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Bush Mechanics: How to fix a bike without tools

Bush Mechanic - Using tree as a bicycle repair workstand
Geez, I forgot to pack my workstand again...I'll just use this tree instead!
Photo: Neil Ennis / Flickr

Mountain biking is all about escaping the daily grind and getting out there to have some fun. But sometimes things can go awry and you can be left with a multitool of absolutely no use, or alternatively a couple of clever ideas in your head to get you out of strife.

We've sat down together and nutted out some of the more common 'Bush Mechanic' tips that anyone can master. Bear Grylls would be proud if you pulled one of these tricks out of your bag...

You will need:

  • 1 x Multitool with built in chain breaker
  • 4 x cable-ties for good measure
  • 1 x sense of creativity


No Tube

This is more common than we care to mention - you can imagine you're out for a ride, when "pssshhht!!!" there goes your tube. Luckily you brought a spare one! Or not. Look around you for some long grass or soft shrubbery, and start collecting as much as possible into a nice pile next to your flat tyre. Hook one side of the tyre onto the rim, and then try forming lengthy sausages of this shrubbery, and feeding it into your tyre. Jam in as much as possible, before then trying to refit the tyre onto the rim. This trick could save you a long walk to civilisation, and is guaranteed to work. Ride smoothly to avoid damaging your rim though...


Single-Speed Bike

A broken derailleur is another common occurance at your local trails, usually resulting in more walking back to the car. All it takes is a solid hit on a rock, and you're going nowhere fast! The easy solution is to turn your bike into a single speed:

  1. Use your multitool to break the chain (using the chain breaker)
  2. Use your multitool to remove the rear derailleur completely
  3. Shorten the chain to be tight enough on your selected gear ratio
  4. Reconnect the chain using the chain breaker on your multitool
  5. Ride home, and do not change gears while riding...
Fixing a missing chainring with cable ties

Fixing a missing chainring bolt with a cable tie. Is there anything these lengths of plastic can't do? Photo:

Shortening a chain using a multitool is not as hard as you think. Ask your local bike shop to show you how on an old length of chain. It's the best thing to learn, because believe it or not, it does happen! Be the one person who does know how to fix the problem! Think of how many free coffees people will owe you.


Cycling Experience: Two BikeRoar employees embark on one of those adventurous trail rides where there isn't really any discernible trail at all, just long grass, hidden logs and rocks. Seatpost collar bolt snaps many miles from the car. Using a stick we unscrew the bolt holding the minitool together (now completely dismantled), which is then used as the new seatpost collar bolt. To tighten this we use the deconstructed minitool held together with another stick. least it got us home...


Bent Brake Rotor

Disc brakes are just fantastic...when they work. They're also known to be slightly more fragile than other parts of your bike. If you happen to bend one of your rotors resulting in preventing the wheel from turning freely, you have two solutions to choose from.

If the damage is minor, find where the brakes are rubbing and try to bend the rotor back into shape by hand.

If the damage is bad, use your multitool to remove the brake caliper from its mount and cable-tie it to the frame, out of the way. You may only have one brake, but you can still ride home! Who knows, you might even set a new record on that dreaded section of trail... OFF THE BRAKES!


Fixing a bent bicycle wheel in the bush

Sometimes this is the best way to straighten out that buckle. Photo: AvantiPlus

Bent Wheel

First of all, if you've managed to bend a wheel beyond repair - kudos to you. That must have been epic! But how do you plan to ride home, or even walk if your wheel doesn't turn? If the wheel is that badly bent, it's going in the bin. So just bend it straight! Find a V shape in a tree, or even stand on the wheel and jump on it as surgically as possible. Keep going until the wheel is as close to straight as possible (you'll probably bend your brake rotor during all of this, so prepare for the tip above as well...)



Sliced Up

Who wants $10?! Maybe your bike tire does. If you're out riding and you slice your tire, fear not... There is a solution. Firstly, you can't simply put a new tube into a sliced tire as the new tube will pop out and get punctured almost immediately (if it doesn't explode while you inflate it). Just take your coffee money or any other piece of paper or thin cardboard you can find and get started!

  1. Crumple the paper, card or note to make it more flexible
  2. Flatten it out, and insert it into the tire over the sliced area
  3. Insert your new tube, making sure your masterpiece doesn't move
  4. Inflate tire to a solid maximum pressure to hold that makeshift sleeve in place.


Go Local

Pop down to your local bike shop, and purchase the multitool we referred to. Then ask the mechanic to teach you how to use it. You can even ask your local bike shop for an appointment, during which they can teach you how to fit a tyre, how to break a chain or even how to fix a sliced tyre on the trail!


NOTE: These tips are all purely to be used as a last resort, and come with a considerable risk of failure. So keep this in mind when you remount your steed! If you encounter any other problems, just use your imagination and give it a go.



Gopr2706Author: Joey Esterhuyzen
Joey has been racing bikes since he was a kid. He never grew old because of this, and still pops up on the race cards now and again near the pointy end... Joey loves nothing more than a solo road ride in the hills, or a fast and flowing MTB trail session... "Who says you can't whip an XC hardtail?!"

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