Kyle demonstrates to Orlando Sentinel Repair stands



They look like durable robots or metal servants and they are popping up on trails across Central Florida, providing personal service for bicycle adventuring.

They are do-it-yourself bike-repair stations, standing at attention at 5 feet tall with a pair of 18-inch, parallel arms at the top and a sidekick at their heels. Tethered from about neck high are screwdrivers, wrenches, tire tools and more.


Don't disregard the sidekick; it's a sturdy and easily usable tire pump.

Ken Gimblet of Winter Park has been progressively building his daily mileage, making short work of some diabetes and heart worries, and came across one of the stations on Cady Way Trail.

"I thought 'Man, that's a freaking cool idea,'" said Gimblet, 47. "I wish there were more of them."

They have already appeared at Kissimmee's Lakefront Park, Volusia County's East Central Regional Rail Trail and at a lot of trail spots in Seminole County and Orlando.

There will be more. Cities and counties want to grow their trail reputations as likable and rideable. There is a national grading system for local governments and repair stations — costing about $1,000 each — can raise the score.

Think of them as freedom from not having to fear a loose pedal on your 6-year-old's discount bike, a squishy tire on your wife's quality cruiser, or a chain that keeps falling off your rode-hard hybrid.

Or as in Gimblet's case, there's the loose seat that was a pain for his own seat for a few miles.

"Who thinks about bringing tools?" Gimblet asked.

What you'll see

Each station is painted black, about as big around as a big guy's leg and is bolted sturdily to a concrete pad. "You could hang on it," said Orlando city planner Ian Sikonia, who is in charge of the city's stations.

The parallel bars that stick out at the top and have rubber padding at their ends is where you hang your bike.
The pump's braided-steel hose is 3 feet long. Tools — including multiple types of wrenches and screwdrivers, plus a pair of tire levers — are tethered on steel cables 30 inches long.

A decal on the repair station displays a QR code to access the manufacturer's video lessons for how to fix common bike troubles. Or, go to dero.com/bike-repair/

Where to find the stations

The fix-it-yourself stops are becoming popular and are on many wish lists, including for the West Orange Trail from Winter Garden to Apopka.

Here are locations now:

In Orlando: Cady Way Trail near Herndon Avenue; Orlando Urban Trail near Ferris Avenue and Lake Highland Drive; east end of Lake Underhill Path near boat ramp; and the city parking garage behind City Hall, downtown.

In Seminole County: Seminole Wekiva Trail at Jones and Markham trailheads, and Cross Seminole Trail at Big Tree Park and Black Hammock Trailhead.

In Volusia County: East Central Regional Rail Trail near Garfield Road.

In Kissimmee: Lakefront Park, one near Big Toho Marina and another near the World War II memorial. 

Tips for technique

For real-world suggestions, the Orlando Sentinel enlisted veteran bike guys.

Derek Grant started as a bike mechanic 10 years ago and has worked at Performance Bicycle in Winter Park while studying to be a luxury-car mechanic. Meeting on Cady Way Trail, he rode a "fitness road bike," which isn't a full-on street bike but is fast and durable on Orlando brick streets.

Problem: Chain falls off front gears or rattles noisily on rear gears during attempts to shift to a lower gear. 

Reason: Steel cable may have stretched with use, leaving front or rear derailleurs out of adjustment. 

Solution: Hoist your bike onto the padded arms of the repair stand.

To adjust the front derailleur, the mechanism that pushes the chain from gear to gear, use a Phillips screwdriver to tighten or loosen screws on top of the derailleur.

The idea is to adjust the derailleur guides, or cage, to remain in line with the gears. Typically, the inner screw needs attention, with one or two clockwise turns to prevent the derailleur from pushing the chain off the gear.
Spin pedals and shift gears to check results.

For the rear derailleur, you probably need only to finger twist the cable's barrel nut. Typically, you'll need to turn it counter-clockwise a turn or two to tighten the cable so the derailleur is able to push the chain up onto a larger, lower gear.

John Salmons has been manager at Orange Cycle in College Park since 2005. He completed his first 100-mile "century" ride when a teenager. He arrived at Orlando's Urban Trail, riding what he calls a "city bike," a hybrid between a road and mountain bike, with eight-speed gearing inside its the rear hub.

Problem: A tire low on air pressure.

Reason: Perhaps you haven't been riding for awhile and didn't notice.

Solution: The repair station pumps don't have pressure gauges. Salmons recommends a "high-tech" thumb test, or pushing your thumb into the middle of the tire to see if it gives much.

The pumps have "smart heads," meaning they fit both kinds of valves on bikes. Carefully push the head straight onto valve, lift the head's lever so that it points away from the valve.

Pump until the tire is firm, but don't overdo it and blow up your tire with the robust pump. Push the lever down and carefully pull the valve straight off. "If you yank on it when it's crooked, you can pull the valve stem off the tube," he said.

Kyle Markel opened Kyle's Bike Shop in Orlando in 2006. His first job was in a bike shop when he was 15. He has raced all kinds of bikes and competes in triathlons. To meet at Lake Underhill Path, he grabbed a rental mountain bike (you get to do that when you own the store).

Problem: Flat tire, like he had. "It's weird. I can go two months without a flat and then get two flats in a day," he said.

Reason: Pinched tube or something like a piece of glass punctured the tire.

Solution: This depends on bringing a patch kit or spare tube.

Remove wheel. Bleed off any remaining air. Use a tire tool with its hook upward to grab the lip, or bead of a tire, and slide the tool along the rim. Bigger tires of mountain or hybrid bikes should come off without much fuss.

Look and carefully feel the inside of the tire for anything pointy, such as thorn or piece of glass.

Put a couple of shots of air into the new or repaired tube to give it some shape. Tuck the tube into the tire. Work one bead, then the other bead onto the rim, using a tire tool with its hook facing down toward the rim. 

Markel did this in about 30 seconds and didn't seem to watch while he worked. It may take longer for the rest of us.