Touring Tips: Roadside Repairs
Touring Tips: Roadside Repairs
On any long distance bike tour you are sure to find yourself in remote territory, far from any real signs of civilization and probably further from the nearest proper bike shop. With this in mind, if you aspire to take off on a serious self-supported tour, you should be sure that you have no idea how to fix any part of your bike. JUST KIDDING—the opposite is actually true!
We’ll start with the most important repairs and then go from there:
You’ll need: tire levers, a spare tube (and/or a patch kit), and an air pump (recommended) or CO2 inflator & cartridge.
For a long time now, the bike industry and the general public have recognized the merits of the pneumatic tire. The comfort and handling characteristics of air-filled tires (especially good ones!) are a big part of what makes bikes fun to ride. On the down side, over the course of thousands of miles, the occasional flat tire will be all but inevitable. And while a flat is one of the most typical maintenance issues that cyclists face, it is also one of the most debilitating—you simply cannot ride a bike on a flat tire (at least not comfortably, safely, and without doing serious damage to your wheels). So, yeah. You should really be sure that you can fix a flat before heading out on tour. Practice on your own bike in the comfort of home. Take your time. Repeat the process. Get good at it so that when you need to do it on the side of the road, it’s effortless; like second nature!
You’ll need: a chain tool (also found on some multi-tools) and maybe/probably a master link (or other compatible connector link).
Every once in a while, especially under heavy load (like when you’re riding up a steep hill, you animal!), your bicycle’s chain might quit on life. And while not nearly as common as a flat tire, a broken chain is just as sure to ruin an otherwise super bike tour. That is, unless you are able to fix it like a champ. If your chain breaks, you basically just have to remove the broken link and put the chain back together—using either a connector link or your trusty chain tool. While this is not super-hard, it is not super-easy, either. And the best way to get good at it is, of course, to not practice at all ever (JK again, it’s the opposite!). The preferred way to learn this repair is under the guidance of an experienced mechanic. I recommend the Ohio City Bicycle Co-op’s repair classes (www.ohiocitycycles .org). Or, if it’s an option, you can always just hang around with a friend who may happen to be an accomplished tinkerer and hope something wears off. Get the flat fix and chain repair on lock-down and you will be prepared to handle the most common types of catastrophic breakdown on the road.
TIER 2 MAINTENANCE
You’ll need: spare spokes (in the correct lengths!), spoke wrench (the correct size!), and a cassette lockring tool & chain whip (or cassette cracker-type tool like the one made by J.A. Stein).
This is a more technical roadside repair, but one that any truly self-sufficient cycle tourist should be able to pull off. Over long distances, on a heavily-loaded bike, your wheels’ spokes are put under a lot of stress and, from time-to-time, will (you guessed it) quit on life. Strictly speaking, you can ride for a while (ideally to the nearest bike shop) on a broken spoke, but, if possible, it is preferable not to do so. If you are able to replace a broken spoke while out on tour then you are basically awesome. Again, I recommend OCBC for learning principles of wheel repair.
You’ll need: allen wrenches (on your multi-tool, Sherlock!) and spare cables, both brake (the correct one!) and shifter.
Hopefully you won’t break a cable on the road, but hey, it happens. Many bike tourists bring spare cables, which, in the sad instance that cable breakage does occur, can come in very handy. Knowing how to run a new cable and carry out the ensuing brake or gear adjustment will make your life even better than it already is. Bonus tip: become adept at setting your brake pads in the correct place so you can re-adjust them after they’ve become worn on the ridiculous Alpine descent you inevitably just pulled off!
You’ll need: allen wrenches (and maybe a screwdriver if your bike/hardware is mad old-skool) and spare bolts.
It sounds goofy, but you want to make sure that everything on your bike is properly tightened down; not just at the beginning of your trip, but at various points along the way as well. The bolts that attach your accessories to your frame (racks, fenders, water bottle cages, etc) have a funny way of rattling themselves loose—especially at the ridiculously high speeds you’ll be achieving over bone-rattling washboard and gravel roads. If your fender loses a bolt and proceeds to rub your tire, that can be mad annoying. Same goes for a loose rack that sways to-and-fro because it’s not secured properly. So check your bolts from time to time and bring a couple extras JIC. CHECK YOUR BOLTS, YO.
That’s all for now and have fun out there on the road!