A Quick Guide to Fixing Your Bike on the Cheap

Although a lot cheaper than running a vehicle, looking after your bicycle can add up. Regular cycling in all weathers and having to regularly replace parts and get your bike serviced in a shop isn’t cheap. We have put together a short guide to try and save you money whilst also keeping your bike running smoothly and fun to ride! 

Prevention is cheaper than fixing

Keeping your bike clean and running smoothly is the best way to reduce the amount you spend on it in the long run.

Regularly cleaning and lubricating the chain and drivetrain area reduces the amount of wear on the chain, sprockets and cassette and keeps them going for longer. It also makes it a lot nicer to ride. No one likes a squeaky bike! Just use some soapy water, old t-shirts and a toothbrush to get around all the moving components on your bike. Once it is clean lubricate the moving parts with a small amount of bike oil or silicon-based lubricant. 

Check for the small things

By regularly checking your bike and fixing smaller issues, you can hopefully preempt anything bigger going wrong with it and impacting on other components. 

  • Check your tyres are at the correct pressure before each ride. This not only makes your bike easier to ride but also helps to prevent punctures and issues with the wheels themselves. 
  • Check that your brake pads are not worn down to their limit. These are relatively cheap and easy to replace so do so before they wear right down or they can damage your rims or disc depending on the type of brakes you have. 
  • Getting a chain checker tool is a cheap bit of kit which can check whether your chain is worn and needs replacing. By checking this and replacing your chain at the first signs of wear, you can avoid having to change the rear cassette or other drivetrain components with it. 

If you feel you don’t know enough to check your bike yourself, look out for our free Dr Bike bike checks around Exeter. 

Do it yourself

Learning how to do some quick fixes yourself is definitely cheaper than taking your bicycle into a shop every time something is wrong. There are some great basic courses around, some of which are cheap or even free to learn some basics.

For example, at Ride On we have our Wom+n’s Workshop every Tuesday evening which is run on a donation basis to teach women basic bicycle mechanics, and also run other bicycle maintenance courses throughout the year. 

There are many good online resources and videos around which can teach quick fixes and checks. If you have some level of knowledge but lack the tools to complete a fix, then Ride On runs BYOB (bring your own bike) sessions every Wednesday evening which allow you to come into the workshop and use our tools to fix your bike on the cheap. 

Budget Toolkit

Sometimes the amount of tools it is possible to use/ own on a bicycle is overwhelming and it can be hard to know where to start, especially on a budget. For simple fixes however, it is fine to invest in just a few key tools which can help to keep your bicycle running smoothly. 

  • Multi-tool (£15-30) – there are some great pocket-sized multi-tools around which are designed to go in your saddle bag or backpack on a ride and have lots of necessary tools all in one, and are generally cheaper than buying all the tools individually. Choose one which has a range of Allen key sizes, a crosshead screwdriver and a chain breaker tool at least, but some come with even more useful bike gadgets. 
  • Good bicycle pump (£10-20) – Investing in a decent track pump (one which you stand on the base and push down on the handle on the top of the pump to use) makes it easy to pump your tyres up to the correct pressure. 
  • Chain wear indicator (£7) – simple tool to check when to replace your chain. 
  • Lubricant/ bike oil (£4) – keep your moving parts running smoothly so they last longer. 

Bike mechanic hacks

Sometimes you don’t need to spend anything to fix or maintain your bike. There are plenty of recycling hacks or things you can use which you should have in the house anyway which can save you money and fix your bike on the cheap. 

  • Old t-shirts/ rags for cleaning your bike (especially when they get oily and greasy anyway!)
  • Old toothbrush for getting into small spaces when cleaning. 
  • Washing up liquid to make warm soapy water to clean your bike. 
  • Reuse old inner tubes by cutting them to make patches to fix future punctures. 
  • Use teaspoons as tyre levers to get your tyre off when fixing a puncture. Just make sure they are smooth with no sharp edges which can damage your tyre or tube. 

Get On Your Bike: 10 Wellbeing Effects of Cycling

Spring is here with longer days and a little bit more sun in the sky. So with rising fuel and public transport prices, it seems like a really good time to start cycling more. If you aren’t quite convinced just yet, I wanted to share with you just some of the physical and mental wellbeing benefits I get from cycling. 

1. Cardiovascular Fitness

Perhaps the most obvious to start, but cycling is good for your physical health. Increasing your heart rate daily can lead to long term improvements in fitness, and help prevent diseases such as diabetes.

Cycling is also a low impact sport so can protect your joints while still providing fitness benefits. There is a reason that elite cycling athletes are considered to be some of the fittest sports people as cycling is such a good form of exercise.

Feeling fitter may help improve your mental wellbeing as well. 

2. Muscle Strength

One of the main areas which cycling can improve is leg strength. The continued cyclic action while pedalling builds muscle strength endurance and muscle bulk, especially in your quadriceps and calf muscles. You will find even greater improvements if you regularly have to tackle hills – not a problem around our Ride On base in Exeter! 

3. Happy Hormones

Another wellbeing benefit of cycling (and exercise in general) is the release of endorphins and increased levels of serotonin. Both of these “happy hormones” have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, and increase feelings of happiness and overall wellbeing.

Cycling can also make you sleep better so you’ll find you have more energy the next day despite doing more exercise. 

4. Fresh Air

One of the top reasons why I enjoy cycling so much and why it makes me feel so good is that I love being outside and feeling that fresh air rush past. It never fails to make me feel energised.

A key barrier which may stop people from cycling is our wonderfully unpredictable British weather, but I personally love cycling in the rain. If you have good waterproof clothing and especially if you don’t have too far to go, then it makes the shower and cup of tea at the other end even more deserved. 

5. Clear Your Head

For me, cycling is a form of mindfulness. When I’m outside on my bike, I feel I have to be in the present to focus on cycling and my surroundings. It is easier to notice the little things while on a bike compared to being in a vehicle. There are no barriers between you and the environment around you, such as the sounds, smells, and sights which you would otherwise miss.

You also don’t need to stick to roads, and can head off the beaten track. Being closer to your natural environment and having an appreciation for weather, nature, and a slightly slower pace of life can all contribute to greater wellbeing. 

I also find giving my bike a clean or doing some basic maintenance on a sunny weekend afternoon boosts my mood and makes me switch off from other anxieties on my mind. 

6. Switch Off

Similar to the above point, but I also feel that whenever I’ve been using my bike to regularly commute to and from work, university or school, then the process of cycling has been a great way to get my brain to switch off after a tough day. I find that my mind can wander without dwelling too much on negative thoughts and I even find I can think things through which may be bothering me and put them to one side before I get home and relax. I arrive home in a much better mood and mental state compared to if I drive or take public transport. 

7. Challenge Yourself

Cycling might be scary to begin with. Your chosen route might involve a massive hill, a busy road, or you may have a lack of confidence in cycling in general. If you can overcome your fears however, then practice makes perfect.

I’ve found that after a few times of being anxious or having to push my bike up the hill, I quickly get used to a new route or environment. Especially if you do it regularly, it can quickly become second nature. The feeling of overcoming a challenge or improving at a skill will make you feel even better! It can boost your self esteem especially when combined with the physical benefits which will make you feel fitter and healthier. 

8. Feelings of Success

Cycling will make you feel accomplished. If you’ve had a long day at work and you really don’t feel like having to cycle home in the dark, but you do anyway and even make it up the slight hill on the final stretch without stopping, then that feeling of accomplishment and success is such a positive feeling to help your overall wellbeing. You are in control of where you go and how fast you get there.

Would you rather be stuck in bad traffic on your way home, miss a train and have to wait for the next one, or be totally under your own steam?

I used to race the bus which my friends took when I was at university and fairly often beat it on my bike at rush hour. Additionally, learning to look after your bike with some simple bicycle maintenance can also increase that feeling of being in control and accomplishment which can improve wellbeing. 

9. Connect with Others

Cycling is a great way to meet people and connect through this shared activity. There are lots of good cycling groups around for all levels. You can chat while you cycle and there is almost always coffee and cake involved.

If you are shy or lack confidence, having that shared activity is something to talk about, and you can also be part of the cycling group but without needing to talk to people or be the centre of attention at any point. Talking to someone while having to focus on something else can be easier than just talking face to face. 

10. Treat Yourself

Cycling saves money.

When you compare the cost of cycling with the rising costs of both fuel and public transport, it seems to be a no-brainer if it is possible to cycle places you need to go instead. Once you have a bicycle, helmet and possibly some lights then you only need to pay for servicing and any parts which need replacing every now and again. You can even learn to do this yourself with a simple bike maintenance course and save even more money while learning a new skill. You can also save paying for a gym membership by commuting by bicycle.

Reducing money worries is known to improve wellbeing. Or if you look at it another way, the money you save could go towards a holiday or other treat to improve your wellbeing.

If you are new to cycling or haven’t ridden in a while it can be daunting to start. There are many courses around which can help build confidence on a bike such as those run by Bikeability. It is important to ride safely, always wear a helmet, bright reflective clothes and get good lights if riding at night. All of these improve your confidence when cycling and make it an enjoyable experience which can undoubtedly improve your mental wellbeing.