If you read our last post listing five quick fixes for common cycling problems, you will have learned how to fix a puncture and manage a torn tyre enough to get you home. This time we’re going to cover snapped cables, broken spokes and a snapped chain link.
If a gear or brake cable breaks while out on a ride, it is more a case of managing it than fixing it. There is only so much a cyclist can carry while out on the road and spare cables are not among them. Plus, the internal routing on many bikes makes any roadside repairs of cables very difficult indeed.
If a brake cable snaps, there really is nothing you can do except ride carefully home. If the rear brake goes, you have to be aware of grip at the front, especially in the wet. If the front goes, you have to be aware that overall braking force is drastically reduced and ride accordingly.
If a front derailleur cable snaps, you’re stuck in whatever chainring you were in. If you’re in the big ring and it’s too much, manually move the chain into the little ring. If it stays there, you’re good. If it doesn’t, adjust the cable stop screw until it does. The same principle applies to the rear. Make sure the derailleur stays out of the way, set a manageable gear and adjust the cable stop screw until it sits in that gear.
Make sure all loose cables are secured and rides carefully home.
Broken spokes are thankfully rare, especially if you maintain your wheels. If a spoke goes, you need to remove it from the wheel if you can or secure it to another spoke if you cannot. This is where carrying a cable tie or two comes in handy.
Your wheel will go out of true as some wheel tension is released by the broken spoke. You then have to make a judgement call. If the wheel is only a little out of true, you can loosen the brake and ride carefully home. If the wheel is seriously out of true, you might need to walk or call for collection.
If you carry a spoke key with you (I don’t), you can adjust the tension on the four spokes either side of the broken one to try to straighten the wheel enough to get you home.
Depending on how prepared you are as a cyclist, a snapped chain really can be a showstopper. I tend to carry a quick link just in case this happens. While exceptionally rare, a quick link is tiny, weighs only a couple of grams and costs a couple of pounds. Reason enough to be prepared I think.
A good multitool will have a chain breaker on it. If your chain does snap, remove the broken pieces and replace them with the quick link using the chain breaker. That should see you home. Then you can inspect the rest of the chain for wear or damage and change if necessary.
Alternatively, and I have done this once, you can use a cable tie to secure the two pieces of chain together to get you (slowly) home. Bend the cable tie into as much of a chain shape as possible, trim the tie so only the ratchet sticks out and test. I was using SRAM Red at the time and while the rear derailleur grumbled a bit every time the tie went through, it was enough to get me home. All you have to remember is to keep pressure as light as possible as the tie isn’t as strong as the steel.