Bike Repairs in Corona Time

27th October 2020

Bike on a stand being repaired
Bike repairs

Is fixing your own bike the perfect activity for our era? I think it is: I'm going to argue that bike repairs are ideally suited to Corona Time.

For years, when my bike needed mending I thought 'I probably could do this if I had time'. But I never found out. I'm sure I'm not alone.

Due to Coronavirus, some people have never been busier, but a lot of us have time on our hands and are spending much of it at home. Our excuses for failing to do our own repairs have disappeared.

Time is one important prerequisite for taking on a bike repair, especially since an inexperienced amateur bike mechanic takes longer over a job than a professional. What are the other vital ingredients?

1) Youtube Videos

I remember trying to maintain a car using a Haynes manual. It told me the simplest steps in great detail: '(1) Release the catch of the bonnet; (2) Open the bonnet, and use the support to hold it open.' Then you'd get to a difficult part of the job and it was all 'now remove the carburettor, replace the throttle valve, adjust the choke lever, and reinstall the carburettor.' What? How do I do that? It didn't say.

Now there are Youtube 'how to' videos for just about everything, and there are excellent ones for bike maintenance - many of them made by Park Tools.

The Park Tools videos are made to good professional standards in a properly set up workshop/film studio. They are presented not by celebrities or TV presenters, but by down-to-earth American bike mechanics who you would trust all day long to give you honest advice about fixing your bike.

This video presented by Calvin Jones carefully explains the difference between a cassette and a freewheel system. 'These videos make me want to purposelessly dissemble my whole bike then reassembling it again', says one viewer in the comments, and it's hard to argue with that.

Even though many jobs aren't difficult in themselves, there are often things you just don't know unless you're told. For example, in my ignorance I wasn't aware that some chains are directional, and you have to put them on the right way round. That's where the videos come in - they tell you what you need to know.

2) Unglamorous Shops

I was fixing my rescue bike, the highly-valued and much-sought-after Norco Multisport. What, you haven't heard of it? It was the envy of an owner's neighbours in the early 1980s. Probably.

Anyway, there's no point in going to one of the fancy shops in town for the parts you need for a Norco Multisport. Ebay is your friend, as is Halfords. Plus a bit of advice from Resurrection Bikes, just to be sure you're ordering the right thing.

Then, having time on your hands comes in again, as you wait for everything to arrive. But when it does, you're ready to go.

3) A Satisfying Result

Having assembled the ingredients, I could transform myself into the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of bike repairs, and cook up a storm. Everything went perfectly, and the result was the Multisport back on the road with a new back wheel, cassette (well, freewheel system) and chain.

It was probably cheaper than getting it done professionally, and certainly more satisfying.

Now then, where's that dodgy old mountain bike with a saddle that keeps tipping me off the back...