How to fix an ofo dockless bicycle (and others!)
You can throw away your conventional wrenches for this one.
Many charities, advocates, and individuals have wound up with these yellow machines, but few bike shops are willing to work on them in the rare cases when they do need maintenance.
As donated dockless bikes are now a lot more common than when this article was written in 2018, shops mistaking retired bikes for stolen bikes has become much less of a hurdle. However, many bike shops aren’t actually familiar with the specific tools required to repair these bikes, while a few have been fed misleading stories about problematic front brakes – likely relating to the story of Bafang hubs with Shimano roller brakes – and other tall tales.
As such, we’ve complied this tool guide based on the ofos here at the Museum. This should cover a great deal of examples deployed in the United States, and some of the UK models. Additionally, while the fittings may show up in different locations, the specialized tools here will also fit Spin Gen 3’s, some Veorides, Mobikes, and some other basic pedal bike share bikes.
Please note that we earn a small commission as Amazon and AliExpress affiliates from purchases made through the following links. This helps to support our expense of hosting the website, maintaining our bikes, and shipping retired bikes to the Museum.
Two oddball tools you will need:
The three-point bits on the left were developed specifically for dockless bicycles. They’re usually used on stem expanders, seatpost clamps, and saddle clamps. They’re essential to have if only for stem adjustments; putting the necessary torque on that particular bolt is impossible any other way.
The five-point penta bits are commonly found on pedals and crank bolts. Depending on which bike you have, you may not necessarily need them, but check to be sure.
You can get the three-point bits here, and the penta bits here.
The two less-oddball tool kits you need:
I have yet to find any dockless bicycle that doesn’t have 6-point Torx security bits on it. Not a day goes by where I’m not using either the T25 or T30 bits from these sets. They’re essential, as are the larger bits to reinstall kickstands – usually T45s.
Occasionally, you may come across pedals that require security hex bits. The set above is affordable and effective.
If you find yourself in need of a 5-point Torx security set, they’re available too.
Most, if not all ofos use 5-point pentagon-shaped nuts to hold the wheels to the dropouts. The closest tool to use for proper servicing is a 12mm (sometimes listed as 12.5mm) penta socket designed to fit Nissan fuel pumps.
Fenders and accessories:
Almost all the secondary fittings on an ofo – primarily the fenders, front rack, and chainguard – use the aforementioned 6-point Torx T25 and T30 security bits.
All ofos use conventional, JIS square-taper crankarms and sealed bottom brackets, but the crankarms are held on with special crank bolts. Our Tianjin Fuji-Ta ofo from Dallas uses 8mm hex security bits, while our Shanghai General ofo uses the 5-point penta head with a security pin. These tools are in the sets mentioned above.
You won’t find wrench flats on these. Most pedals are installed with 6mm hex security bits accessed from the reverse side of the crankarm, but some bikes, like Spin Gen 3, will have security penta sockets.
These are particularly difficult to remove, as the torque necessary to remove threads coated in Loctite 242 can be quite a lot for a simple hex bit. I have broken one before.
Handlebar stems, saddle adjustment, and seatpost clamps:
This fitting looks like a tri-wing, but will not accept any tri-wing bit (though a Torx can be shoved in – not recommended, and especially not for torquing down). These bolts will only work properly with the bike-share specific, three-point bits linked above.
To access the bolt on the an one-piece ofo handlebar/stem unit, carefully pry up the circular yellow cap.
Keep in mind that on some ofos, the handlebar/stem unit is swedged. I’ve come across one case of a handlebar that was loose and spun on its quill, leading me to believe the quill expander bolt had not been tightened enough. If you can’t seem to lock down the bars no matter what, check to see if the bars are spinning on the neck.
Can be either Torx T30 security or 5mm hex depending on model and batch.
Band, drum or roller brake adjustment:
Nothing special here. Service like any other band brake or Sturmey-Archer drum brake.
Note that band brakes tend to perform pretty poorly unless the band is set to be nearly touching the drum surface. However, they’re imprecise enough that they’ll likely rub the surface slightly in one spot. Believe it or not, this causes a fair amount of friction – enough to make the bike a bit exhausting to ride.
In experimenting with Karasawa band brakes specifically, I’ve found that they work surprisingly well if retrofitted with a linear pull/V-brake brake lever, like these:
You have to set it up carefully or you’ll risk locking up your front wheel, but you’ll be able to loosen the band a lot more at rest, and the lever will take up the slack. Easily.
All ofos use a standard 1-1/8” threaded headset. Pull the cone cap upwards on the stem and you’ll see the conventional headset locknut and upper raceway. Service as you would any other headset of the same design.
Tires are solid rubber. Solid rubber tires are usually installed by pre-softening them in hot water, but removal can be done one of two ways:
1. Destructively: Cut it off like this picture.
2. Non-destructively: Clamp the tire in a vise (use soft jaws to prevent marking the tire), and pull the wheel towards you until the tire unseats from the bead. Repeat until you can roll the tire off the rim.
Please note that the rims are conventional, with hooked beads. You can drill the rim for a valve and install a normal 26″ (ISO 559) tire and tube, if you wish.
Keep in mind that the solid Wanda (marked “WD”) tires on LimeBikes and ofos are extremely heavy, weighing 3.42 pounds each (!). The solid H2 Drogen tires used on Spin Gen 3’s weigh significantly less, at 1.54 pounds each. Converting to tubes isn’t a bad option for daily commuting.
Secured with penta lobe sockets as noted above. Rear hub cable and shifting assemblies are accessible by removing the Torx security bits that hold the scuff guard. Service as you would any other Shimano Nexus or Sturmey-Archer hub.
Kickstands are sometimes fitted to the rear of the chainstay with security Torx bits.
When they’re not, you’ll find a huge Torx T45 security bit holding the center-mounted kickstand to the chainstay bridge.
If your donated bikes are locked or beeping beyond human tolerance, and if you don’t want to drill out the factory rivets, the lock can be disassembled non-destructively by removing the six tri-wing screws recessed in the back of the lock assembly. These take Y0 or Y1 sized bits, available in this set.
The lower screws may be slightly difficult to access on the Shanghai General-built ofos, but you should be able to loosen them using a low-profile mini/micro ratchet wrench that uses hex bits. MulWark, Riddle Star, and many other fly-by-night brands offer these tools.
Note that the wheel lock will retract immediately when the top shell of the assembly is lifted off its base. However, when reassembled, the locking pin on the separate GPS/3G assembly could allow someone to re-lock the unit. The pin is part of a motor-operated assembly in the GPS unit and can be removed by opening the unit with Phillips screws. Remove the PCB and motor assembly to gain access to the pin, and carefully remove it from its rubber boot.