Bike hacks: How to fix an old bicycle

Man using tools to fix the wheel of a bike.

Blanche Clark

Posted April 01, 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.

Eight 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 some 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.”

Did you know RACV has roadside assistance for bicycles?
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