Bike hacks: How to fix an old bicycle

Moving Well | Blanche Clark | Posted on 01 April 2020

You can get a neglected bicycle up and running for as little as $10. Here’s how.

If you’re thinking of dragging your old bicycle out of the shed as a way to get some exercise or avoid public transport in this age of social distancing, Samson Cycles owner Ryan Bilszta has some advice: “If you clean a bike and you’ve got a bit of oil and a pump, you’ll be amazed at what you can do,” he says.

Man fixing old bicycle

Nine cheap and easy ways to easily fix an old bike 

Give it a wash

Ryan says the first step to getting an old bicycle back in good working order is to thoroughly clean it. 

“Don’t worry about the mechanical side when you first pull it out of the garage. You need to wash it thoroughly first with a sponge and a brush and then you’ll discover what needs attention,” he says.

  • Clean the bike with dishwashing liquid, water and a paintbrush, avoiding the chain and cogs.
  • Wipe the chain with a cloth dampened with kerosene, making sure the kerosene doesn’t drip into the back-wheel cog and damage its bearings.
  • Don’t use a high-pressure hose to clean the bike. It can damage some of the parts.

Oil it up

“Oiling little pivot points and hinges can make an enormous difference and it will cost you about $10.”

Pump up flat tyres

Neglected bicycles often have flat tyres, but don’t assume the tubes need to be replaced.

“Tubes are well insulated because they have a tyre and wheel protecting them,” Ryan says. “Generally speaking, they won’t perish even after being uninflated for years on end.”

He recommends pumping up the tyres and waiting to see if they stay inflated. 

“We say to customers who are on a bit of a budget or have time restraints that YouTube is a really good resource,” he says.

Tighten the seat and handlebars...

Bicycle Network’s Alexander Miller says riding a bike is a great way to get out of the house and get that 30 minutes of exercise. He says bikes are strong and sturdy, and anyone can do basic maintenance.

“You’ll need to make sure the seat and handlebars are tight, but you can do that easily with an Allen key you might have left over from your flatpack bookshelf,” he says. 

...And the brakes

“Your brakes will also need to be tight," Alexander says. "There are little knobs you can twist that tighten the cables and pull the brake pads closer to the wheel. Twist them both ways until the brakes feel good.”

Gear up 

When it comes to gears, Ryan warns expert help may be needed.

“The gears are probably the only thing on the bike that, if you get it wrong, can be catastrophic in terms of damage to the back end of the bike,” he says.

Think before replacing the chain

Likewise, Ryan says it might be best to stick with an old chain until you can take the bike for a professional service.

“You can replace the chain for $40 and it’s all well and good, but it may not communicate well with the worn cogs at the front and the back," he says. "A $40 job can turn out to be a $240 job.”

Only buy parts online if you know what you need 

Ryan has one final warning when it comes to buying bicycle parts online.

“You need to know what you are doing. I would say 80 per cent of our customers who buy their parts or accessories online get the wrong part for their bike.”

Book a service 

The Bicycle Network says while many bike stores remain open for business while following government guidelines for hygiene and social-distancing rules, it is important to call ahead before dropping into a shop for parts or a tune-up. Some shops are taking online bookings or opening by appointment only. 


How to cycle safely while adhering to coronavirus restrictions

As Australia’s biggest bike-riding organisation, Bicycle Network’s website includes clarification on riding outdoors during COVID-19 restrictions.

Keep checking the website for updates, but under current Stage 3 restrictions you can cycle to get 30 minutes’ exercise a day, provided you maintain your 1.5-metre social distance and go by yourself or with other household members. 

Advice for riding during coronavirus restrictions: 

  •  Provided you are well, you can go for a ride by yourself or with people that you live with (See section 7(1) for VIC).
  • Do not go on any group or bunch rides. 
  • Riding a bike to the supermarket, chemist or work is okay and a good thing to do. We should be limiting our trips away from home, so consider going for a longer ride and finishing at the shops or work so you get the 30 minutes of exercise adults need each day (for children and young people it’s 60 minutes of activity).
  • If you’re working from home and going for a ride to get your daily exercise you should avoid stopping and be mindful of where you place your helmet, glasses, gloves etc. Keep them with your bike or on your person rather than placing them down somewhere.