Bike Problems – Troubleshooting And Fixing Your Bicycle

If you have bike issues, this collection of how to guides and trouble shooting tips will help you get your bicycle back on the road in no time!

Fixing common bike problems

Fixing Problems With Bikes

At some point, whether you are on a long distance cycle tour or just commuting to work, you will experience some type of mechanical issue with your bike. It is inevitable!

Even if you are the luckiest person in the world, at some point it makes sense to learn a little about bicycle maintenance so you can fix the problem yourself instead of being stranded on the side of the road.

This guide to solving bicycle issues pulls together some of the blog posts and how to guides I've written over the years. Whether you need to fix a flat tire or can't get your bike pump to work, the most common problems with bikes are covered here.

Related: Best Bicycle Maintenance Tool Kit For Home

Common Bike Problems

1. Flat Tires and Punctures

The most common bike issue by far is a flat tire. You can get a flat from riding over glass, nails, or other sharp objects, or simply from the air inside your tire escaping through tiny holes in the rubber.

Luckily, fixing a flat is usually pretty easy as long as you have the right tools. All you need is a puncture repair kit or new inner tube, a tire lever, and a decent bike pump up your tire. 

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2. Bike is hard to pedal

If your bike is suddenly hard to pedal, there are a few potential causes. The first thing to check is that your wheels are going around properly. If they are rubbing against the brake pads or even the bike frame, that will make pedaling very difficult.

Take a look at this guide to diagnosing why your bike is hard to pedal for more details.

3. Broken Chain

If your chain snaps while you are riding, it can be a real pain to fix. It's happened to me when cycling in Turkey – of course in the middle of nowhere!

Many cyclists take a chain tool or bike multi-tool with them, along with extra links or a master link on rides as they don't take up too much space.

There are a few things that can cause a chain to snap including shifting into a higher gear when the chain is already under too much tension.

4. Skipping chain

When you are pedaling and the chain suddenly starts skipping, it is usually because it has come loose. This can be caused by a number of things including an incorrectly installed chain, a broken chain link, or even a damaged cogset.

If your chain is skipping, the first thing to do is stop pedaling and inspect the chain to see if there are any broken links. The chances are, that you will need to get a new chain at some point, and you might also need to replace the cassette of your bike if the teeth are damaged.

Related: Why is my bicycle chain falling off?

5. Bike won't shift gears

If your bike suddenly won't shift gears, there are a few potential causes. The most common one is that the chain has come off of the front or rear derailleur. This can be caused by trying to shift into a gear that is too high or low.

Another potential cause is that the derailleur itself has become bent or damaged and is no longer able to move the chain properly. This usually happens after a crash, but can also be caused by shifting gears too aggressively.

You might also be experiencing problems with your bike shifting gears if the cable that controls the derailleur is damaged or has come loose. This is a fairly easy fix, but you will need to have some basic bike maintenance skills.

6. Squeaky Brakes

Both disc brakes and rim brakes can squeak and squeal from time to time. With rim brakes, it could be the angle of the brake pads that is causing the squeaking noise, or perhaps some grit stuck behind a brake pad. You can also find that brand new brake pads squeak as well when they touch the wheel rim, but that they get quieter in time.

With disc brakes, it is usually either the pads or the rotors that are causing the noise. If you have aftermarket disc brakes, it might be worth investigating whether you can get different brake pads that will work better with your current system.

Related: Disc brakes vs rim brakes

7. Broken Spokes

If you ride your bike long enough, eventually you will break a spoke. This is usually caused by riding over a pothole or hitting a curb, but it can also be caused by simply putting too much weight on the bike.

If you have a broken spoke, it is important to fix it as soon as possible as it can cause the wheel to become warped and make riding very difficult.

Wheel trueing is a bit of an art form, but it is something that you can learn to do yourself with a little practice. I met these guys when cycling in Peru who taught me a couple of things about building wheels for bicycles!

Related: Why does my bike wheel wobble?

I met these guys in Peru who built wheels for bicycles very quickly!

8. Bike Pump Won't Work

If you try to pump up your bike tires and the pump doesn't seem to be working, there are a few potential causes. The first thing to check is that the valve on your tire is open all the way. If it is only partially open, air will not be able to flow into the tire.

Related: Presta and Schrader valves

Another potential problem is that the pump itself is damaged or has a leak. It could be as simple as replacing an O ring. Take a look at this guide for more details: Why is my bicycle pump not pumping?

9. Bottom Bracket Issues

If you are hearing a creaking noise coming from your bottom bracket, it is likely that you are going to have to do a little bicycle maintenance! Some people choose to do this themselves, but it could be a case of making a trip to a local bike shop.

10. Rear Pannier Rack Wobbling

If you have a rack on your bicycle to attach panniers to and start to notice that it is wobbling, stop riding, and take a closer look.

The most common cause is that the bolts which attach the rack to the bike frame have come loose. In extreme circumstances, the rack may have snapped – they normally do this near the fixing points as I found out in the middle of the desert in Sudan one day!

Rack repair cycling in Sudan

Find out more by reading: Why is my rear bike rack wobbling

11. Rusting Bicycle

The best way to stop a bicycle from rusting, is to not let it get in that condition in the first place! If you are preparing to store your bicycle for the winter, and particularly if you plan to keep your bike outside, take a look at this guide: How to stop a bike rusting when stored outside

12. Replacing Oil In Rohloff Hub

If you ride a bike which has a Rohloff hub, you will need to periodically drain the old oil out of the hub and put in some new oil. This is quite an easy process, and you can find step by step instructions here: How to change oil in a Rohloff hub


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