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Fix it or fling it?

Joseph Delves
4 May 2016

Find out what can be saved and what’s junk with our guide to fixing and restoring your cycling kit.

Mucking about on bikes can be an expensive lark, so when something breaks it’s tempting to try to restore it to working order rather than consign it to the scrap heap. While some mechanical catastrophes can leave your equipment beyond rescue, many can be salvaged with a bit of know-how. However, given how crucial the performance of some items is to your safety when riding, it’s also important to know when to call it a day and send your components off into retirement. We’ve examined nine common maladies and come up with strategies for dealing with each. 

Groupset woes

The big three groupset manufacturers – that’s Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo – all have extensive databases covering spares for almost all of their components. In the case of Shimano, its goes back to cover products over a decade old, meaning if you’re a competent fettler you’ll be able to locate the spares you need to resurrect that busted part sitting neglected in your bits box. 

For trickier jobs, such as rebuilding shifters, however, you’ll probably want to take them to a dedicated service centre, as the watch-like internals are beyond the capabilities of most home mechanics to tinker with.

Verdict: Check out si.shimano.com, campagnolo.com or sram.com as appropriate, or consult your local stockist.

Damaged frame

What’s new is often scary. Yet despite having been around for years now, and the fact that most frames come replete with lifetime warranties, many people still view carbon bikes as a riskier proposition than a steel or aluminium alternative. There’s a common belief that post-crash damage can be hard to diagnose on plastic frames. However, once you’ve picked yourself and the bike up, if there’s no obvious damage, the handling feels normal and the frame isn’t making any strange noises, it’s almost certainly OK. 

Should you put a crack in the frame the good news is it can actually be pretty easy to repair. Not that it’s something you’ll likely to want to take a bash at yourself, but workshops like carbonbikerepair.co.uk can often save your pride and joy for as little as a couple of hundred quid. Damaged steel bikes can also be repaired – either pulled back into place or by having the wrecked tubes removed or cut out and replaced by a specialist such as argoscycles.com. Again you’ll be looking at a couple of hundred quid plus the cost of a respray. Due to the way that aluminium reacts when heated, we’d wouldn’t recommend trying to have anyone weld and repair an aluminium frame.  

Verdict: If you’re attached to your frame, read our guide on how to assess it, or get a professional opinion, before junking it.

Wheels - Spokes 

The more spokes you have, the less of an issue it is if one snaps. It’s fairly easy to replace a spoke on a conventional wheel – you might even want to give it a go yourself. On higher-tech wheels this can be tricky and often requires special tools and procedures, so is best left to a professional mechanic. If you find yourself regularly breaking spokes, it could be symptomatic of something wrong with the tension in the wheel or of excessive fatigue. 

Verdict: While your wheel probably won't fall apart, it's best to replace broken spokes as soon as possible, as the chances of more breaking increases exponentially. Here's how to true a wheel once you've installed the new spokes.  

Wheels - Bearings 

Bearings come in cartridge and loose, cup-and-cone varieties. Both will wear out and both are designed to be replaced. If your wheels are rattling side-to-side or if the axles feel stiff or gritty when the wheel is spinning, the odds are it’s the bearings. Either kind are simple enough to replace, just find out what spares you need from the manufacturer. Cartridge type bearings need to be properly pressed in using special tools, or via clever improvisation, so maybe leave them to the bike shop if you don’t feel confident. 

Verdict: Bearings are cheap and easy to replace, and your wheels will likely get through several sets before the rest of the components wear out. 

Wheels - Rims 

Whether carbon or aluminium, rims suffer a little bit of wear every time you pull on the brakes. You can tell when yours are on their way out by checking the profile of the brake track (where the pad contacts the rim). If it’s flat, you’re good; if it’s noticeably concave, it’s probably time to replace. Don’t be tempted to eke out the last bit of wear – when a rim splits it does so with a bang and can cause a nasty crash. 

Verdict: Don’t try to ride them into the ground. Once they’re worn or dented it’s time to swap the rims or replace the wheels.

Punctured tubes

Unless you think five minutes of your time is worth more than a fiver and you don’t feel bad about all the penguins in the Antarctic having less ice to play on next time you pop a tube, don’t bin a punctured tube. Instead, roll it up, stick it in your jersey and fix it when you get home. 

Verdict: Come on, don’t be a lazy bones, do your bit for the environment and save some cash, too. We even made a guide showing how to change them

Bent rear derailleurs

This is a tricky one. If you’ve bent the cage slightly, it’s sometimes possible to twist it back. However, a misaligned mech can easily end up getting sucked into the spokes, potentially damaging your chain, wheel and frame. We’d take it to a competent mechanic for diagnosis. If it’s just the cage holding the jockey wheels that’s damaged, and not the body of the mech, they may be able to swap in some new parts and save you from having to shell out for a new mech.

Verdict: One to leave to the professionals, who might be able to bend it back into shape or replace a part in a rebuild. But if it's the integral body parts of the mech that's bent, chances are it'll be a gonner.

Worn Tyres

Tyres will wear down with use. Once excessively worn, they tend to suffer more punctures. When most of the tread is gone and the top of the tyre is flat in profile rather than rounded, it’s time to get some 

new ones. However, due to differences in the way front and rear brakes work and the fact that bicycles are only driven by the rear wheel, your back tyre will usually need replacing sooner than the front. Catch your back tyre before it’s too bald and swap it with the front. You’ll get the most of each that way.

Verdict: Swap your tyres around before they’re too threadbare and boost their lifespan.

Slashed tyres 

So you just bought some swanky new tyres and now, 10 minutes down the road there’s a big gash in one of them. Tough break. It’s time to chuck them in the bin, and no complaining to whoever sold them to you. Unless of course they promised that they were ‘absolutely positively puncture-proof’. While it might be tempting to try to patch them, if you can see the tube through the tread, it’s game over. Each psi you add to your tyres means another pound of force trying to escape through each inch of tyre, if they make it through your dodgy patch job, there’s going to be a very loud bang and potentially a messy accident. 

Verdict: A patch or equivalent bunged in on the inside to get you home. Then in the bin they go.

Knackered clothing

With repeated wear and cleaning, your waterproofs will become less waterproof. Luckily, restoring their ability to repel water is as easy as chucking them in the washing machine. Just add a reproofing product such as Clothing Wash + Repel (£8.99, grangers.co.uk). Equally, if you’ve managed to put a hole in one of your jackets, it may be possible to patch it using pre-glued patches, which are available in most hiking shops. 

Bust a zip or split a seam? If there’s a shop in your local high street that does clothing alterations and repairs, they’ll almost certainly be happy to replace a broken zip for the cost of a few quid. Several high-end clothing manufacturers such chapeau.cc offer a free (or in the case of castellicafe.co.uk, heavily subsidised) crash replacement scheme. While rapha.cc will repair clothing that’s been damaged in a accident. 

Verdict: Regularly clean your clothing to extend its lifespan, and befriend your local tailor!

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