Tell Your Best Field Repair Story, Win a Banjo Brothers Backpack

11.28.2006 | 3:54 pm

A Note from Fatty: I’m really pleased to announce the fabulous Banjo Brothers have joined in the Fat Cyclist Ads-for-Schwag program. Readers with long memories will recall that the Banjo Brothers were the very first company to do giveaways with my blog, and they have always given away awesome prizes. Today, they’re continuing that tradition by putting up a great Commuter Backpack — $79.99 value — for me to give away. Read on to find out how.

When your mountain bike breaks in the middle of the ride, it changes the way you think. You see everything differently. Gum, rocks, candy bar wrappers, sticks, and rubber bands become valuable tools. If you manage to salvage a ride using stuff that was never meant to be part of a bike, you feel pride, and justifiably so. There’s a rough beauty, after all, to an innovative bike field repair.

I’ve seen some great field repairs in my time. Here are the ones I can remember right this moment.

Duct Tape Repairs
As many of you know, I always keep a yard or two of duct tape wrapped around my bike seatpost. This has been useful so many times I have lost track of them. Here are a few that come to mind, though:

  • Cut Sidewall: I’ve taped the inside of a gashed sidewall at least twice, including twenty miles into a 100-mile race. It worked well enough that I forgot I had made the repair and continued to ride that way for another few rides.
  • Band-Aid: When Kenny cut himself on a thorny bush at Moab last month, a strip of duct tape did a fine job of stopping the bleeding.
  • Seatpost Repair: One year, while riding the Kokopelli Trail, Dug’s shock seatpost kept loosening up, unthreading, and threatening to fall off. While duct tape couldn’t prevent it from loosening up, it did keep Dug’s saddle from falling off.
  • Frayed Cable Housing Repair: On the same Kokopelli trip, Dug’s front derailleur cable housing frayed, making the bike shift at incredibly inopportune moments (i.e., two or three times per second). Dug used what duct tape he hadn’t used on his seatpost to repair his cable housing. Dug owes me a couple yards of duct tape.
  • Busted Pedal: I honestly can’t remember who this happened to (Bob, I think), but I recall someone’s pedal body — this is back when we all rode Speedplays, which have very brittle pedal bodies — shattered during a fall, leaving nothing to pedal on but the smooth pedal axle. So he duct-taped his shoe to the axle. This worked, though it required a much greater commitment to not falling for the rest of the ride, cuz, um, it’s difficult to clip out once you’re taped in.
  • Busted Saddle: When I endoed at Brianhead 100 one year, my saddle snapped off, leaving nothing to sit on but a seatpost. I used my duct tape to round off the edges a bit. It still wasn’t especially comfortable to sit on, but beggars can’t be choosers.
  • Busted Frame: Corey Jones’ bike frame broke while he was riding the White Rim last year, and yet he finished the 100-mile ride. He just duct-taped the top tube to the seat tube (it broke at the weld) and kept going. Corey commented that the bike didn’t handle quite as well as it used to.

Non-Tools as Tools
The thing about duct tape repairs is that since duct tape is designed to do everything, you’re not being truly creative when you use it to fix your bike. What I love to see is when people fix their bikes with something completely outrageous. For example:

  • My Hotel Key: Before Shimano incorporated a pulley into its rear derailleur, you had to either make your cable take a long loop around, or use an aftermarket pulley — “Rollamajig” was a popular brand. I had one of these rollamajigs on my Ibis Bow Ti (I was all about the bleeding edge back then). Unfortunately, as I was racing the Leadville 100, the cable hopped off the groove of the Rollamajig and lodged itself tightly between the pulley and the apparatus that attaches the pulley to the derailleur. I simply could not get it out, no matter what. As time went on, I became more and more distraught, because I had been — for the first time ever — on track for a sub-9 Leadville. I just didn’t have a tool that would fish the cable out of that crevice. Until I thought of my hotel key, which was in my Camelbak. I swear, that thing must have been designed for the task, because I was up and riding 30 seconds after the idea occurred to me. The cable popped off five or six more times during that race, and I took care of the problem quickly each time. My finishing time was 9:13.
  • A Stick: On a ride early this season, Kenny’s ultra-expensive, ultra-trick new carbon cranks had a little problem: one of them fell off. Yep, he was riding along and one of the cranks just fell off. If you ask me, cranks just aren’t as useful when they aren’t attached to your bike. Kenny tried using a stick to wedge the crank into place, but this is one of those times that a field repair was destined to fail. The crank kept falling off. So Kenny rode the rest of the ride one-legged, and was still faster than I.
  • A Bit-O-Honey: Similar problem, but this time it was Aaron, at Fall Moab last month. And he tried using a Bit-O-Honey as adhesive. I am laughing even as I type this. Dug got this on video; Check it out at about 2:35.
  • [youtube]eXsd6fdG-Ds[/youtube]
  • A Safety Pin: Back in the olde days, when we used V-brakes instead of discs, Rick lost a pin for one of his brake pads — this was about ten miles into a thirty mile ride. Luckily, I still had a safety pin attached to my Camelbak from a recent local race; it fit perfectly. Better than the original pin, I think.

What Have You Fixed?
So this brings us to the contest, wherein you can win yourself a  waterproof, totally excellent Banjo Brothers Commuter Backpack: describe a field repair you have made. I’ll choose a winner at random from all the good entries (i.e., a comment that says, “Pick me! Pick me!” guarantees you will not be picked, ironically).

Good luck; I’m sure you’ll win.


  1. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 11.29.2006 | 12:59 pm

    This one was a long time ago. So long ago, that I’m not sure it really even happened. I mean I remember doing it, but I can’t for the life of me think of why or how the improvised item would be carried on a bike ride. . .

    Tau Haas (pronounced Tau Haas) and I were on a night ride in Virginia when his chain broke. We had no chain breaker, no extra links, no master link and no replacement pin. Tau did have a paperclip, which I used to hold his chain together while he soft-pedaled out. I remember that the paperclip worked surprisingly well, not skipping on the cogs and allowing him to pedal with some force.

    However, for the sake of rigid academic honesty, I don’t *actually* remember that he’s the one that had the paperclip, but I am absolutely positive that I have never carried a paperclip (not even accidentally) on a mountain bike ride, so he must have been the one carrying it. Further, (and this is the crux of the reason I may be incorrectly remembering/completely inventing this event) I can’t imagine a scenario where anyone would be carrying a paperclip on a mountain bike night ride. . .

    Tau: “No no no, I’m not going to carry a chain tool, extra pin, or links; I’ll not take a pump or spare tube. I will only take two items: a red LED flashing light to blind riders behind me, AND I’ll take a paperclip.”

    Botched: “Well, I *really* wish you’d leave the flashing red light at home, but I understand that a guy has to be careful and there’s no telling when there will be a drunk dirt-biker out on the backwoods trails of Virginia at 11:00 pm who might accidently run-down unsuspecting and unprepared mountain bikers. But at the very least, let me ride in front of you so that I can actually see the trail, and the number of epileptic episodes during the ride will be reduced.”

    Tau: “No”

    Botched “Ok. By the way, the paperclip is brilliant.”

    Tau: “I put fresh batteries in my flashing red light.”

  2. Comment by the weak link | 11.29.2006 | 1:06 pm

    Dear FC,
    Once I went biking with some friends out in the Smokies. We got out like 50 miles from anyone else when one of my friends had a bad wreck and suffered a compound comminuted fracture of his left femur. “Well crap” I says to myself. “If we even try to splint this sucker up, he’ll die of the pain or of exposure or something before we get him back to civilation.” Since I had taken wood shop in high school, I figured that just fixing the dang bone right then and there would probably be pretty easy. First, we slept him by having him breath the first couple of whiffs of our large CO2 containers which had nitrous oxide in it. Then we got out patch glue and had him keep breathing it. Then I exposed to bone and stablized it using a combination of duct tape, Patch glue, some shifter cable that one of us was carrying, and a Topeak Alien II multifunction bike tool. Thank God for the last thing, or it might have gotten pretty tough. We used cable cutters to cut up loops of what was left of the shifter cable to help approximate the wound, and then finished to outer layer with duct tape. Then we took away the patch glue and Kenny woke right up. I would have bragged about this sooner, but on the way back a large black bear attacked and killed Kenny.

    That is how I remember it. I might be a little off on a detail or two.

  3. Comment by sans auto | 11.29.2006 | 1:12 pm

    A friend had the same problem as Tau. Broken chain with no tools. Since I don’t ride with people who carry paperclips on rides, we used a spare innertube as a tow rope. It was a little short and the elasticity was scary at first. I put the tube around my seat post and my friend hung on or put it around his stem, I don’t remember. We didn’t go very fast, but I remember a descent where I would get going faster than my friend and the tube would stretch until my friend flew by me and the tube stretched again, slingshotting me to the front. I still don’t carry a chain break.

  4. Comment by axel | 11.29.2006 | 1:33 pm

    Not quite as versatile as duct tape (or gorilla tape, which I prefer) is the dollar bill that you carry along to buy a gatorade or candybar when stopping at a service station. Turns out our currency is made of high quality paper, high in fiber. Minor sidewall defects, worn liner tape in the wheel can be fixed by using a dollar bill as a liner (if there is no duct tape around).

  5. Comment by fodder | 11.29.2006 | 2:01 pm

    We are out on a road ride in the middle of Nowhere, Virginia, when poor Rick hits a huge pothole, slides sideways, on his bike at first and then by himself for a while.
    After we rushed over and verified that Rick’s beautiful carbon Kesterl frame wasn’t damaged and a much more cursory glane at Rick himself, we noticed the 8 inch gash in the sidewall of his rear tire. Of course none of us carry duct tape on a road ride (a few feet of it weighs as much as 3-4 or four rim strips!), so we prepared to leave Rick on the side of the road with vague promises to call “someone” at some point.
    But my MacGuyver sense started tingling when I noticed a plastic milk jug in the ditch. After the customary ‘Dang litterers’ remark, I used it to to wrap around the inner tube about a foot long spanning the huge gash in the sidewall.
    It was not entirely round and I am sure wasn’t the most fun to ride, but it got Rick the 30 miles back to civilization. And because we felt sorry for Rick, we even let him shirk one or two pulls on the way back, cause heck what are friends for.

  6. Comment by fodder | 11.29.2006 | 2:14 pm

    OK, I am sure it is bad ettiquite to post two storys, but since I can’t even spell ettiquite, what the heck.

    We are doing an icy Super Bowl Sunday ride in Harrisonburg, VA with a bunch of other mountain bike nuts. Total blast climbing to the top of a mountain and riding a ridge that is much more ice than dirt at the top of the mountain. About 15 degrees out, woohoo!

    So my friend Scott and I are in that invulnerable state of mind you get moutain biking sometimes, just blasting down these complete sheets of ice, no joke literally sheets of ice, pick a line at the top and hope for the best, cause you can’t turn and you sure as heck aint stopping or even slowing down.

    So somehow Scott wrecks in front of me, so after laughing at him for a few minutes and then making sure he is OK (in that order) we notice that he has taco his bike. Not his wheel but his bike. The back triangle is about 15 degrees from being straight, not even sure how he did that. “Just a flesh wound” I reassured him as I scouted around for a suitable log. Using a nice 4 inch thick log and some applied physics, I carefully realigned his frame. And by carefully realigned, I mean jammed a log between the dropouts and seat tube and then jumped on it with varying degrees of force. Put the back wheel in it and then we rode the other two hours back to the car.

    The kicker is that my friend was so cheap, he rode that bike another 3 years and we never had a problem with it.

  7. Comment by Boz | 11.29.2006 | 2:15 pm

    axel – the US dollar is made of cotton, not paper. I’ve used them as underwear patches. Don’t ask.

  8. Comment by James | 11.29.2006 | 2:20 pm

    Ok, I didn’t use duct tape, or chewing gum, or anything not bike related, but the circumstances were a little odd.

    We were riding off road in Dallas, OR — there was some great riding there before they logged it, but, hey, it’s their land, right? — and had had a pretty uneventful ride thus far.

    We began our descent — every ride here begins with a climb and ends with a descent, it seems — back to the vehicles. We were pushing our luck as daylight was in short supply, but it was a fast ride down. On gravel roads with HUGE rock. Huge.

    Anyway, so one of us flats — rider #1. It’s getting pretty dark, but we can see still. No problem, off comes the tire, out comes the tube, on goes the patch and we get the bike back together so we can continue the ride. While this was happening, mind you, all of us, with the exception of the individual — rider #1 — actually fixing his flat, were standing around giving advice. It was now, officially, dark. We had no lights. We weren’t expecting to be out so late.

    As we get ready to continue our ride, rider #2 notices that, hey, his tire is flat too. Groans abound. This wouldn’t have been a problem had we had a spare tube. We did not. This was a conundrum.

    Finally, rider #1 — ironically — states that he has matches with him. We were in a forest — Weyerhaeuser’s I believe, in the summer — and we decided that to get the light we needed we’d build a fire. On the road. Using the sticks gathered from the forest around us.

    It worked. The wood was very dry and started right up. I felt like a Boy Scout. A possible forest fire starting Boy Scout, but a Boy Scout nonetheless.

    We fixed — and by we, I mean rider #2, while we, the rest of the group, flung derision on him — fixed the second flat, put out the fire and finished the ride.

  9. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 11.29.2006 | 2:30 pm

    Boz, I’m intrigued in a slightly repulsed way.

    James, it would have been a better story if you said you rubbed two sticks together to start the fire. And if there was a bear. Or at least a really mean marmot. I suggest an edit.

    Speaking of bears, Fattty, the next prize giveaway should be about animal encounters while biking. I know of two great animal stories, and I have experienced 3 pretty good animal stories myself.

  10. Comment by JET(not a nickname) | 11.29.2006 | 2:32 pm

    I don’t know if roadies can get in on this, but last summer while out on some country roads I picked up a shard of glass in the front tire. I had no cell phone, no patch kit (used it the week before and didn’t replace it), and was about 7 miles from my in laws place. Anyhow, the leak was too bad to even attempt to ride, so I decided to start hoofin it back. About a mile or so I came across a house and went up and knocked on the door to no avail. But I did notice that the guy had just layed a new layer of that Blackjack driveway resurfacer stuff, so desperate, thristy, and hot I stole a little junk from a discrete corner of the newly layed surface and attempted to plug up my hole with it. Somehow, it worked well enough to get me to the in-laws. I went back about a week later and left a thank you note in that house’s mailbox.

  11. Comment by Bob | 11.29.2006 | 2:47 pm

    The bike repair I think about the most was the one that didn’t happen. Rocky had a bad luck streak in the early Leadville races, including being carted off by an ambulance for dehydration. He’d gotten himself into great shape for the 2000 Leadville ride. He was so fired up about the race that he spoke of nothing else on the way down. The race was so important to him that you could say that he was, yes, monomaniacal. Ahab was after a white whale; Rocky was after a belt buckle.

    During the race, he ate enough and stayed hydrated; he was looking good with 15 miles to go. Then his handlebar broke in half, leaving one end dangling. So here’s my question: Couldn’t he have fixed that well enough to finish? How about jamming some sticks in there to act as a makeshift dowel and wrapping the whole thing in duct tape? The woulda-shoulda-coulda factor still depresses me.

  12. Comment by MTB W | 11.29.2006 | 2:50 pm

    Well, I don’t have any good innovative repair on the fly stories. But, this summer while on a ride at Heil Ranch, I was in a hurry and forgot my gloves and helmet, my seat broke and fell off (I did try using branches and an old tube to hold it on but it didn’t work – so much for all those McGyver episodes), so I rode standing up until my front tire blew. However, earlier I had given my pump to my girlfriend who had ridden on ahead to the car, not knowing of my troubles. So, I ended up walking the last 3 miles. (Sometimes it just isn’t your day)

    Botched, I must admit, I probably do have paperclips somewhere in my camelback – I am a paperholic at work (I can’t even see my desk, unlike Dug) and I seem to find paperclips everywhere I go; they migrate to places you wouldn’t expect.

  13. Comment by MTB W | 11.29.2006 | 3:44 pm

    BTW, have you been able to put together any more videos from the moab trip? Don’t know about anyone else but I know I would like to see them. Your videos have given me some inspiration and planning for future trips.

  14. Comment by Born4Lycra | 11.29.2006 | 4:23 pm

    Not actually entering the competition with this because I only saw it and had no input whatsoever. Some years ago an Irish mate of mine coinicidentally nicknamed Irish was out just riding with his family and us. Basic MTB bike nothing special. The seat/saddle actually colapsed on him (he is not in any stretch of the imagination a fat cyclist) the rails buckled, the seat was knackered but he was left with a perfectly good seatpost. I did say it was a basic MTB. Looking around he saw a wire rope safety fence alongside the main road which had rubber dome like caps on each post. Using his wife’s nail file and with great effort he levered one off and found that it would sit over and balance on his seat post. He hopped on and tested it out and while not comfortable found it usable. We all rode on. The significant thing was as we neared home he mentioned the rubber cap was not moving so much. We made him stop and check. The post had cut into the rubber and was within seconds (minutes maybe) of punching through the cap and anywhere else within reach. Talk about luck of the Irish. This story comes up regularly at our BBQ’s.

  15. Comment by Lins - Australia | 11.29.2006 | 5:03 pm

    I keep duct tape wrapped around my tyre* levers. One day I had the tear in the tyre and used duct tape across the inside of the tyre but it still bulged somewhat on the way back. You know what they say about duct tape: “If you can’t fix it with duct tape then you haven’t used enough”.

    Later, at home, I turned to the toothpaste tube which is now made from a soft plastic. Chop off both ends of the tube, cut down the folded side, wash it out then cut into whatever sizes you might need.

    Bob, the stick in the hadlebar repair does work. Utilised this year by a guy in a local MTB KOM series of rides. The carbon fibre handlebar/stick was later mounted, plaqued and used as the trophy for the best Bush Repair award.

    *The spelling of tyre is not an error: that’s how we spell it out here.

  16. Comment by JET(not a nickname) | 11.29.2006 | 6:36 pm

    I can’t imagine how bad a duct tape bandaid would hurt taking off!

  17. Comment by Al Maviva | 11.29.2006 | 8:18 pm

    I’ve used the dollar bill to boot a shredded tire, but what do you do with a ginormous sidewall rip in your skinny 700×23 tire, when you’re 30 miles out and the rip is the size of your finger? Easy. You take the shredded tube over to the steel guard rail. The posts for the rail are steel I-beams, with relatively sharp corners, sharp enough to rip the tube as you drag the seam down it. Rip the tube open. Then cut it into lengths about twice the length of the sidewall rip. Insert a couple or four layers of the rubber into the tire, covering the rupture. Blow it up, and ride home. I’ve done this a couple times now, once on a long training ride, and once on a randonee. The randoneur motto? Near as I can tell, it’s ‘always finish, never get outside help.’ Bumping fifty miles or so like that wasn’t fun though, I can assure you. Don’t worry about the ka-lump ka-lump ka-lump motion of the bike with a tire booted this way, just keep ‘er under 25 MPH as you go along, avoid descents, wet roads, and chip seal. And riders who will make fun of your ghetto-@55 tire repair. If you’re out of inner tubes to do this fix, or you only have one tube and it mercifully only bulged out the rip, rather than shredding? I’d probably tear apart one of my riding gloves, and use the leather palm for a tire boot. Haven’t done that yet, but I’ve thought about it.

    As for the best repair I’ve witnessed, a buddy of mine turned his bike with a blown apart derailer into an impromptu single speed. It was actually kind of hard for him to get the chain tension and gearing right, took a couple attempts to produce a rideable gear ratio / properly tensioned chain. The chain tension was the toughest part, since the logical choice of tensioner – the derailer – was in little tiny pieces, and there’s no way to adjust the axle on a bike with vertical dropouts. We were on a roughly 100 mile training ride, and he rode that bugger nearly 50 miles home, single speed, keeping up with us largely thanks to achieving proper gearing, and wheel sucking like a bandit.

    And on the Banjo Brothers bags – they rock. My commuter sized panniers are still going pretty strong, in spite of some massive abuse on my part. They show some wear and tear but they are a year old, and holding up pretty well. And at the price? Amazing value.

  18. Comment by MBonkers | 11.29.2006 | 11:09 pm

    Last year during Bike to Work day (I ride regularly on many other days but it had to happen on this day) I had some gravel tear a thumb sized hole in my sidewall on my road bike tires. I put in a new tube and filled the inside of the tire with the foil from the patch kit, and a dollar bill folded up. On the way in to work, I passed by three bike shop sponsored booths set up for bike to work day. All offered free mechanical work on site, all offered tubes if I had a flat, none had any tires at all. So I rode 12 miles on to work on a partially inflated tube, and then walked to the bike shop at lunch to get a new tire.

  19. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 11.29.2006 | 11:18 pm

    I can’t ever remember having to McGyver a bike. I do remember on day 2 of an epic 4 day solo road ride making a detour to buy some extra inner tubes because I had 4 punctures in quick succession. Said detour added 70km (43mi) to bring the 4 day total to 641km (398mi). Does a 43 mile detour count as a McGyver?


    Does using bike parts to McGyver a car on the way to a bike race count?

    In the late ’80s my early ’70s Datsun broke a throttle cable 60 miles from home and 100 miles from the race venue. I removed the rear brake calbe from my race bike and threaded it from the carburettor through the firewall into the cabin. The cable was too smooth to hold onto against the return spring so I made a handle out of a spoke.

  20. Comment by KitcheSink | 11.30.2006 | 4:24 am

    Wimps all of you. You don’t need to improvise. Scouts all – be prepared! I grew up in a modest household with a make-do handy-ish kind of a father who didn’t want to see his hard-earned squandered. We had bikes, but they were never too reliable, and I guess in reality they didn’t need to be – school was only a couple of miles from home, and the play range was about the same. I never did get into the serious cycling thing as a kid, aside from anything else it probably would have been too much of a financial burden on the family.

    Move forward 25 years and I’m fair, fat and forty. I need to take some serious action to drop the weight, so I think a bicycle might be a good idea. And it was. 6 months work went in, and I could actually ride 40 or 50 miles instead of the 200 feet and fall to the ground with exhaustion that was my lot when I started back. I thought my shiny new Shogun cro-mo framed, MTB was a great. It was light too, only about 30lb on the road with it’s racks and accessories. It took me many miles further from home than the clunkers I’d had as a kid ever did. After riding for a year or so that week-long touring ride over 400 miles was looking pretty good to me. But hang on a minute, something deep down reminds me that bikes are not really reliable, so I’d better take a few tools along, if nothing else they need a good break and would like to see the countryside. What was useful as a kid? Hmm, lets see. We’ll start with a 12″ shifter – there’s gotta be a good couple of pounds in that, and it’s 8″ brother, better have a set of ring spanners from 3/16″ to 3/4″. A full set of Allen keys could be useful, as would several different sizes and types of screw drivers, both long and stubby. And what about a few specials like a chain breaker and bottom bracket tools. Spare parts – now we are talking – lots of tubes and cables and bearings and spokes and grease and a spare cartidge and …. a set of spare pedals. A tyre is a bit hard to carry though.

    Now, you never know when you may need all this (remember, in my head, bikes are unreliable), so lets load them into one of my two front panniers and carry this stuff 50-70 miles each day for 9 days in day-time temperatures ranging from 90F to 60F. Up hill and down dale, into headwinds and a bit of rain too. My bike is a musical instrument (percussion), and the whole rig is a talking point, starting with my knobby tyres that you can hear humming on the bitument from 100 yards away. Never mind, I felt safe, and in control of my destiny. Must confess I didn’t even do one bearing rebuild on the whole ride. But my diligence was rewarded. One day I met a long lost (I mean 15 years lost) friend who IS riding HIS old clunker. This thing has let him down and is now in disgrace! He’s got it upside-down outside his tent in the overnight camp ground and is trying to give it a bottom-bracket rebuild, with one 6″ shifter. Boy, was he ever glad to see me and my mobile workshop!

    Did I ever mention that this was a supported ride, complete with sag wagon, riding mechanics and a mobile workshop that set up each night in the camp-ground, not to mention bike shops in several of the towns along the way?

    These days I’m a bit more modest. On tour, most of the tools still come along, but now they travel in the support car. But on the bike I always have some zip ties, what we call gaffer tape (really, really sticky cloth tape about as wide as duct tape), non-stick dressings and fabric band-aid strips, some string, and a mega all-in-1 tool. Oh, and a spare tube and tube patching goodies. My ride buddies mock me, but I do think it’s strange how quiet they go when it’s time to make some repairs on the trail or by the road-side, and where do you think they look for spares and fix-up gizmo’s? Just this week, one of them even suggested an improvement to my mobile kit – carry an electrical screw down terminal block connector to use in case of cable breakages. I think it’s a great idea and so I found one and it went into the seat pack just last night.

    Who needs light wieght and minimalist. Stay with heavy and comprehensive. Remember Elden, you only need to improvise if you don’t have the right stuff with you on the bike. As Winnie the Pooh said, “you never know when a piece of string will be useful!”

  21. Comment by Tim D | 11.30.2006 | 6:14 am

    My favourite duct tape story doesn’t involve a repair. We were doing Polaris one year and were getting ready for the start. Karl had sensibly bought along some duct tape, just in case, wrapping half a dozen turns round his top tube. Just as we are about to set off, Karl does one final check of his gears and finds they wont change, completely jammed up. He is starting to panic, pushing his way back down the bunch, ready for some serious fettling. Then he realised he had duct taped the gear cables to the frame.

  22. Comment by Tayfuryagci | 11.30.2006 | 6:25 am

    pick me, pick me!

  23. Comment by Brian C | 11.30.2006 | 8:39 am

    i cut up my only leather belt and stuffed it in my stem clamp in order to fit on one mary bars into an oversized clamp. it didnt work very well, but well enough to put almost 30 miles on the ol’ monocog 29er. my pants fell down a lot on that ride. oh, and i also ran into a cart corral at home depot that night.

    thats really as good as it gets for me and impromptu repairs.

  24. Comment by Jose | 11.30.2006 | 8:41 am

    I was visiting my parents who live in a small town surrounded by desert like areas with great dirt roads and steep mountains. I had the genius idea to invite a friend for a ride and I decided to use my Dad’s 80-dollar-bike. It turned out that after 15 miles into the ride, my chain broke, none of us had a chain tool, and the walk back included a very long climb. The chain pin stayed in the link and we started to use everything we could find (rocks, sticks, shoes, fists, etc) to put the link back in position. There was a small village where we were able to borrow a hammer. Using the hammer and a rock behind the chain we fixed the chain. The worst part of the story was that my dad had used motor oil to lube the chain, and I spent two weeks trying to clean my hands and had to get rid of the jersey. By the way, we did such a great job fixing the bike that I could not tell which pin was the one we hammered. It sounds easier than it was, but we spent some anxious moments stuck on that village, thinking about our walk back.

  25. Comment by T. McGillicuddy | 11.30.2006 | 9:45 am

    In a pinch, I used duct tape as a condom.

  26. Comment by Ewww! | 11.30.2006 | 10:00 am

    The duct tape is supposed to go ON the squirrel, not IN the squirrel!

  27. Comment by Taocat | 11.30.2006 | 11:17 am

    “Busted Pedal: I honestly can’t remember who this happened to (Bob, I think), but I recall someone’s pedal body — this is back when we all rode Speedplays, which have very brittle pedal bodies — shattered during a fall, leaving nothing to pedal on but the smooth pedal axle. So he duct-taped his shoe to the axle. This worked, though it required a much greater commitment to not falling for the rest of the ride, cuz, um, it’s difficult to clip out once you’re taped in.”

    A REAL man would’ve just impaled his leg on the pedal axle just above the ankle and ridden home.
    I had my new bike for a week and was doing a race on it when somehow a sideplate on my chain got bent out and when it went through the rear derailleur, jammed up and it tore it completely off the bike. I fixed it with pine cones and beaver that I found nearby. (Ok, acutually I just had to coast back down the mountain with holding my chain from which my derauilluer was hanging and accept my DNF).

  28. Comment by Tayfuryagci | 11.30.2006 | 11:50 am

    Duct tape as a condom? How did you? Well, never mind. Sheesh…

  29. Comment by bikemike | 11.30.2006 | 11:57 am

    i cracked a steel frame out on the trail back in the ’80’s. so, i found an old coke bottle and knocked the bottom out of it. i then took one the spokes out of my front wheel to use as a welding rod. used the bottom of the bottle as a magnifying glass and welded the frame back together.
    what? this has to be a true story? oh, nevermind.

  30. Comment by Mike | 11.30.2006 | 12:53 pm

    I’ve used a piece of fencing wire (kindly donated by an unknowing farmer) to repair a rack whilst on a weekend tour. I just had to walk the fenceline until I came across a loose piece.

  31. Comment by seth | 11.30.2006 | 12:56 pm

    It may not be a bike, but I think this qualifies as a great field repair story.

    I was on my family’s annual mountain biking trip in Cedar City, UT. It was the last ride of the trip, when my younger brother was trying to clean an accent when his foot came out of his pedal and his chain ring attacked his calf. A huge portion of skin was ripped away from his muscle, exposing his fascia to the world. Since we were in the middle of a ride and we were ill equip to handle such an injury so I took a tissue that I had in my jersey pocket, stuck it over the wound, wrapped that with a spare tube and then secured that with a strap from my camelback. He rode the remaining 5 miles or so then got 40+ stitches in the local ER.

  32. Comment by Tim D | 11.30.2006 | 1:27 pm

    I was out riding once on my own, when I got a puncture. I was really stuck, no spare tube, no mobile to call for help. After a bit of scrabbling around, I found two plastic stick things in my Camelback. They were ideal for getting the tyre off, they even had a little hook on the end to hook round the spokes. I tried sticking green leaves to the tube with spit, but they wouldn’t stay in place. I tried sticking them with tree sap but they still wouldn’t stay. After some more rummaging, I found some little rubber disks next to my butties. They even had their own sticky side and stuck right over the hole, without coming off. How lucky is that. But the really amazing thing was still to come. I got the tube in and the tyre back on, but how to inflate it. Here’s where I really struck lucky. Stuck somehow to the side of my bottle cage was a tube thing. It must have jammed there during the last rainy ride. Amazingly,by jamming one end over the valve and pushing then pulling the other end repeatedly, it inflated the tube.

    If that isn’t the best improvised field repair ever,I don’tknow what is.

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  34. Comment by Mr. Toad | 11.30.2006 | 1:46 pm

    Over the years I have become an annoying snob, using a variety of tools and actual parts to repair my bike. This is not due to my upbringing. My father is the master of the shoddy, ugly but somehow functional repair. Note that his repairs are not “field” repairs… if it worked for two miles why go about fixing it correctly? He uses copious amounts of duct tape for sure, but his main weapon of choice is baling wire. He carries a thick coil of it in his bag, along with some rusty needlenose pliers with a broken handle.
    He often uses it to replace bolts that have come loose and fallen out. He’s lashed his rusty old toe clips with the rotting straps back to his platform pedals. Note that he didn’t check the tightness of the bolts on the left pedal after noticing the right had fallen out. He reattached his rear rack the same way, but added a few loops around the frame as well for “added strength.” That was on the STP three years ago. It’s still rattling and scraping the paint off the frame. A dog knocked him down a few months back and the fall broke the bracket on his left brake lever. Guess what put it back on the bar? However, in this case he also wrapped duct tape over the top for comfort’s sake. Perhaps his finest moment was tying the ends of a broken brake cable to a small figure eight of baling wire. He actually did replace the cable after a few months, though.
    To my mind, what makes baling wire even better than duct tape is the ability to increase or decrease the strength of the repair with added coils and twists of the pliers. He might even adjust the wire once in a while, giving it another quarter-turn to increase the tightness. He almost looks like he knows what he’s doing.

  35. Comment by Lurch | 11.30.2006 | 2:02 pm

    Well, this ain’t about a broken bike part, it’s about a broken ME (even more tragic). Then again, according to the rules, it don’t say NUTHIN’ about it needing to be a broken bike…
    So there I was…deep in the shit…
    Tony and I were exploring mending our friendship (that had been damaged by his failure to bike up my bike enroute to the 24 hours of Moab – I was flying in and shipped it ahead, paid my solo entry fee, flew out, didn’t get to race- no lights, no bike, no clothes or shoes – but that is another tragic story).
    I was in Colorado for work and met up with Tony to do a little night riding after work. Everything was going lovely and I was considering taking him off my shit list. We were on a long, non-technical descent. He was leading. I was flying to catch him. BAM! Next thing I know I’m screaming like a school girl, laying on the ground with no memory of having gotten there, sure that God had decided to take out his anger at the whole world on ME! My shoulder was TOAST. Tony, further down the trail was not encouraged to come see what was up because he thought a mountain lion had attacked me – really. Thanks pal! Eventually, I got up, tried to salvage a bit of my manhood and quit wimpering (well, at least slowed down). Having dislocated my shoulder before, I knew my injury was worse that that (dislocations only make me cry out of ONE eye). We were a good 2 1/2 miles from the nearest road, so we had to hoof it out. If I’d have known it was 2 1/2 miles, I would have insisted on the Wilderness Rescue team getting some work, but Tony said “it’s just a little way”. He kept saying that, and kept saying that, I thought he was never going to quit saying that as I limped behind him – bastard! (in a good kind of way) Back to my story… I knew I had to get some support to my arm, so I did my best McGyver impersonation by fashioning a sling out of a spare innertube. Around the neck, two twists, around the wrist. Sitting at home, you think that is no big deal, but if you break your shoulder blade in two while out on your bike, you are going to be glad that you read this! After VERY long hike out, I got to the ER. At the ER, the Doc was very impressed with my sling. Son of a gun kept my tube too. I should have gotten that deducted from my bill!
    Anyway, I am not submitting this trying to win the bag. I’m doing it to help any of you who may suffer the same injury someday. For the good of Mankind. Because Mother Teresa is my sister (that bag is pretty nifty though).

  36. Comment by TeeBone | 11.30.2006 | 2:33 pm

    OK, I have two. Does that mean I get two shots at the super-sweet bag? Don’t worry, I’ll stop the groveling short of “Pick me! Pick me!”

    Here are my repair stories:
    1) This example substitutes a soft ball sized rock for a hammer, and a 1” diameter by 10” long stick far a, well, for a 1” diameter by 10” long stick. At the Brian Head ICUP race in 2003, I snapped a spoke on my rear wheel. Apparently, this was not just any spoke. Clearly, it was the most important spoke in the whole entire world, or at least the most important spoke in my whole entire wheel. Without it my wheel became so out of true that it simply would no longer rotate. I know what you are thinking, “adjust the brake all the way out dummy, field repair 101, what an idiot!” Slow down Rambo. Take a deep breath, that wasn’t it; I am a disc brake guy anyways. It seems that chainstays on the Jamis I was riding in 2003 barely allowed for 2.3 tires even when the rims were semi-true. Without a spoke wrench to true my wheel, and being in somewhat of a desperate situation, it was time to think outside the box. Here’s what I did, genius that I am: Using the rock as hammer and the stick as a, you know, a stick, I took aim at one of the adjacent spokes. You know the ones that pull the rim in the direction opposite the broken one. Snapping it off at the nipple, it was amazing how straight the wheel became. It still had a funny little wiggle but it no longer hit the chainstay. I just wrapped the broken spokes around their neighbors and off I went. Yeah, I know, I’m pretty much a regular MacGyver.
    2) After a nasty crash that sent me hurling into an old, dead, sharp branch laden bush left me nearly naked, not to mention nearly castrated, I found myself in a tight spot. Alone in the woods. No shorts, at least not a pair of shorts. I had one short at best. Of the three opening a pair a pair of bike shorts, or any shorts for that matter, should have, I was left with but one, the left leg opening. The other two were now connected by a tear and, in fact, no less than 1/3 of my shorts were still hanging in the branches of the bush. I was just glad that wasn’t all that was hanging the branches of the bush. Now if I were smart like FC I could have simply taken a yard or two of duct tape off my seatpost and fashioned me up some sporty silver shorts. (I have a nephew who made an entire suit and tie out of duct tape and wore it to prom) I am not that smart. So here’s the creative part: I was wearing a sleeveless base layer under my regular jersey. So, leaving the shredded remnants of the bike shorts on, and wrapping them back around as best I could, I simply put the sleeveless under layer on, diaper style. The neck hole, obviously in a bad location, was backed up nicely by the chamois portion of the ruined shorts. Worked like a champ. So good in fact that I actually continued with the “out” portion of my “out and back” ride.

  37. Comment by pumpboy | 11.30.2006 | 8:01 pm

    While on a wilderness mtb camping trip one of us gets a flat. With no tire levers and weak fingers we use house keys to pry the tire off. Now I’m having problems changing the frame pump from Schrader to Presta. I have the top off the pump end and the bits are not coming loose. I try pumping the partially disassembled pump. The innards come loose and rocket into the bushes. After an eternity of searching we find the part.

    Uh, we have no spare tube or patch (I guess we could have discovered this sooner). It’s a small hole so the victim has to madly ride for 10 minutes, stop and pump the tire, get back on the bike and repeat until we’re out of the woods. Good times.

  38. Comment by Ryan Cousineau | 11.30.2006 | 8:48 pm

    I’ve booted sidewalls with granola bar wrappers and money, I’ve respaced much-loved Swedish frames using long 2×2s in my back yard, and I once made a 7-speed BMX (it’s pretty fun!).

    But for some reason the repair that stands out was the one two weeks ago at the end of the club ride.

    It’s just two of us riding out the last bit of the ride. I was chatting with Steve about bike repair issues, and the Crank Bros. Mity-17 multi-tool that I carry on every ride (recommended, BTW) when we see 3 women standing around their bikes.

    Being chivalric (my wife wasn’t around), we stop to help, and indeed, the problem turns out to be a rubbing fender, easily fixed with an 8mm wrench.

    “This is great,” I says to Steven, “now I can show you my tool.”

    Those women had such dirty minds!

    Honest, that’s a true story from end to end. Would I tell something so patently embarrassing if it wasn’t?

  39. Comment by alas | 12.1.2006 | 12:15 pm

    This is not a field repair; however, it does deal with the prize, on which I keep my eyes. Recently, I converted Kitty Litter boxes, plastic 35 lbs capacity, to fully functional paniers. (photos available on request) They are bright yellow with red tops and, oddly enough, lead motorists to make all manner of supportive noises and gestures, including one red-light long confab with a motor cyclist about how to build the same.

    They are large and functional plus clearly brighten the lives of all they touch. I found the buckets in the trash and the necessary parts in the big bin under the couch. So they are free, which is great because I am poor. Recently, I found two more of the same size and two in a slightly smaller (25 or so) and by the end of the month will have a ful front and rear set of Tidy Cat (TP) paniers. With the latter, however, I found them at the start of a long and unexpectedly cold ride and needed to find a way to affix them to the bike, which necessitated, using something or another to affix them. I forget what it was, but man was it non-standard and the whole story funny as all get out, but I forget why.

  40. Comment by Joseph | 12.1.2006 | 2:03 pm

    Not a bike repair, but…

    Working as a camp counselor one summer, a bunch of us went whitewater canoeing one weekend. We got an aluminum canoe wedged crosswise between two boulders, pinned by the river’s current, and bent in half. After prying the canoe out of the current, it had a giant crack down the side.

    Of course we had no tools, no duct tape, nothing but our lunch debris and our now-soaked changes of clothing. What to do? Take a soaked pair of underwear, wedge them into the crack in the canoe, and hammer away with rocks.

    The canoe stayed shipshape, we made it to the take-out site, and the river was removed from the camp’s “safe to float” list.

  41. Comment by alas | 12.1.2006 | 2:13 pm

    And another little known fact, those free shower caps in hotels/motels make great rain hats for helmets.

  42. Comment by potholejumper | 12.1.2006 | 2:29 pm

    I may be totally incorrect about this, but my belief is that if more riders understood the long term benefits of morning riding, more of you would participate. I know that getting up early with a nose, ear lobe and toe numbing temperature of ~45 degrees that this alone may turn many of you away from the much longer term benefits involved. Now I know you’re saying to yourself that you’re well aware of the cardiovascular benefits of having Gary drag you along until your legs ache and it feels like you coughed up your right lung in someone’s front yard a few miles back. This is a character building obvious short term benefit, but for most it’s still not worth leaving your nice warm bed to take part in this, Rumsfeld like, torture on wheels. But for me, this morning, added a whole new perspective on why I ride in the morning, particularly with Martin and Gary. I learned several new things and reinforced several other beliefs that will have a lasting long term benefit for me. Most of these came from the activities surrounding Martin’s flat tires, (note the “s” behind tire, this is intended to pluralize the noun). These learnings had such an impact that I thought I would share with the group.

    Key Learnings from a Morning Ride with Martin, Gary and Mark

    - After your first flat, at roughly 6:00 am, it’s a good idea to locate your bike under a street light vs. a nice looking yard. (more on this later)
    - It’s a good idea to store your replacement tube in a plastic baggy with a small amount of baby powder, talcum, or talc. This reduces friction between the tire and the tube so that when you inflate the tube it slides into place with the tire vs. pinching and potentially flatting upon inflation. The downside of using too much baby powder is simply that your tire change site may end up looking like an area where the Medellín Cartel had a very sloppy birthday party.
    - The most common occurrence of the redundant flat, or flat right after flatting, is due to the tube being pinched.
    - The second most common occurrence of the redundant flat is due to Gary discussing how items that caused the original flat may still be penetrating your tire and after a short period of time, (lets say 15 minutes, or so), may cause the redundant flat. To avoid this, simply don’t let Gary discuss the origin of flats with you while riding OR, check your tube for foreign objects stuck in the tire – like small coke bottle bottom sized pieces of glass.
    - Gary, due to his vast experience, can change a tire in less than a minute. Martin is able to change a flat tube within two minutes. We’re not talking two minutes like on a clock, we’re talking two minutes like after the two minute warning of the Super Bowl sans the football, cheerleaders, somewhat entertaining Bud Light commercials and the enthralling commentary.
    - When borrowing CO2 cartridges to inflate your redundant flat it’s a good idea to match the size of the borrowed cartridge with the inflation device.
    - At 6:20 am it may not be a good idea to compliment the neighbors on how nice their yard may look while changing your tire in said yard. To illustrate this learning please follow:
    Lady in Volvo with really nice yard: “Are you alright?”
    3 riders standing in yard in various forms of lycra: “Yes, thank you!”
    3 riders standing in yard in various forms of lycra: “By the way, nice grass”
    Lady with nice yard: “Wha, what did you say? Nice ass? Well I never!… I’m calling the Police!”**
    3 riders standing in yard in various forms of lycra: “OK Gary, you change the tire. We need to get out of here!”
    ** Some artistic license was used in the formation of this part of the story.

  43. Comment by Anthony | 12.1.2006 | 3:43 pm

    My favorite repair: My first bike was a 10+ year old stock Giant Iguana with the original Suntour stuff on it. The drivetrain was pretty worn out. Hammering up a steep hill in the granny gear, I managed to bend the largest cog on the freewheel, so that my top 2 gears were both useless.

    I used a rock from beside the trail to hammer it straight. This worked fine: in fact, I continued to ride the bike using the rock technique for a couple of weeks, until one day I snapped three teeth right off.

    When I got home I hammered it straight for the last time, tuned the limit screws on the derailleur to prevent shifting to that gear, and rode the bike all winter. Why subject a brand new drivetrain to a winter season, I figured.

  44. Comment by Kent Peterson | 12.4.2006 | 2:51 pm

    My best repair story is this weird duct tape story. It all happened just the way I wrote it down here:


  45. Comment by Paul Johnson | 12.4.2006 | 6:14 pm

    Zip Ties. Perhaps not the same trailer court cache’ as ducked ape, but zips have saved a couple rides for me.

    On the second day of the 2005 Cascade 1200 Randonnee I stopped at a convenience store in Goldendale for my standard secret perfomance enhancing food source (a stale pizza pocket) and noticed that my saddle seemed a little loose. Closer inspection revealed that it was hanging by one, small bolt. I use the Thompson 2 bolt post and found that one of the bolts and it’s adjusting nut had escaped the punishment somewhere back in the Columbia Gorge. This left my saddle hanging precariously by one nut/bolt assembly which required the opposing tension of the missing hardware to keep it (the remaining bolt) from also making a break.

    It took me awhile (it was pretty hot so I was slow to proces the situation and options) but ultimately I substituted a zip tie which held the saddle in place for the remainder (2 1/2 days) of the ride.

    Coincidentally, about two and a half days later my rear fender broke in half just aft of the seat stay. No probe-lame-oh, I stopped and drilled a couple holes in the broken parts with the awl point of my swiss army, and ‘zipped’ the fender back together. The whole rig made it to the finish about 36 hours later with about a half hour to spare.

    A zip tie can support a 200+ pound load pounding away for 62 hours and still be ready for more.

  46. Comment by Big Guy | 12.5.2006 | 9:02 am

    Necessity is a mother.

    My story (one of many, I’m afraid) comes from my time spent living in northern New York State. I had just arrived a few weeks before and had just found some people I could go ride with (knowing little about riding in the area myself). Our first ride started from Potsdam, NY and went through some very rural areas before looping back around for a total of 50 or so miles. I was doing fine and holding my own amongst a group of five other riders who where in better shape than me (but I never had to pull since I had no idea where the next turn would be). Almost exactly at the halfway point, the retainer plate on the master link of my new-ish Taya chain popped off and disappeared into the ether. Six of us there, and none of us had a chain tool.
    I still had the post part of the master link, but no way to keep it from slipping out of the chain. Looking around, I happened to see a busted old electric motor from some small device and got the bright idea to unwind some of the copper wire from that to wind around the posts on the master link that stuck through the links. It took about ten minutes, and four of the other guys left to go on, but I finally had a ridable bike…for about 5 minutes. As it turned out, the wire tended to stretch under load and would eventually fall off, so I had to keep rewinding the wire every mile or two. Better than walking, though.
    After that I started keeping an extra master link and plate in my saddle bag, and then replaced the chain itself about a month later when it happened again.
    By the time I left New York for good late the next year, that field repair had achieved ‘legend’ status.

  47. Comment by Lydia | 01.23.2007 | 12:22 pm

    I scored a date out of this one.

    Being a relatively new road biker, I took the bike out to one of the trails around the area. It was a cold day, and there were not many weekend warriors out, which suited me fine.

    Around mile #22, I saw another biker with his fixie upended – he had a flat, and no tools. My patch kit was of no use as he needed a wrench to take off his wheels, so I offered to bike to the nearest bike store and pick up some things for him.
    Nathan declined, figuring that the local club would come by within the hour, instead do I want to wait with him?

    Ok, so this isn’t necessarily a field repair story, but I at least helped him alleviate his boredom (and repair his bruised ego, by agreeing that he is an idiot by not bringing along tools for a long ride)

  48. Comment by greg | 02.11.2007 | 9:53 am

    This one isn’t really a repair, but fits under the idea of something designed for a specific task, working well for another task.

    As my friend and I were unloading our bikes from his car and getting ready to start our ride I realized, since Chris wasn’t a regular rider, he didn’t have a camel back or other source for water on the trails.

    The bike he rented didn’t have a bottle cage or anything designed to hold a water bottle.

    The bike did however have a bike lock. It turns out the little plastic ring that holds the bike lock firmly to the bicycle also fits perfectly around the neck of a 20oz coke bottle. We took off the lock, sat the bottle atop the crank case, and lowered the little ring over the neck of the bottle. It worked great; the bottle never came lose even after jumping logs and drops in the trail.

  49. Comment by Kevin Richardson | 02.19.2007 | 6:12 pm

    This repair even got Cannondale’s attention and they took my thrashed bike back – no questions. I had my new RUSH delivered to the trail head in Durango CO after intense training on it for the San Juan Hut System ride to Moab. It arrives – and guess what? The truck leaves and the Lefty won’t hold a charge. Its getting cold, looks like rain so we heads out. After 200 miles of dirt road and 4 wheel roads with the front shock banging metl on metal we arrive in Bedrock population of maybe 200. There I tear open the boot of the Lefty and pop in a vacuum cleaner extension hose with a slot out of it (so it could expand while fixing it in) – and joila! Hard front for the last 50 miles. Pictures are available:

  50. Comment by Kevin Richardson | 02.19.2007 | 6:14 pm

    Here are the photos of the repair to the Lefty…

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  56. Comment by Brian W | 05.20.2008 | 12:20 pm

    A couple of repairs come to mind:

    1. While touring in Germany, I got a bad sidewall gash in my tire. Yes, another “paper money as a boot story.” But the catch is that first I tried euro paper bills, which had little to no tensile strength. Then I remembered I had a few US Dollars in my wallet still, and tried one, to much better effect.

    2. Out mountain biking one time I crashed and ended up tacoing my rear wheel. Took it out of the frame, eyed it appraisingly, and then jumped on it with both feet (judiciously) a few times. Got it straight enough to ride back to the car, and only had to loosen the brakes a little bit.

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