Many cyclists take pride in their ability to improvise solutions to various problems on the road. One of the best we’ve ever heard of was a touring duo who experienced too many flat tires on a remote stretch of agricultural land in the Midwest. Their solution? Take out the tube and stuff the tire with hay to preserve the rims and make it to the next town. It sounds bumpy, but it worked.
Many cyclists have stories like this: times when they’ve had to think on the fly about how to get home or keep a bike limping along much further than its natural life. It’s a great skill for cyclists to have, and in this article we’re diving into some similar DIY solutions for non-emergencies. We’re talking about creative things that can be both functional and easy to do. Sound fun? Let’s jump into it.
1. DIY fenders
This is a trick that has been known to bike messengers and other urban cyclists for a long time, and it’s used by the folks who don’t want to break the smooth lines and cool style of their bike with fenders. Instead, do the DIY option: grab a piece of cardboard and cut or rip it into a strip about 8 or 9 inches wide and a couple of feet long. Take this piece and bend it down the middle, slotting it into the frame above the brakes on your rear wheel to intercept the water flicked off your rear wheel. It might not last long, but it will get you to your job or your date looking clean, all for the low price of free. Not bad!
2. Cork bar ends
You know that annoying moment when you realize that your bar ends have fallen out? For those of you who don’t know, bar ends are those little plastic or rubber plugs that fit into the end of your handlebars to hold your handlebar tape in place and keep water out. They also have the annoying distinction of being one of the pieces that most bikes seem to loose incessantly. They just won’t stay in!
But fear not — there is a cheap DIY solution that actually looks good, and it’s simple as pie: corks. Simply grab a few corks from wine bottles or similar (you may need to try a few different sizes and shapes, and if necessary use a knife to customize the fit) and stick them in the ends. Problem solved in style.
3. Stay warm in the wind
One of the best DIY moves is known by every pro cyclist (and a lot of homeless people, too), but might be a surprise to you. The problem is simple: you’ve just made a tough climb and are sweating, overheated, and preparing for a descent. By the bottom, you know the wind will have long ago sucked all the warmth out of you and left you frigid. Or, you went out for a ride on a windless summer day, only to have an unseasonably cold mass of air blow in — and you didn’t think to bring a jacket.
What to do? The answer is simple, and relies on insulation. Simply grab a newspaper (other material can work in a pinch, too — think magazines, plastic bags, dry leaves, etc) and stuff it inside your clothing. The layer of material will block out the wind and keep a rider substantially warmer — again, for the low cost of free (or $1.50 if you can’t find a free paper).
4. Clamp spacers
Sometimes, things on your bicycle just won’t match up when it comes to clamps. Major clamps, like the one that holds your seatpost in place, can stretch slightly over time and begin to give a sloppy fit. Alternately, you might have the same issue if you buy a new seatpost that is slightly smaller in diameter than the one you used to have. A commercial solution to this problem is available and is called a shim — a spacer that is inserted between the clamp and the post to create the correct spacing. However, shims cost money, and we can get the same result with an aluminum can.
Simply grab your can and cut it into a small rectangle, and insert. You may have to try a few different layers to get it to work right. Be careful with this one — those metal edges can be crazy shard. And if you don’t have a nearly full-circumference wrap, this might not be the right technique to use with a carbon frame, as the aluminum can damage the frame.
5. Re-use old tubes
This one is probably pretty obvious and may have occurred to some of you already, but you can use your busted tubes for other purposes. If you could use some strong rubber bands, simply use some scissors to slice a tube into small portions.
Another option is to use tubes as shock-absorbing straps for cameras, luggage, backpacks, etc. With the right cuts, you can customize the strap to your exact specifications, and if you want to get fancy, you can glue several layers together and sheath them in fabric for a more professional look.
Another use for old tubes is as exercise bands — they work great for light resistance work and physical therapy. If you need more resistance, just add another tube.
That’s it! Five solutions that any cyclist can take on. Do you have more great DIY ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.