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Subject: Working on a Bicycle Upside-down
From: Jobst Brandt
Date: November 4, 1997

Should I continue to turn my bicycle upside-down to fix a flat, the way I learned it as a youth?

Nothing can be done to a bicycle upside-down that cannot be done better with it right-side-up, except to spin the rear wheel while hand cranking the pedals. In fact, that is what most children do when they haven't anything better to do with their bicycles. That is how I discovered that a bicycle wheel is not well balanced, because the bicycle began to hop when I cranked fast. I also found that this wore a hole in the saddle, and scratched the handlebars and grips to the dismay of my parents.

Many riders who have taken up the sport after years off the bicycle, recall only a few things from their earlier experience, and turning the bicycle upside-down seems to be one of them. I defy someone to show me how they can change a rear wheel easily on an upturned bicycle, be that with one speed or a derailleur. Even chain removal is more difficult on the inverted bicycle, but this should be apparent because no bicycle shop works on upside-down bicycles.

Beside the inconvenience, damage to the saddles, handle bars, and speedometers is expensive. Warranty claims for damaged speedometers with cracked LCD's and housings first brought this practice to my attention, the failures being unexplainable under normal use. The solution was to reinforce the speedometer's case so it could support the load of the bicycle.

The most common explanation for this practice is that there was no way to keep the bicycle from falling over during a tire change. Laying it on its side somehow doesn't seem right, so the bicycle is turned on its head. It might not look fallen over, but it is worse off.

Jobst Brandt

If a bicycle has drop bars and brake cables which arch upward, resting the bicycle upside down on the handlebars will damage the cable housings.

Brandt tells why not to turn a bicycle upside down, he doesn't mention how to work on one right-side up! Our article on quick-release wheels shows how to remove and replace wheels with the bicycle right-side up -- and the technique, along with a wrench, works on a bicycle with nutted hub axles too. If work requires spinning the wheels, place the bicycle on a workstand, hang the bicycle from a hook, or hang the nose of the saddle over a convenient tree branch. -- John Allen

Also see our articles on work stands and on quick-release wheels.

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More Articles by Jobst Brandt
Next: A Brief History of the Mountain Bike
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