The Bristol Bike Project


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We asked our volunteers ‘what’s your top bike hack?’

Last week we asked volunteers what their top bike hack was. Something they’d learned from years of bodges out on the road. The response has been great! Have a read below.

Hack 1: Looking after your chain (don’t forget to floss)

By Simon

Hack 2: Always carry a condom…

By JL, Chris, Mike & Jet (written by Mike White)

Freezing darkness. Middle of nowhere. We’re riding out to a reunion dinner in a posh/hippy restaurant in the countryside. Four of us, all seasoned bike weirdos. Did I choose my road bike with the wafer thin speed tyres? Nope. The gravel bike with the fussy tubeless beast-rubber? Nuh-uh. I went for the bomb-proof, Schwalbe-Marathonned, never-ever-ever-ever-gets-a-flat commuter bike. Yeah, that one.

Between us, we had zero maps and even less sense of direction. I confidently led everyone down a lane, that became a track, that was soon a footpath, then a ditch, then just a scattering of rocks between evil trees. Trees with eyes. We kept on anyway, laughing nervously as our headlights lit the way.

Then, obviously, I got a puncture.

And the stupids just started to pile on top of each other. The front wheel with the thief-proof nuts. The removal tool in my ‘other’ bag. The bag I’d left at home. Of course nobody had a puncture repair kit. A bike mechanic, a bike project director, a celebrated cycling writer and the editor of a cycling magazine. I mean, why would we? I had a spare tube. But we couldn’t get the wheel off. I might as well have brought a spare hamster.

Then rubbery genius struck. One of us (who shall remain un-named) had a pump and… a condom in his saddlebag. Y’know, just in case. And Jimmy El reckoned he could fix the tyre with that unexpected little willy sock. And by jimminy he could. The method? A kind of slippery tourniquet, knotted around the thorn hole and pulled tight.

We shoved the tube back in, bullied the tyre onto its muddy rim and pumped it up again. And it held air! Laughter and the sexy whiff of Nonoxynol-9 filled the air.

I rode the final few flubbery miles gingerly, trying to keep my weight over the back of the bike, letting the tender, johnny-bound front tyre glide and wobble through the pot-holed darkness. We made it to dinner only a little late and toasted our spectacular resourcefulness as the tyre went irredeemably flat outside. So we got a mega-taxi home with the bikes piled up in the back, feeling warm, lazy, drunk and happy to be alive.

Since then, I’ve bought even thicker tyres for my commuter bike and equipped every single bag I own with a puncture repair kit and a bundle of tools. And a condom.

Y’know, just in case.

Hack 3: Slippy seat posts sorted on the fly with an old tube!

By Krysia

“Old inner tubes are my all time fave bike hack friend when touring! I always take a knackered one with me on big trips. I use them as bungie chords to strap stuff on to my rack, and cut up strips make pretty good shims to stop things like seat posts slipping. They should only really be used as a temporary option as they don’t hold rigid like metal shims, but when you’re out in the middle of nowhere and you don’t have much to hand, I’ve found them to be a life saver! I cycled through the wilderness of Patagonia on a bike which had the wrong size seat post (I didn’t know a huge amount about how bikes work back then!) and the seat would slip slowly right down onto the frame by the end of each day. It was infuriating! After weeks of trying to clamp the seat post tighter with extra washers and whatever else I could find, I finally tried out a bit of old inner tube and it lasted the rest of the trip!”

Hack 4: Wheeeel sort your bent mech hanger!

By Steve

“I discovered this one 2 years ago and it has been a godsend for sorting out friends’ bikes in their garages, providing there is a spare or available quick release rear wheel:

To straighten up a bent mech hanger, remove mech and screw a quick release rear wheel in its place. You can now use the leverage of the wheel to gently persuade the hanger back to a state of usability by trying to make both wheels as parallel as possible.

Saves £60 at the Park Tool shop” 😉

Hack 5: Zero faff puncture repair (well… sort of!)

By Mildred

“I recently got caught out with a puncture on my singlespeed, about 10 miles from home, and realised I’d forgotten to bring a 15mm spanner with me. Luckily my trustee partner and pro-mechanic, Adam, was with me and he showed me how to repair a puncture without actually taking the wheel out of the bike. It blew my mind, I never realised you could do it.

Just turn the bike upside down, remove one side of the tyre and pull the tube out, pump it up to find the puncture and repair as you normally would. All the while the wheel is still bolted to the frame. You just need to have super strong thumbs to put the tyre back on afterwards, since you won’t be able to throw the wheel about for the best position!”

Hack 6: Hoover that headset

By Chris Woodward

“My most recent hack came about from a lockdown-inspired panic when I was desperate to replace my headset but with BBP closed and without having any of the tools. Thankfully I discovered our hoover is a perfect fit for my forks/crown-race, and after some bashing against the garden wall I got my bike back rolling, and me with an escape route out of the flat…”