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  1. #1
    coffee and slippers...
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    Bike maintenance while on tour

    I was wondering, for extended bike tours, what kind of maintenance do you usually perform on your bike? Is it just the occasional lubing of the chain, or should I be bringing cleaners and degreasers and extra tools, etc..?

  2. #2
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    I don't bring any extra tools for maintenance. I wouldn't really know what to do beyond the basics anyway - if something goes really wrong, I'm going to need professional help.

    Start tour with a bike in good condition. New cables, chain, brake pads if needed. Checkup at bike shop if it's been a lot of miles since the last checkup.

    Lube chain & pump tires every other day. Check headset occasionally. Check rack bolts occasionally. Check brake pads after long wet descents. Spin the wheels every once in a while, looking for out-of-true. If at a bike shop anyway, I might ask them to measure my chain for wear.

    That's all I do. Of course, my tours have never been longer than 2 1/2 months, but that's about all I do at home anyway.

    For spares, I bring: one each brake/der. cable, brake pads, a fiberfix spoke, cleats, a few nuts and bolts, a few links of chain, a hose clamp, zip ties and duct tape, a tiny container of grease, a tiny container of locktite.
    ...

  3. #3
    Senior Member ricohman's Avatar
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    I bring a few spokes, spoke wrench, tubes and patches, pump, tire irons, allen wrench set, chain breaker, cone and lock nut wrenches and an assortment of small tools.
    I have never had to bring bearings but I do bring a set of cones, although I've never used them.
    And many times I find myself fixing other peoples junk as they have nothing. Maybe some good karma is coming my way.......

  4. #4
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    It really depends on your bike. Vintage bike with vintage drivetrain takes a lot more fiddling to keep things tuned. A new bike with mechanical disks and a rohloff wont need much except new chains and pads as they wear out. Either will do the job.

    Its like my parents cars: my mom's VW turbodiesel can cruise 5-600 miles on a tank at 85 MPH day after day after day with just an oilchange every 10k miles. My dads 1971 vw campervan needs to stop and have the carbeurator adjusted if it climbs more than about 2000 feet. If you can cruise at 60 in the poptop, you know you have a tailwind, and you had better make sure you have an extra clutch cable before setting out far from home

    As far as maintenanace, if you are setting off on a long tour, prevention will nip most things in the bud. Get a new chain, get some new pads, and maybe new tires for a long tour... if you buy or build well built wheels you wont have spokes breaking (most likely). If you take care to use split washers and stopnuts you wont lose bolts on bumpy roads. I like the self cleaning lubes, personally, since the dirt falls off, but these require more diligence with application...

    Other than that, know how to split a chain, know how to properly adjust a headset or hub cones, and check bolts etc. periodically for tightness. Also, when you hear funny sounds that didnt used to be there, stop and figure out what they are. They wont go away until the part fails....

  5. #5
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    +1 on new sounds.

    A useful trick is to check the "tuning" of your spokes. Take you wheels off and pretend you're playing a harp. Thong, thong, thump, thong... Tighten up the thump spoke with your spoke wrench. While you have your tire against your cheek, check tread and sidewalls for wear.

    Know how to adjust your rear derailleur. Biker's counterclockwise tightens the cable.

  6. #6
    eternalvoyage
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    Quote Originally Posted by hadleman View Post
    I was wondering, for extended bike tours, what kind of maintenance do you usually perform on your bike? Is it just the occasional lubing of the chain, or should I be bringing cleaners and degreasers and extra tools, etc..?
    When you depart on a bike that will need work soon, you will probably have problems sooner rather than later. If you go through the bike thoroughly before departure (or have this done by someone who is knowledgeable), making sure everything is in optimal condition, you can probably go a lot farther without maintenance. It is good to start out on a bike like this.

    Some components last a lot longer than others. It's best to choose reliable, durable, low-maintenance components. Example: a cheap KMC chain will need replacing long before a good Sachs chain. I have found that the latter outlasts the former by a factor of about four.

    Measuring and monitoring chain wear (sometimes called chain stretch) is helpful. It can save a lot of expense and trouble down the road. Replace early rather than late. When there is 1/8" of wear (or stretch) per foot of chain, you have reached the usually recommended replacement time. Some people do it sooner. It's best not to do it later.

  7. #7
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    LockTite rack bolts and fender bolts before you leave. They loosen under a load. Carry some electrical tape to secure that broken spoke, tighten that cyclometer wire, cover that rip in the seat, or cover that exposed nipple where your rim tape has wobbled or worn. After that carry only the tools you know how to use and ones that you use frequently at home. Otherwise, push, pedal slowly, or hitch to the closest bike shop (or the home of some friendly bike dude that stops to offer assistance) for any work that needs to be done. Tom

  8. #8
    Macro Geek
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    I am not particularly mechanically inclined, so I only carry the tools and equipment that I know that I can handle. For example, I know how to repair a flat, take in the slack on cables, and check bolts for tightness. When a weld on my rear rack cracked, I performed wonders with crazy glue, duct tape, and dental floss. But finally, I admit that bicycle maintenance is not my forte, and probably never will be.

    Beyond the most basic maintenance, I start looking around for a bike shop. I end up paying a mechanic to perform some task en route once every two or three trips.

    However, by starting each trip with a tuned bicycle, the chances of major mechanical problems are minimal.

  9. #9
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    I like to replace everything with new a couple of weeks before I start. New tubes, new tires, new chain and new brake pads for sure. Possibly new cassette and new cables too if they have a lot of miles on them. If the stuff I'm taking off still has life left in them, I save them and put them back on when I return. I can better deal with suspect parts when I'm riding from home. No reasons to take these chances on tour.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by hadleman View Post
    . . . should I be bringing cleaners and degreasers and extra tools, etc..?
    I wouldn't bother packing cleaner/degreaser, but it is a good idea to clean your chain when it gets dirty. Having a master link on your chain -- and a spare one in your tool kit -- will greatly facilitate cleaning. Sometimes the master link is stubborn and requires pliers/channel locks to undo. I carry a small pair of channel locks with the handles cut short to save weight and bulk. They work as a wrench if necessary and for straightening out a dinged rim, so I highly recommend having a pair.

    For cleaner/degreaser, you can just buy some liquid soap/simple green/mineral spirits or whatever you prefer to use. I do carry a brass brush -- again with a cut-off handle -- and a couple pair of latex or nitrile gloves. Try and dispose of your degreaser appropriately.

    A search for "tool kit" should turn up a plethora of touring tool lists (I know I posted mine a while back). Most people carry the necessary stuff to make typical adjustments or make minor repairs like a broken chain or spoke. A full compliment of tools would weigh too much and is almost never necessary.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    I go through the bike pre tour and grease and lube everything "greasable" (hubs, headset, cables, derailleurs) with Phil Woods waterproof grease or Tri Flow. Everything is adjsuted and the bike are in the best shape that I can make them.

    I carry a pretty basic set of tools. spoke wrench, chain tool, small 10mm for fenders, chain lube (White Lightning Epic), small Tri Flow oil, an extra power link for Sram chain, a couple extra pins for my wife's Shimano chain, tire levers, patch kit w/extra small patches, 1 shifter cable, 1 brake cable, 4-5 extra spokes (front, drive and non-drive side rear), old toothbrush, and small sponge. All this stuff fits into a 6" x 8" x 2" Tupperware box.

    This kit has served me well on a 3650 mile cross country trip as well as several shorter ones. I generally wash down the bikes every 2-3 days, depending on the conditions. A paper cup or a gatoraid bottle with the top cut off makes a handy wash "bucket". We usuall have dish detergent which does a good job along with the sponge getting the gunk off. A water bottle does a pretty good job of rinsing. Keeping the brake pads and rims clean extends pad life. I believe that keeping the chin as clean as possible really helps. A small rag and the Epic oil are a good combination for chain cleaning. I've also used napkins from the local eatery. I lube the chains about every three days, and about once every 3-4 weeks stop at a real bike shop for a proper cleaning. However, this all depends on riding conditions. For real wet weather a heavier bodied chain lube may be better. The trade off is that it will collect more crud.

  12. #12
    Senior Member balto charlie's Avatar
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    Lots of people bringing spokes. Me included. Has anyone ever fixed a rear spoke while removing their freewheel on tour? Sometimes the freewheel is a pain to get off in my home shop. I can't phantom doing this on the road. I need to learn how to use the fiber spoke repair kit. It is a good idea to bring a few spokes in case a shop does not have your size in stock.

  13. #13
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    For removing spokes covered by the cassette check out the Stein Mini Cassette Lock tool.

    http://jastein.com/Tools_for_Wheels.htm
    http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/tools/cassette.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by balto charlie View Post
    Lots of people bringing spokes. Me included. Has anyone ever fixed a rear spoke while removing their freewheel on tour? Sometimes the freewheel is a pain to get off in my home shop. I can't phantom doing this on the road. I need to learn how to use the fiber spoke repair kit. It is a good idea to bring a few spokes in case a shop does not have your size in stock.
    Watched my tour partner do it, using one of those Stein Hypercracker tools. He made it look easy, but I think that was just him - he made everything look easy.
    ...

  15. #15
    Senior Member balto charlie's Avatar
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    cyclesafe and valy: Thanks, cool tools but my bike is an old 80's Miyata w/ a freewheel not a cassette. I am however, blessed with a wheel that seldom has issues.

  16. #16
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    A 36 spoke wheel with one broken spoke will still be rideable until you get to a bike shop that can remove the freewheel/cassette. But if you were touring in a remote area or mtb touring, then having the necessary tools to remove the freewheel/cassette might be a good option. I've thought about this and considered bringing just the cassette removal tool, which is pretty small and light. If I needed to remove the cassette, I could stop at any garage and hopefully borrow a wrench. The trick would be to improvise a chain whip using the chain itself. I've never tried it, but I imagine it could be done. A couple small blocks of wood and a vise or large C-clamp would probably work in lieu of a chain whip as well.

    If you have an old freewheel that's different from the typical Shimano splined and requires a special tool, then it might really be a good idea to bring the tool in the event that even a bike shop doesn't have it.

  17. #17
    Senior Member neilfein's Avatar
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    I'm a great believer in the power zip ties. They've saved my ride on more than one ocassion. Bungee cords are useful, particularly if you're using a train. (They also kept a pannier on my bike when the rear rack failed.) Baby wipes are useful to clean your hands after performing maintenance. I carry duct tape, although I've almost never used it.
    Tour Journals, Blog, ride pix

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  18. #18
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by balto charlie View Post
    cyclesafe and valy: Thanks, cool tools but my bike is an old 80's Miyata w/ a freewheel not a cassette. I am however, blessed with a wheel that seldom has issues.
    You can carry the appropriate freewheel tool and improvise the rest possibly using tools borrowed from a local person. A vise or 12" cresent wrench is too heavy to carry, but can be usually found to borrow in most towns.

  19. #19
    Senior Member lighthorse's Avatar
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    hadleman,
    I carry very few tools. One multi tool, and one small pair of aluminum pliers. Maintenance is just keeping stuff lubed but not overlubricated so that you end up with caked on junk everywhere. So, I use Pedros Wax lube and always have a dedicated cloth to wipe off all excess from chain or wherever I apply the lube. Air the tires. Carry spare tubes, patching stuff, and one spare folding tire. Thats is for me on any tour in the U.S.
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  20. #20
    Toeclips are real delver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by balto charlie View Post
    cyclesafe and valy: Thanks, cool tools but my bike is an old 80's Miyata w/ a freewheel not a cassette. I am however, blessed with a wheel that seldom has issues.
    All my bikes are this way as well. I carried a removal tool in my kit and have been glad I had it after wrapping a length of barbed wire into the drive side spokes.. It scored and weakened them all and they started popping a bit to often. At a garage I used a vise to remove the freewheel, stole some spokes from the other side to even things out and then limped into a bike shop twenty some miles away.

    I believe that a clean bike is a happy one, and cleaning it gives a good inspection of the state of things.
    The only thing in my repair kit that is out of the ordinary is a stick of hot glue and a good lighter. you can fix cracked tailights, stick torn bartape back on the bar, all sorts of things.

  21. #21
    Senior Member gregstandt's Avatar
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    It's essential that this be done at least once a week while touring. Just be sure to put the Shelbrothane in a leak proof container.
    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/chainclean.html
    Relax, it's a bike ride.

  22. #22
    soncycle tourdottk's Avatar
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    tools: Zefal multitool with every possible allen key and chain removal tool included
    We had quite a few broken spokes, but with the Next Best Thing (NBT2), you can easily remove the cassette yourself (like Hypercracker).
    Zip ties, not really strong enough: bring some clamps and extra nuts and bolts and you'll be all right for the next few days (until you can get things welded for example...).


    DON'T put too much lube on your chain! I hardly ever put any on and I replaced my Shimano HG chain just now, after 22,000 kilometres! I think that proves my point...

    Don't clean your bike every day, it's boring and there are so many other things to do! We tried in the beginning of our trip, but have abandoned it all together. We only look at our bikes when something is wrong now No, but serious, just glance over it every now and again (especially tyres) and check the nuts and bolts in the beginning of your trip.

    Don't replace anything until it is used up! I read a lot of reports of people that change everything on their bike before a long trip, but is that really necessary? Yes, sure, according to your bike shop, it is ! Just try and get that extra 1000 kilometres out of that tyre (bring a foldable spare) and you'll be really pleased if you actually get there! Safes the environment as well...
    Good luck with the trip!
    Ali from Mexico
    Last edited by tourdottk; 04-22-09 at 06:33 PM.
    www.tour.tk - what a wonderful world tour - cycling around the world since July 2006

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