1. Emergency bad weather gear
Caught in the rain and/or cold without the right kit? Plastic bags to the rescue! To keep your feet warmer, step each foot into a plastic bag before putting the shoe on. Cling-filming your socked feet also works, and you can cover a helmet with cling-film to keep out rain and draughts. A plastic bag up the front of your jersey will help keep the cold off your chest. If it’s tipping down, a black bin bag with holes torn in it for your head and arms works as an emergency gilet. Cold hands? Get a couple of pairs of free plastic gloves from a petrol station forecourt.
2. Keep cable ties handy
Cable ties can fix all kinds of problems, so keep some in your commuter bag. Missing bolt? Cable tie it. Light bracket loose? Cable tie it. Can’t fix a mudguard to the fork crown or seat-stay brace? Cable tie it. If your freewheel seizes so you’re pedalling air, you can get home (gingerly, with no freewheeling) by cable-tying the cassette to the spokes. Struggling to fit a tight tyre? Fit a few cable ties around the rim and tyre to hold the tyre bead down into the well of the rim, winning you some slack for the last section. You can even make snow chains for your tyres using cable ties…
3. Prevent tyres letting you down
There’s plenty you can do to limit punctures, but it’s hard to eliminate them. If you get one and don’t have a spare tube, ignore any advice to stuff the tyre with grass or newspaper. It sort of works for a cycle trailer wheel, but not for one on a bike that’s steering (front) or driving (rear). Consider Slime innertubes or tubeless tyres instead, so that most punctures self seal. If you slash a hole in the sidewall of the tyre, meanwhile, fit something robust and flexible between the replacement innertube and the tyre to prevent the tube bulging out; even a new £5 note works!
4. Clean oily hands
Unless you packed some nitrile gloves, a roadside repair on the way to work will mean dirty hands. The odds of getting workshop-grade hand cleaner at work are not good. But you will find washing-up liquid - or failing that, soap - and sugar. Mix the two to make an abrasive paste. Rub this throughly into your hands, then rinse off.
5. Chain up your bike
Left your lock at home? If you have a chain tool, you can remove the chain from the bike, loop it around the frame and an anchor point, then refasten it. Bingo. If there’s a quick link, you’ll need to remove that before rejoining the chain. A bike chain isn’t the greatest lock but it’s better than nothing – and anyone snapping it won’t be able to ride away. Your chain tool also comes in handy if you snap the chain: simply remove the broken link and rejoin the chain.
6. Recycle old innertube
Put a short section underneath light brackets so that they fix more firmly in place. Wrap a longer length around the drive-side chain-stay to protect it from the chain, securing it with a cable tie at each end. Wrap sections around frame tubes to protect them from scratches when you park, and to hide brand names from the eyes of thieves. Knot a section under the saddle rails to keep a loose seatpack in place.
7. Splinting snaps
This requires duct tape and/or cable ties, plus something suitably sized to act as the splint – a tyre lever, a small spanner, a pump, etc. Small breakages are easiest. If you break a brake lever, attach a tyre lever so you’ve got more than a sharp stub for your fingers to squeeze. You can try splinting more serious breaks, such as a cracked or snapped chain-stay, but you’ll need to ride home carefully.
8. Swapping brake pads or batteries
If you wear out your front brake pads but still have some mileage left in the rear ones, swap them over to get home safely. Your front brake does the lion’s share of the work when stopping quickly, because there’s hardly any weight on your rear wheel in that situation. Similarly, if your front light is going dim but your rear light is running okay, swap the batteries over. The red LEDs in the rear light consume a fraction of the power of the white ones up front, partly because the front light needs to project a beam to see by and not just show others where you are. Fit new rear brake pads or batteries ASAP.
9. Make your own energy drink
Unless you’re racing, you probably don’t need energy drinks at all; water is fine. But if you’re doing a summer sportive or other long ride, you might want more of a pick-me-up than water can provide. Mix flat coke (Coca Cola, Pepsi, supermarket own brand) with water and put that in your bike bottle. Mix it one-to-one or two measures of coke to one of water, whichever you prefer. Either option reduces the sugar concentration so it will hydrate you better, but you’ll still get a hit of a sugar and caffeine to help keep you going.
10. DIY bike hooks
You can buy wall hooks for hanging bike clothing, wheels, or bikes – or you can make your own with an old drop handlebar. Using the front face place from a stem as the bracket, simply screw it to the wall at the relevant height and angle.
Cheap doesn’t have to mean nasty. Choose wisely and you can buy a decent new commuter bike for £250 or less.
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