing a broken chain just needs the use of a chain tool. However, try not to fix the chain frequently as this weakens the chain over time.
- Position the chain tool over the link you want to remove.
- Here’s the critical step. You don’t want to push the pin out all the way – it’s devilishly difficult to get the pin back into the chain. Just push it out far enough to undo the link.
- To put the chain back together, put in the new chain link and push the pin back into the chain.
Remove a Broken Spoke
When you notice a broken spoke, it’s best to stop and remove it right away. Riding on an out of true wheel can damage the rim.
- Remove the spoke or wrap it around the neighboring spoke to get it out of the way.
- Take out your spoke wrench and loosen the two spokes adjacent to the broken one.
- Head home, riding slowly, or take the bus.
The Ecology Center is a regional hub for sustainability in Orange County, CA, seeks to bring all members of the community together in a solutions-based educational setting to inspire and create a healthy and abundant future for all. The Center highlights empowering and cutting-edge environmental perspectives that can be applied to the way we live our lives, making it possible for us to coexist with a thriving environment.