Maintain to Prevent Pain – Bicycle Repair Options

By Sonya De Vellis

Even the most experienced cyclists know that if you plan your route, apparel and accessories perfectly, there’s still a chance that you may encounter bike problems during your ride. To help reduce the possibilities of your bike breaking down, I’ve assembled a list of things you can do to ensure you spend more time pedalling and less time piddling with your bike!

Take preventative action by performing an ABCD check

Performing an ABCD check prior to each ride can identify and reduce the possibilities of your bike breaking down during your ride. To perform an ABDC check, examine your bike by doing the following:

A – Air, and everything to do with the wheels and tires.
Check that your tires are properly inflated by pressing on them with your palm, and spin each wheel to check for proper alignment or cracks on the tires. 

B – Brakes and bars.
To check the effectiveness of the brakes, squeeze the right (rear) while moving the bike back and then the left (front) and while moving your bike forward. The bike should skid along the ground, so if your bike wheels turn, you may need to tighten your brakes. 

C – Chain and crank.
Turn the crank and look at the colour of your chain. If it is black, clean the chain using a rag, and then add lubricant. Pull the crank arms away from the bike frame to ensure they are secure.

D – Drop.
Lift your bike up 30 centimetres from the ground and drop it. If you see anything rattle or become loose, fix it immediately before you begin to ride! 

Finally, if your bike has quick releases on the wheels, seat, or handlebars, check them to ensure they are secure and the lever is pointing inwards, to avoid it getting caught on clothing. 

See the video below about performing a five-minute ABCD check:

Although you may be anxious to start cycling, taking a few minutes to perform an ABCD check can be worthwhile, as ignoring a small problem can escalate into a dangerous or costly repair. 

However, if you get a flat tire, a dropped chain, or a loose bolt during your ride, there are repair options to ensure you’ll be on your way in no time. 

Look into CAA’s Bike Assist program

Many people are familiar with the Canadian Automobile Association’s mandate: they deliver services that allow approximately six million members throughout Canada to travel with confidence in knowing they will receive support when in trouble. As a Smart Commute Markham, Richmond Hill workplace, CAA is a dedicated supporter of our annual Bike to Work Day group ride, where they offer program resources, bike accessories, a sweep car, and a prize of a Basic membership for participating riders. 

CAA also offers a Bike Assist program for their members for problems that can be fixed on the spot, such as a flat tire. However, if a cyclist encounters a problem that cannot be fixed on the spot or their bike is damaged beyond repair, CAA will transport them and their bike to their destination.  

CAA provides assistance for cyclists through its Bike Assist program. (Photo credit: CAASCO)

For more information about the CAA Bike Assist program, including terms and conditions, please click here

Do-it-yourself bike repair stations

What if you aren’t a CAA member, but are in need of bike repairs during your ride? The City of Markham and York Region have both installed bike repair stations in strategic locations to provide quick, basic bike repairs and maintenance. 

The City of Markham’s bike repair stations include instructions on using the tools in the form of a QR code. (Photo credit: Sonya De Vellis)

The City of Markham’s red bike repair stations are conveniently installed near the entrances to trails and on-street infrastructure. The stations include a variety of tools that are secured to a stand, such as Philips and flathead screwdrivers, Allen and box wrenches, and tire levers. Instructions for using the tools can be found by hovering your smartphone over the Q codes located on the stands, which lead you to step-by-step videos, such as the one below:

York Region has also installed similar blue bike repair stations at two transit terminals (Promenade Terminal and Richmond Hill Centre). The advantageous thing about the stations being located at transit terminals is that if your bike is beyond repair, you have the option to place it on the front bike rack of any YRT or Viva bus and take it to your destination or nearest bike repair shop!

If you would prefer to receive advice or assistance while using a do-it-yourself bike repair station, visit Markham Cycles, York Region’s first community bike hub at Milliken Mills Community Centre during their drop-in bike repair hours (Wednesdays from 3:30 to 6:30 pm, and Saturdays from 12 to 3 pm). No appointments are necessary, and their friendly staff and volunteers will offer guidance and provide tools to fix your bike. 

Markham Cycles staff and volunteers assist cyclists in repairing and maintaining their bikes during drop-in hours. (Photo credit: Markham Cycles)

Carry a bike repair kit

If you plan to cycle on a rural road or trail that is not near a bike repair station or bike shop, I recommend carrying a small bike repair kit with you. A repair kit typically includes Allen keys, a tire patch kit, a hex wrench, and tire levers, which should sustain your bike until you can bring it to a bike shop for a complete repair. A standard kit will cost approximately $25, which is a reasonable investment to provide peace of mind while cycling. 

A standard bike repair kit featuring: (L to R) tire levers, rubber cement, hex wrench, tire patch kit, and Allen keys. (Photo credit: Smart Commute MRH)

Want to win a bike repair kit from Smart Commute MRH? Tag @smartcommutemrh on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and let us know if you have used the bike repair stations in Markham or visited Markham Cycles during their DIY drop in repair hours. Don’t forget to tag @cityofmarkham or @markhamcycles, too! A winner will be chosen by November 30, 2019.