At some point, mechanical incidents will temporarily strand you on the verge of the road. Checking over your bike before leaving for a ride is an excellent preventative step but occasionally mechanical problems must be dealt with during the ride. Developing a repertoire of roadside repairs may even enhance the enjoyment of riding and generally interacting with your bicycle.
There are a several basic items worth carrying along in a repair kit regardless of distance or conditions. A multitool, spare tube, tire levers, pump and any other incidentals specific to your bike are generally worth packing along. If your rims require long valve stems or extenders in order to inflate a tube, be sure to bring proper tools and tubes. A bag to carry tools and other necessities under the saddle or in front of the handlebar is often a welcome addition.
In the event of a flat, find a suitable spot to stop as soon as possible. Remove the affected wheel from the frame. If your wheels are attached to the frame with a quick release, no tools are needed. On some bikes, the wheels are secured with a nut on each side of the axle and require a wrench to remove them. The brake may need to be opened in order to allow the wheel to pass through.
Once the wheel is free of the bicycle, use a set of tire levers to remove one side of the tire’s bead from the rim. The bead is the stiff edge of the tire that engages the rim. Maintain the position of the tire as you extract the tube. Once the tube has been removed, over-inflate it to approximately twice its size. To locate the puncture, run it past your cheek. Remember to examine the inside surface of the tube closest to the rim. Check for material still lodged in the tire. A small piece of wire or glass may not be visible from the outside of the tire. Examine the inside by turning the tire inside out to expose any sharp bits. When the tire has been cleared of residual material, install a new tube, avoiding the use of tire levers when reinstalling the tire, as they are likely to pinch the new tube.
The possibility of breaking a spoke is greatly reduced by proper wheel maintenance but on occasion it may occur. If a wheel is not tensioned properly, the risk of breaking a spoke is increased drastically. It is also possible to hit potholes, railroad tracks or other debris in a manner that increases the likelihood of damaging a wheel. Tire pressure, angle of impact and the degree of preparation made by the rider all influence the possible outcome of an encounter with these road conditions. Look for damage to the rim and proceed accordingly. If the rim is too thoroughly bent, riding home is not an option. If a spoke breaks, the wheel will go out of true. On bikes with rim brakes, the rim likely will now rub on the pads. The broken spoke will move around and hit the frame or catch in the drive train. On a front wheel, the spoke can usually be removed. However on the rear, especially on the drive side where the gears obstruct removal, the spoke will have to be taped or wrapped around a neighboring one.
Loose Pedal Cleats
If your bike has clipless pedals, cleat bolts are worth checking periodically throughout the season. If the cleat bolts loosen up, the cleat will not release from the pedal. Sometimes this situation can be attended to on the trail. If you can lean against a tree or other vertical surface and remove the shoe, try using a flat screwdriver to spread apart the pedal mechanism and free the cleat. Or if the shoe can be removed and left attached to the pedal, it is often easier to push the pedal mechanism open when you are not seated on the bike.
Having a practiced a couple techniques such as the installation of a tube and a few other common mechanical methods will eventually come in handy. If you can practice in the garage before a test on the road, all the better.