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  1. #1
    VWVagabonds.com Losligato's Avatar
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    What if you are in the middle of nowhere and...

    you have only your basic touring tool kit, and you...

    ...pop a few spokes on the drive side of the rear wheel -or-
    ...burst a large hole in your last tube
    ...split your rear brake cable
    ...break the support on your rear rack

    ...you get the idea.

    What I'm looking for is creative solutions people have used to fix common (and no so common) mechanical disasters in the middle of nowhere.
    www.VWVagabonds.com
    Mexico, Central America, South America & Africa in a Volkswagen

    By bicycle West Coast of the U.S., Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia

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  2. #2
    nm+
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    Curse loudly and use my thumb
    I'm boring and not mechanically inclined
    Breaking bike parts for more than 20 years
    Titus Racer-X AL/Trek 520 (Cracked)/Trek 930

  3. #3
    Senior Member Shemp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nm+
    Curse loudly and use my thumb
    I'm boring and not mechanically inclined
    Using your thumb doesn't usually lead to anything boring!

    There's only so much you can do with so little. I'd probably thumb it before I even pulled out the fiber fix spoke that's in my tool kit.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Rogerinchrist's Avatar
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    Check the "Tips & Tricks" sticky near the top of this forum. You'll get lots of ideas!

  5. #5
    Senior Member
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    Three years ago I broke my rear derailleur (blew apart the cage and lost pulley parts) on a hot day in Nowhere, Neb. So I looked around the small town of Hyannis for a junk store or Goodwill or anywhere I could find a junk bike to get the parts I needed for the repair. No luck. So I sucked it up, shortened the chain and rode my loaded touring bike to Arthur that afternoon, then on to Ogalalla the next day, where I found a guy that fixes bikes from his garage. He took what I needed from his wife's bike and put it on mine. But it meant riding 95 miles on a loaded touring bike in 100+ degrees. But that day the bike was ridable and I got to where I wanted to go.

    Another time I was riding a road bike near Truckee on a friend's loaner bike, when I got into some gravel and went down. I was OK, but the saddle broke (a rail came off the seat) so I was faced with sitting on the top of the seat post all the way back to Cisco Grove. So I took off my long sleeve shirt under my cycling shirt and wrapped it over the top of the seat post. Wasn't bad on the tush, really.

    There's more, but I can't remember right now.

  6. #6
    Senior Member
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    Use handlebar tape to hold bandages on.
    I use my socks (inside out) as rags for dirty hands.
    I bought a cheap plastic tarp and put it over the bike as a tent once.
    Nuts and bolts can be moved around to more important places, sacrifycing something else.

  7. #7
    nm+
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shemp
    Using your thumb doesn't usually lead to anything boring!

    There's only so much you can do with so little. I'd probably thumb it before I even pulled out the fiber fix spoke that's in my tool kit.
    I was picked up in North Dakota by a man with no hands (hooks) when I blew a drive side spoke 30mi from civilization at 5pm.
    He was pretty cool, a special ed teacher.
    Tourings less about riding the miles than adventure and that was a cool part of the adventure.
    Breaking bike parts for more than 20 years
    Titus Racer-X AL/Trek 520 (Cracked)/Trek 930

  8. #8
    aspiring wannabe hoogie's Avatar
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    must say that none of my bikes have ever let me down ...
    but have bodged up a few other folks bikes ...

    one person had a chainring that the teeth were so rounded that it slipped verytime you put on some power ... solution was to turn it around to get them to the next town and a bike store ...

    broken link on a chain that was so gunked up i was surprised it actually worked ... started to fix it then the hubby jumped and started shouting 'i know how to do it now' so i handed it over and stood back cringing ... i could have done it in 1/3rd of the time he took, but hey, you gotta learn somewhere and his hands were gettign dirty and mine weren't ...

    came across a busted cyclist that had flown over a bank ... she had broken her pelvis, a leg and an arm plus various other scrapes and bruises ... same hubby as above came running down the hill shouting 'i know first aid' and that we should roll her over onto her back ... couldn't repair that one, but made sure she would survive until the ambulance arrived ... oh, and won the battle about rolling her over too, we didn't!
    thought for today: "Does my ass look fast on this bike?"

  9. #9
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    If you are touring in "the boonies" then you should be prepared for some of these mishaps such as drive side spoke breakage, punctures, burst tyre.
    Use a fibrefix or a stein tool and spare spokes.
    Zip ties, duct tape and wire can keep a space shutle in action and are pretty useful for bikes. You can use them to splint broken bits.

  10. #10
    Macro Geek
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    My toolkit is very basic, and I have just enough mechanical aptitude to get myself into trouble more often than I would like! Nevertheless, I have been in situations when I have had to improvise repairs. For example:

    - One of the welds on my rear rack snapped. Solution: Crazy Glue on the weld, and then wrap the two tubes with dental floss.

    - The dust cap from the pedal was lost. Solution: Duct tape.

    - Drive train gunked up with hot asphalt. Solution: bungee corded the bike to a fence to suspend the rear wheel so that I could spin the pedals, and used shampoo to degrease the chain.

    I always carry crazy glue, duct tape (wrapped around a plastic container, e.g., shampoo bottle), Velcro, and a myriad of nuts, bolts, and other spare parts. I also have a tire boot, although I have actually never had to use it. I don't carry spare spokes, but I have never broken a spoke in over 40 years of bicycling... maybe I should not be tempting the Fates!

  11. #11
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Losligato
    you have only your basic touring tool kit, and you...

    ...pop a few spokes on the drive side of the rear wheel -or-
    ...burst a large hole in your last tube
    ...split your rear brake cable
    ...break the support on your rear rack

    ...you get the idea.

    What I'm looking for is creative solutions people have used to fix common (and no so common) mechanical disasters in the middle of nowhere.
    When you pop a drive side spoke you get out your kevlar fiber fix spoke and use it or you take out your mini cassette removal tool and replace the spoke the standard way. Keep in mind when you break one spoke it is because the wheel does not have sufficient tension and all the spokes have been flexing. Once one breaks several more are on their way to failure. So do your repair and start thinking about getting yourself to someplace where they have a bunch of spare spokes and/or can retension your wheel. Ideally you should have a spoke wrench with you and be able to tension the wheel yourself. If you stay on top of spoke tension you will not break a spoke - barring a crazy accident or your wheel is way too weak for the application.

    When you burst a hole in your last tube start pushing and head for the nearest spot you can get a new supply of tubes. You can try tying the ends of the burst tube shut so you'll have a long straight tube - put it in your tire and pump it up. No promises, but that might allow you to limp onwards. You should start the trip with a good supply of tubes and patches. As soon as you start to get low it is time to get more - not when you are down to your last one.

    If you break your rear brake cable - no biggie. You can live without it as long as your front brake is in good shape. Naturally you need to check your front brake out carefully and I would consider walking any henious downhill mtn roads just to be safe, but for most conditions a front brake alone is fine.

    If you break your rear rack you need to carefully examine what the situation is and try and McGyver something out of your repair kit - if you have zip ties, hose clamps and/or duct tape you might just be able to fix the problem well enough to get on down the road. If your rack is steel and you can find a welder that should be an easy fix. Avoid cheap racks. I am totally okay with aluminum racks as long as you get a high quality one - if you pack a reasonable amount of gear it won't break.

    No matter what bike problem you have you can always walk and hitch hike with your ride. Be prepared for common problems and don't sweat it if something really unlikely happens that you can't fix.

    My feeling is that the best way to avoid bike troubles is not to carry a ton of tools and spare parts. I think you need to ensure your bike and equipment is the best possible you can afford, ensure everything is well maintained during your tour (ie. check your bike over daily and head off problems) and go as lightweight as possible. I am totally convinced one of the biggest contributing factors to mechanical problems on tour (wheels, racks, etc...) and to general difficulties/dissatsifcation is carrying too much weight on the bike. If you are bike touring you obviously like riding bikes, but generally you ride a unloaded or lightly loaded bike. Then you suddenly end up on tour with a ton of gear, 4 full panniers (or a full trailer) and crap stacked on your rear rack. The bike is hard to handle and takes a lot of work to move down the road (not to mention up a hill). Suddenly you are not having that much fun and stuff starts to break.

    Be ruthless with your packing list - I promise you will not regret it.
    Last edited by vik; 07-19-06 at 01:48 PM.
    safe riding - Vik
    VikApproved

  12. #12
    Crankenstein bmclaughlin807's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Losligato
    you have only your basic touring tool kit, and you...

    ...pop a few spokes on the drive side of the rear wheel -or-
    ...burst a large hole in your last tube
    ...split your rear brake cable
    ...break the support on your rear rack

    ...you get the idea.

    What I'm looking for is creative solutions people have used to fix common (and no so common) mechanical disasters in the middle of nowhere.
    1) I've got a freewheel tool to remove my freewheel... would need a little ingenuity or help to find something to turn it with, though... I also have 6 spokes in my panniers all the time (3 each length I need)

    2) I have patches that are 1 1/2" x 3" .... Plus, I'd assume you have the old tubes still? WORST case, I'd cut chunks off a ruined tube to salvage one... All you need for a patch is the glue and some rubber from an old tube

    3) Limp on with only the front brake.... Just take it easy on the hills!

    4) JB Weld! I'd use something in the center to line it up if the tubes are hollow or splint it (Those spokes would work well) with something and tape. JB Weld the joint, let it cure a couple hours, and ride on.

    I also carry various size plastic zip-ties with me, and have zip-tied my rack support when a bolt fell out, I also zip-tied my chainring once when I lost three bolts on a vintage Schwinn on a long ride... That was the last time I rode that bike, and those zip ties are still in!

    I broke a chain on a bike once, with no chain tool... I used a couple rocks to hammer a pin back into place to put the chain back together, and rode the bike to the shop.
    "There is no greater wonder than the way the face and character of a woman fit so perfectly in a man's mind, and stay there, and he could never tell you why. It just seems it was the thing he most wanted." Robert Louis Stevenson

  13. #13
    Two H's!!! TWO!!!!! chephy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bmclaughlin807
    I broke a chain on a bike once, with no chain tool... I used a couple rocks to hammer a pin back into place to put the chain back together, and rode the bike to the shop.
    Heh heh. Actually just tying two chainlinks with a piece of string sometimes works.

    Out of the problems mentioned in the OP I am only scared of the first one: I don't usually carry replacement spokes and the whole wheel assembly and truing thing just makes me nervous. Hole in a tube could always be fixed even if by cutting the tube in half and tying the ends... I've heard of people who managed to patch valves... And you should always have plenty of tubes and patches with you anyway, no?

    Brake cables are of no concern unless they both break at once. If they do and I don't have any spare cable, I might consider trying to use a front derailleur cable (would that work?). If that doesn't work... well, bike slowly and walk down the hills.

    A rack can almost always be sorta secured onto the bike.

    And anyway, I don't know of too many places in North America that are farther than a walking distance away from some civilization. If you're on a road, someone will come along eventually.

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