Regarding COVID-19: Please recreate responsibly and practice social distancing. Closures and travel restrictions are changing rapidly, always check and respect local regulations.

Bike Shops Packed? Here's How to Repair Your Own Bike

The pandemic has led to a surge in bike sales, and a need for bike repairs, across the country. With bike shops overwhelmed and backlogged, skip the wait and learn how to repair your own bike.

People across the country are staying home and with major gym chains closed, they're turning to the great outdoors for exercise. Since the onset of the national lockdown, bike sales have surged - up 63% from last year - and many shops have completely sold out of their 2020 stock including road bikes, mountain bikes, e-bikes, and children's bikes. It's nearly anarchy in the bike world, this message appears on the homepage of my local shop: 

PLEASE USE OUR EMAIL TO MAKE CONTACT WITH US.  WE ARE HERE OUR REGULAR HOURS, YOU CAN COME IN, WAIT TIMES ON TUNE UPS ARE CURRENTLY 10-14 DAYS.  THE PHONE RINGS CONSTANTLY & WE HAD TO GIVE UP ON IT IN ORDER TO STILL DO REPAIRS AND HANDLE CUSTOMERS WALKING THROUGH THE DOOR.  

It's a good thing that the lockdown has inspired a wave of appreciation for the outdoors in the form of hiking and biking, of course. But like the pandemic, this wave of outdoor activity has come as somewhat of an inconvenience to those of us who have been outdoors all along and need our yearly bike tuneups. 

Instead of waiting for things to level out, now is the time to learn a new skill in bike repairs and maintenance. Below are a few tips for repairing and maintaining your own bike from the Greatist

Fixing a Flat

If your tire is low on air, check the tire pressure before looking for holes. You can usually find the intended air pressure range for each tire printed on the smooth side of the tire (not the treads). Use a bike pump with a built-in tire pressure gauge to find the sweet spot. And unless exploding tires sounds like a fun time, avoid gas station air pumps, which are very powerful and can easily blow out smaller bicycle wheels.

If the tires start sagging right away, it’s time to deal with a puncture. If you're going on a longer ride, it’s a good idea to always travel with a spare inner tube, just in case! 


Reattach a Slipped Chain

A slipped-off chain can really put a downer on your ride. Luckily it's easy to get the chain back on and requires no tools at all.  Usually when a chain falls off, it falls out of the rear cogset and/or the front chainring. Here's what to do:

  • Place the chain back in the bottom groove in the rear cog first
  • When the chain is attached to the cog, drape the chain over the teeth on the top of the front chainring. The last step is to reestablish the connection between rear cogset and front chainring. Once the chain is in the right place, slowly turn the pedal forward, which will pull the chain around the entire chainring and back to the cogset.

If the chain keeps falling off, it’s probably too long for the bike frame.

Tighten Up Loose Bolts

Bicycles are held together entirely by nuts and bolts, so before heading out on a two-wheeled jaunt, make sure all hardware is secure. The main problem areas tend to be the handlebars, stem, and seat post, where pressure and friction can loosen bolts. Avoid overtightening the bolts, however, because that can ruin the treats on the bike, making for a pricey repair job. Invest in a torque wrench, which is super-accurate and takes the guesswork out of tuning. These wrenches have measurements so the user can control the amount of force applied. Check in the bike’s manual for information about bolt tightening, and then attach everything correctly the first time. Once the bolts are torqued, you're good to go. Just keep an eye and ear out for loose or rattling parts. 

And everything else

There are plenty of resources online that can guide you through a bike repair. If you're planning a more remote trip, you can even carry a repair guide with you: HeroKit has field repair guides and kits for both road and mountain biking. 

Enjoy your rides with a peace of mind that you can handle anything that comes your way. 


We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Margo Schmiederer

Born and raised on the East Coast, a true lover of everything outdoors. Currently residing in Bucks County, PA. My current kick is road cycling and gradually breaking into mountain biking. Find me anywhere with advent...