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  1. #1
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    Touring - How good of a bike mechanic should I be

    I'm planning on doing a few 5-7 day trips this summer on a Bianchi Volpe. I can repair and patch a flat. I can also fix my brakes to certain degree.

    How much more should I learn before I head out? What is the best way to practice bike repair and get ready for whatever could go wrong?

  2. #2
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    You might take an intro to bicycle maintenance course put on by your local LBS, college/university, REI/MEC, or cycle-touring club.

    A course like that should run through the basics.

  3. #3
    vintage tourer
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    on a 1 week tour, fixing a flat is your most likely problem.

    if you can replace a cable, get your chain out from between the rear cluster and spokes, and adjust your derailleur, you'll be looking pretty good.

    if you can also replace a spoke or two and get the wheel true enough to ride to the next bike shop, you'll pretty much have all the bases covered.

  4. #4
    Macro Geek
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    Quote Originally Posted by macaroni steve
    I'm planning on doing a few 5-7 day trips this summer on a Bianchi Volpe. I can repair and patch a flat. I can also fix my brakes to certain degree.
    My mechanical skills are on par with yours, and I have had many tours lasting one to two weeks. I have been fine, and probably, so will you. Just restrict your route to be close to bike shops.

    On a tour through Switzerland, I had a squeak I could not figure out, so I pulled into a bicycle shop in a small town. Two hotshot mechanics tried the bike, put it on the stand, did a careful inspection, and finally, disassembled and relubed the bottom bracket. The squeak persisted. Finally, after much headscratching, one of the mechanics noticed that the rear wheel was grazing the fender at the exact spot that was hardest to see! After that, it was a 30 second repair.

  5. #5
    Bike touring webrarian
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    In an attempt to stop flats, I had a kevlar insert put between my tube and tire. I haven't had a flat in over a year. I wore out my back tire without ever getting a flat on it! I've been on two tours (400 and 800 miles) and still no flats.

    As for what you need to know, I think you should know where every adjustment is on the bike. On my bike, there are screw adjustments on one side of each brake caliper and on each brake cable, both shift cables, and the derailluer. Simply going to your LBS and asking to see them and how they work should be enough to get to know about them.

    I think it is also a good idea to know how to put a chain back together. While I've never had a chain break on a tour, I have had one break on a local ride. Also, make sure your chain is in good repair and hasn't stretched too far (an LBS has a special tool to test this). Oil your chain every other day while on tour.

    Be sure to carry extra nuts and bolts that fit the various pieces you've attached to your bike, like the fenders and the racks. Also, you need to check/tighten all those bolts every day, if you can remember. If you don't, you will eventually shake loose a bolt (most likely from one of your racks) and then it is hard to carry the weight and it will rattle horribly.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Michigander's Avatar
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    Anything can go wrong, and often it does. The more you know the better off you are.

    I certainly need no help fixing bikes, but so I can reccomend it to others, can anybody tell me of a good quality bike repair book?
    Bring back the Sig Test!


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  7. #7
    'Mizer Cats are INSANE Mentor58's Avatar
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    Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maint. is probably the most user friendly, helpful and 'chock full of good info' book out there IMHO. I've also made a binder of printed out pages from the Park Tools and Sheldon Brown sites for my own reference.

    As for road side repairs. I made sure that all of the repairs that I envisioned doing could actually be accomplished with the tools I had on the bike, not the tools in the big tool box at home. I found that my multi-tool allen wrench couldn't reach one of the allen head bolts that secure my rack, so I make sure to pack an allen wrench that does fit. (hint, I painted my day-glow orange for when it gets dropped) I also discovered that if you use SRAM powerlinks (great invention), it's not a bad idea to pack an extra one. They do tend to disappear when they slip from your tired greasy sweaty fingers into the grass. An extra piece of coathanger type wire bent into a wide "U" shape is great for holding both ends of the chain and giving you some slack to work with

    Hope this helps.

    Steve W
    *Surly LHT ... Slow and Steady, *Motobecane Century Pro ... Better than Me
    *Bianchi Volpe ... Well, just 'cuz , Fuji Track SS / Fixie ... Mustache bars and a big grin
    Rans F5
    Easy Racers Tour Easy
    * Now that I'm 'Bent, I will probably unload all but the Fixie.

  8. #8
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mentor58
    I found that my multi-tool allen wrench couldn't reach one of the allen head bolts that secure my rack, so I make sure to pack an allen wrench that does fit. (hint, I painted my day-glow orange for when it gets dropped)
    Ever try to find a screw on the side of the road in the dark? Maybe paint the bolt heads with reflective paint. Something to consider...

  9. #9
    'Mizer Cats are INSANE Mentor58's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by supcom
    Ever try to find a screw on the side of the road in the dark? Maybe paint the bolt heads with reflective paint. Something to consider...
    That's one of the reasons that I include a small tin of various sized nuts, bolts, washers, etc in the bag. For those times you hear it drop, bounce once, twice and then that horrible dead silence that suggests the errant part got swallowed by a tiny black hole. ARGH I hate that feeling.

    Steve W.
    Who doesn't want to talk about the time that a small but very important piece launched itself from the partially disassembled M-16 ***** in a place he really wanted it to be workable.
    *Surly LHT ... Slow and Steady, *Motobecane Century Pro ... Better than Me
    *Bianchi Volpe ... Well, just 'cuz , Fuji Track SS / Fixie ... Mustache bars and a big grin
    Rans F5
    Easy Racers Tour Easy
    * Now that I'm 'Bent, I will probably unload all but the Fixie.

  10. #10
    Macro Geek
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    Despite the fact that I have minimal mechanical survival skills, I am quite careful about the tools and parts I bring on tour. My main criterion is that I brign tools that I know that I can use. So I do not carry cone wrenches, for example, because that job is a bit beyond my comfort level and mechanical ability. I am not a fan of multi-tools. I have sold several at garage sales simply because I found them too awkward to handle.

    I carry a zip-lock bag full of little bolts, washers, screws, and various odd pieces that MIGHT come in handy if I am forced to improvise by the side of the road. I have plucked something from the bag on more than one occasion, and then thanked my lucky stars that I had the piece.

  11. #11
    You know you want to. Eatadonut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mentor58
    Steve W.
    Who doesn't want to talk about the time that a small but very important piece launched itself from the partially disassembled M-16 ***** in a place he really wanted it to be workable.



    +1 for Zinn. Slip that sucker in your panniers, and you should be able to bumble your way through just about any repair you would be likely to do by the side of the road, at least well enough to get you to a bike shop.
    Weather today: Hot. Humid. Potholes.

  12. #12
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    Bikes are really simple, the only part that isn't drop dead obvious is the rear deraileur, mainly because it looks complicated. One thing you will run into with new parts on tour is cable stretch and crank loosening squeaks (old style BB). The former requires that you know how to compensate with barrel nut adjusters, or cable adjustments, and the latter is mostly a mater of pulling and lubbing and re-installing the cranks, seems to hit about the 500 mile mark.

    Wheels are pretty devious, learn to deal with a spoke on the sprocket side. You don't need to be able to remove the sprocket if you prepare for the task in advance. Well built wheels, or well broken in wheels that run true at the loads you expect, should be relatively maintenance free. For on-road touring, if you don't punish your bike, your wheels should be fine.

    The bike has 4 bearings that use some form of tightening locknut to keep spindles in place. Hubs, BB, and headset. The basic approach is the same for all, just tighten down the lock nuts until there isn't any play, and yet all freedom of spin is still there. Lateral movement of the spindle checks the former, and spinning the latter. Cones are just like a two sided threaded headset, tighten the first nut snug, then work the two nuts together until they are tight, check as above.

    Maybe each day or so you should have a look at a system in turn and figure out how it works. I wouldn't go to a comunity college course unless I was trying to pick up chicks, or they had a Bridgeport mill I could use. When it comes to the tour, bring every tool you need to adjust anything on your actual bike, that you figure is likely to fail, and that you can fix.

  13. #13
    'Mizer Cats are INSANE Mentor58's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterpan1

    The bike has 4 bearings that use some form of tightening locknut to keep spindles in place. Hubs, BB, and headset. The basic approach is the same for all, just tighten down the lock nuts until there isn't any play, and yet all freedom of spin is still there. Lateral movement of the spindle checks the former, and spinning the latter. Cones are just like a two sided threaded headset, tighten the first nut snug, then work the two nuts together until they are tight, check as above.
    I have to raise an exception on your directions on adjusting wheel bearings, your technique will result in them being too tight in practice (if the bike uses quick releases). Wheel bearings need to be adjusted with just a touch of lateral play left in them OFF the bike, and the compression of t axle by the QR puts them into final adjustment. I set them with just a 'tich' of lateral play on the axle off the bike, and then check once the wheel is mounted that there is no lateral play by grabbing the rim and giving it a tug lside to side. If I feel any movement, I tighten the cones just a tiny fraction of a turn, check again. Can usually get it by the 2nd adjustment.

    Steve W
    *Surly LHT ... Slow and Steady, *Motobecane Century Pro ... Better than Me
    *Bianchi Volpe ... Well, just 'cuz , Fuji Track SS / Fixie ... Mustache bars and a big grin
    Rans F5
    Easy Racers Tour Easy
    * Now that I'm 'Bent, I will probably unload all but the Fixie.

  14. #14
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    Sounds good. What one online tutorial describes as "You're aiming for the tiniest, tiniest amount of play".

    I guess it depends on how hard you crank the QRs. I don't crank them down all that hard. Just changed over to bolt on skewers, and I have no idea how hard those are installed, comparatively, when I have cranked them down.

  15. #15
    Senior Member toolboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by macaroni steve
    How much more should I learn before I head out? What is the best way to practice bike repair and get ready for whatever could go wrong?
    Find a friend who is really good at repair and invite him along on all your trips! Tell him in return for repairs you will carry the endless supply of your famous macaroni!

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