Support Healthy Transportation: Host a Bike Repair Day at Church

July 8, 2010


[Ed. note: This article is part of our series of weekly church activities, Cultivating Community, published on Thursdays]

Boy on a bike with no pedals.

Missing something? Might be time for some bike repair... (cc image courtesty Daniel2005 via flickr)

It’s summertime, when the bicycle is the preferred seasonal mode of transportation. But getting on a bike this summer means a lot more than a day of fun with the wind in your face. If more Americans substituted bike-riding for car-driving, our obesity epidemic would shrink, our air would be cleaner, our roads would be safer, and, eventually, our entire roadway infrastructure would shift to make bike-riding safer and easier for everyone.

So getting on a bike more often is obviously an important step toward making these changes, but so is supporting other cyclists and a culture that is more conducive to cycling. One way to show such support is by hosting a free bike repair day at your church. We all know the adage that getting back into something after a hiatus is like getting back on a bike, and it’s true: bike-riding comes naturally. But bike upkeep doesn’t. Many casual cyclists don’t know the mechanics and required upkeep of their bikes, and will be happy to have your church community serve them with some free advice and maintenance. Even experienced bikers will be happy to stop by for a free tune-up.

Here’s how to get started supporting a clean, healthy, and fun way to move through this summer’s heat:

Ahead of Time

  • Date and place: Set aside a large, open space on your church’s property (a churchyard or parking lot would be best) to accommodate the bicycles. Establish a date far enough in advance so that you can thoroughly spread the word about the event. A Saturday or a weekday holiday is the time when you will attract the largest number of cyclists.
  • Advertise: Distribute flyers to local parks, community centers, athletic stores, and public and online forums to get the word out to a wide cycling audience. Also announce the event at church, encouraging members to bring their own bikes to be serviced, and educating your congregation on why cycling is a healthy activity for both people and planet.
  • Gather volunteers: Through announcements at church or via a group of church members who regularly bike to service, recruit volunteers to help with the bike repair day. Most bike repair and clean-up skills can be easily learned, so this is a good event for youth groups to get involved in, but you may also want to intentionally recruit some handier church members who are familiar with simple tools like wrenches and screw drivers.

Tools of the Trade
Below is a list of recommended tools to have handy at your church’s bike repair day, but what you choose to use depends on the extent of cleaning and maintenance you intend to offer. Not all of these tools may be necessary for the services you’d like to provide:

  • Dish soap, water, and old rags and sponges
  • Chain oil
  • Lubricant
  • Degreaser
  • Air pump
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Allen wrenches
  • Open-end wrenches
  • Hex keys
  • Crescent wrenches
  • Screwdrivers (normal and Phillips)
  • Spoke wrench
  • Chain wear indicator
  • Old toothbrushes
  • Tire tubes and patch kits

Tune Up
The following is a selection of common bike maintenance services you may wish to provide to cyclists. For more

Close-up of a bike seat and tire

Take a close look at the bikes to see if they need any repairing. (cc image courtesy A Long, Lone Run via flickr)

detailed instructions on how to conduct these repairs, visit

  • Comprehensive Check Up: Make sure brakes respond quickly and aren’t worn; check the body of the bike for cracks; tighten the headset if it is loose; ensure that pedals move freely and that the chain is aligned; inspect all cables on the bike for any fraying; and make sure that the seat is properly adjusted for the rider’s height and does not wiggle or rotate.
  • Cleaning: With the dish soap and an old sponge, apply soapy water to the bike in the same way you would a car, using the old toothbrush to scrub out the nooks and crannies. Rinse the bike with warm water on a sponge or spray it gently with a hose.
  • Lubricating: Greasing the chain and sprockets of a bike is the most essential lubrication needed, but also check brake levers, front and rear derailleurs, and the brake pivots and cantilevers that hug the tires during braking. Lubricate the chain, gears, and hubs of the bike especially well after washing it.
  • Fixing Wheels and Tires: The front wheel should be soundless as you spin it and both tires should be relatively stable, without too much wiggling from side to side or rubbing against the brake pads. With your thumb and finger, test the spokes of the wheels to make sure they are evenly tensioned. Inspect the treads of the tires and remove any debris from the crevices. Inflate tires to their proper pressure, and fix any flats with a patch kit or a new tube, depending on the extent of the damage.
  • Assign particular jobs to different people or groups of people, assembly line-style, so that people can master their particular job and bikes can cycle through the tune-up quickly.

Create a brief information card to hand out to cyclists who show up. On this card you can list some basic instructions for bike care and some statistics about the benefits of cycling to inform cyclists and inspire them to keep going.

Related Posts at Flourish

Bike to Church Day

Extending the Front Porch: Four Steps to Becoming a Bike-Friendly Church

Further Reading

Complete Bike Maintenance by Fred Milson – A comprehensive, accessible bike repair guide that may be worth purchasing to have instructions available on the day of the event and for future bike repair days. – A helpful selection of online bike maintenance and repair video tutorials.

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