Bicycling Guide to Complete Bicycle Maintenance and
Repair: For Road and Mountain Bikes by Todd Downs.
Sheldon Brown ( sheldonbrown.com) is a well-known cycle mechanic who shares tons of information
free on the web. A good source for odd and hard-to-find parts is Loose Screws ( loosescrews.com).
Older bikes and most consumer-grade cycles
can be worked on with common hand tools. The
only specialty tool you may need from the start is a
chain tool, required to remove and replace the chain
on most multigear bikes. This tool can be found for
as little as $10, but if you plan to do this a lot you
should invest in high-quality tools.
When you come upon a bike leaning against a
trash can, don’t assume it’s being trashed. I always
knock on the door and check. More often than not
I hear, “I got a couple more around back, you want
When you get your bike(s) home, go through
these steps: B
1. Check your find over. Why was this bike tossed?
I am always surprised to find that a few small problems led to the trip to the curb: a flat tire, snapped
brake cable, or rusted chain being the most common.
Fig. A: An old ten-speed with a rusty chain and a
few missing parts. A perfect project bike for personal use or for donation. Fig. B: A reincarnated
Raleigh road bike ready to ride for many miles.
2. Once you fix up the obvious problems, go over
every nut, bolt, and bearing to tighten things up and
check for more subtle problems that may require
3. In most cases, if it moves, lubricate it! Extremely
neglected bikes may require greasing the bearings,
but a little chain oil will get most bikes back on
4. Replace bad or worn parts with other items from
your trash-picking efforts. Get friendly with your
local bike shop. They have trash bins, too!
5. Even if the tires inflate, check both tires and tubes
for signs of dry rot. Well-cared-for tires can last a
long time but this may be the one place you need
to spend money.
6. Broken spokes and bent wheels are intermediate-level repairs. Until you master the skills for this task
just keep an eye out for other good wheels on your
7. Double-check all matters of safety, especially the
8. Enjoy the ride. It may be a little rough and rusty,
but it rolls and the price is right!
After you’ve built a bike or two for your personal
needs, why not think of getting your rebuilds into
the hands of folks who can use them? Check your
local social-service and faith-based organizations.
If you want your bikes to go beyond your local
neighborhood to help the world, one clearinghouse
website for bike donation is the International Bike
Fund’s page at ibike.org/encouragement/freebike.htm.
This site lists organizations throughout the United
States and other countries, and includes details
about how your efforts to repair and reincarnate
castaway cycles can truly work to change the world.
T.J. "Skip" Arey N2EI has been a freelance writer to the
radio/electronics hobby world for over 25 years and is the
author of Radio Monitoring: The How-To Guide.
124 Make: Volume 12