Replace or Repair? Sorting the Pile.

The changing of the seasons is a perfect time to take stock of what you own, fill in any gaps, toss out anything that’s beyond hope and donate what you haven’t worn in years.

Besides the donate pile, I also have a pile of things in need of repair – both summer clothes I won’t wear again until July (sad!), and the cold/wet weather clothes I haven’t gotten around to fixing yet: a pile full of broken straps, holes, busted seams and frayed hems.


What’s Worth Repairing?

How do you know what’s salvageable and what gets relegated to the scrap pile? If the garment is still structurally sound, it’s probably worth a shot, especially if it’s a high quality item you paid top dollar for. Minor problems like popped stitching in the seams, missing buttons, broken zippers, small holes and tears are definitely fixable.

Take a look at the fabric – is it still in good condition? For technical gear like cycling shorts and jerseys, you want your fabric to have good elasticity, and good recovery (which means that the fabric will spring back into place when it’s stretched out). Regular wear and tear, cleaning solutions and UV rays can all damage tech fabrics. If your garment has lost its elasticity, it’s time to buy a new one. Once the elasticity starts to go, it’s a quick slope downward to complete failure where it won’t bounce back into place at all. And you certainly don’t want this happening while you’re out riding a long day.


DIY fixes

The good news is that a lot of problems can be repaired easily on your own.

Buttons are pretty straightforward – and if you can’t find a perfect match at your local sewing store, you can use the opportunity to replace the whole set with something fun or more appealing.

Popped seams are another easy fix, if you have access to a sewing machine, that is. If not, you can buy double-sided heat-fusible tape or Stitch Witchery at your local fabric store. Follow the instructions on the package and you’ll end up with a passable fix. If you’re using a sewing machine, be sure to use a stretch stitch or a zigzag the keep the seams from popping again when it stretches. Small popped seams can be hand stitched. The key is to attend to them while they’re small. A popped seam quickly becomes a big mess once a little pressure is on those failed stitches.

Repair small holes by making a star pattern over them with a needle and thread to stitch them shut. In some fabrics this may be totally invisible, although in smooth tech fabrics it will be tough for even the most skilled sewist to make the repair unnoticeable. Be sure to attend to those small holes while they’re tiny – or they’ll quickly become a gaping hole that requires a patch.

For larger holes, you can buy iron-on patches from a fabric store. Or, make a patch out of a garment you’re going to throw out, and use a zigzag stitch on a sewing machine to apply it.

Zippers can be a bit trickier if you don’t have sewing experience. Specialty Outdoors, a Spokane-based gear repair company, has a great post that points out common zipper problems, and helps you figure out whether it’s repairable or not. You can find more overall info on sewing outdoors gear on on Specialty Outdoors’ website

Wool cycling jerseys develop holes over time, either because of wear and tear or being washed in harsh detergents. Patching holes in merino wool is fairly simple – I wrote a tutorial on my blog explaining the two ways that I repair my own jerseys.

Separated soles on cycling shoes can be repaired with Shoe Goo. Clamp the sole in place for several hours, or use zip ties to secure it while it dries.


Time to call in the experts

One thing to think about before repairing gear is how much longer you intend to have it. Will the cost of repair be comparable to the cost of a replacement? Or maybe that doesn’t matter to you because you place higher value on the fact that you’re keeping something repairable out of the landfill. Or maybe you just love the piece so much that you’re willing to spend the cash to keep it around (like me and my favorite cycling accessory, a pair of silver 14-hole Dr. Martens).

Most items can be repaired at your local cobbler or alteration shop, but if you’re bringing in something specialized you’ll want to check with them first to make sure they have experience with technical fabrics.

There are a few shops in the Northwest that specialize in specialty outdoors gear repair, all of which take repairs via mail order:

Mountain Soles (Portland): Specializing in footwear and snowshoe repairs, Mountain Soles also repairs outerwear and cycling apparel. They offer patching services to repair crash damage on Lycra shorts and jerseys.

Rainy Pass Repair (Seattle): Alterations and repairs – everything from down relofting to repairing rain jackets and adding doors to tents.

Specialty Outdoors (Spokane): Focuses on repairs of outdoors gear. The site is a treasure trove of information for those interested in sewing their own activewear and outdoors gear.

How Do You Fix?

What are your favorite DIY fixes for your cycling gear? Tell us in the comments!

Jessie Kwak is a writer who loves to type about the good life: travel, outdoor adventures, food and drink, and (of course) cycling. You can find her at Bictoro: Bikes and Crafts. She’s just published her first ebook: Crafting with Inner Tubes.

How do you stay warm and dry on your bike all winter long? We’re running an extensive series of articles with everyday cycling tips to help you #KeepRiding no matter what the elements throw our way. You can read the entire series here and follow us on Twitter and Instagram for even more cool ideas. Hash tag your posts #KeepRiding and inspire more people to ride their bikes this winter.

14 thoughts on “Replace or Repair? Sorting the Pile.”

  1. I’ll admit it – I darn my socks, just like I’d make my granny proud. My heels wear out and I don’t do anything about bike socks (which are usually cheap and or free) but for wool nicer socks, I want to keep them for a few seasons. I wish they were made better, so in the meantime I stitch up the holes and try to get another season out of them. And I usually watch a show while I darn the pile, so it’s not a big deal. Except for the fact that I’m a guy – what guy darns his socks? THIS GUY!

  2. I recently used Iron Mend, which is an iron on repair fabric for neoprene to fix some small holes in bike short and tights. Found the suggestion for using it on lycra to avoid damaging the fabric and gave it a try. It worked great and can be ordered on-line for about $12.

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