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  1. #1
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    What do you REALLY NEED for touring bike maintenance?

    What is actually necessary for bike touring in terms of maintenance gear?

    I've been cycling for about 10 years, and have put in about 30k miles in that time. During my time riding, I've experienced the following failures that required fixing:

    flat tires
    broken spokes

    I've never had a tire rip, a cable break, a chain break, or anything else break like a stem, seatpost, saddle, or shifters. Obviously, everyone at least knows someone who has had something crazy break at a very inopportune time. But does that mean one should carry a replacement for everything that could possible break?

    I know it's always best to prepare for the worst, but what do you REALLY need as far as maintenance gear for a tour in the United States and/or Canada?

  2. #2
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    My approach has been to bring the tools to handle reasonably common situations that would make the bike unridable.

    Chains will break and if you can't repair it yourself, your bike is unridable.

    OTOH, a broken shifter cable won't make the bike unridable, plus cables that are maintained and replaced as needed are very unlikely to break. I suppose a broken brake cable might be a problem, but you could likely get by with just the front brakes if necessary.

    So at the minimum I would suggest:
    Broken chain: chain tool; spare pin if your chain needs these, or else a reusable link
    Broken spoke: replacement spokes or Fiberfix spoke, spoke wrench, a Hypercracker to get the cassette off to fix a rear DS spoke
    Spare seatpost clamp bolt: these do break and they are light, so why not.
    Spare rack bolt(s)
    Torn tire: a folded dollar bill will work in a pinch as a boot
    A small adjustable wrench, small vice-grips, multitool

    If you use integrated brake/shift levers on your touring bike, at least consider whether bringing a spare right downtube shifter makes sense.
    Last edited by breakaway01; 03-19-10 at 02:48 PM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member crazybikerchick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tiggermaxcocoa View Post
    something crazy break at a very inopportune time. But does that mean one should carry a replacement for everything that could possible break?

    I know it's always best to prepare for the worst, but what do you REALLY need as far as maintenance gear for a tour in the United States and/or Canada?
    If you are crossing Canada, you could be in some places a day's ride away from the next small town, much less somewhere with a decently stocked bike store. So it would be useful to have something that you could MacGyver your way til you can buy parts (obviously impractical to carry a second complete bicycle!) Or if you are fine with hitching a ride to a place with a bike store then you could get by with minimal gear.

  4. #4
    Senior Member robow's Avatar
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    Though I have never broken a chain while on tour, I have developed other chain related problems and therefore never travel without a small chain tool and a couple quick links or spare links.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by breakaway01 View Post
    My approach has been to bring the tools to handle reasonably common situations that would make the bike unridable.

    Chains will break and if you can't repair it yourself, your bike is unridable.

    OTOH, a broken shifter cable won't make the bike unridable, plus cables that are maintained and replaced as needed are very unlikely to break. I suppose a broken brake cable might be a problem, but you could likely get by with just the front brakes if necessary.

    So at the minimum I would suggest:
    Broken chain: chain tool; spare pin if your chain needs these, or else a reusable link
    Broken spoke: replacement spokes or Fiberfix spoke, spoke wrench, a Hypercracker to get the cassette off to fix a rear DS spoke
    Spare seatpost clamp bolt: these do break and they are light, so why not.
    Spare rack bolt(s)
    Torn tire: a folded dollar bill will work in a pinch as a boot
    A small adjustable wrench, small vice-grips, multitool

    If you use integrated brake/shift levers on your touring bike, at least consider whether bringing a spare right downtube shifter makes sense.
    I have tried using a folded dollar bill in a high pressure tire (100 psi). All I got was a ripped dollar bill.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan The Man View Post
    I have tried using a folded dollar bill in a high pressure tire (100 psi). All I got was a ripped dollar bill.
    What's the max pressure anyone has gotten this to work? Most touring tires don't run at 100 psi... more like 60-80 psi.

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    That question really depends on where you are going and services along the way. I'm much like you where outside of flats and a broken spoke or two, I never had any issues that didn't require a simple adjustment. I carry spare tubes, patches, duct tape, wire ties, a multi tool, chain tool, spoke wrench and some lube. In sailing the saying is "the best bilge pump is a scared man and a bucket" so with that in mind, I've gotten myself out of every issue so far mostly by using my head.
    Now if I going across outer Mongolia for months at a time with very little human contact, my thinking would surely change.

  8. #8
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    have seen a dollar bill work up to 80 psi, never tried more than that. Also have heard that Tyvek works well as a boot but have never seen it in action.

    Also forgot
    -- zipties

  9. #9
    It's true, man.
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    a credit card and plenty of time.

    since I'm lacking in the 'time' department, and since I tend to range down gravel roads, fire roads, et cetera, I tend to carry those things which keep me moving easily:
    Tools - I carry a tiny chain tool (have used several times on my bike and others)
    Puncture repair kit (with unopened glue) (used regularly) and a tire boot
    1 pr small needle-nose/wire cutting pliers (have used for digging wire and thorns out of tire)
    Allen wrenches in 3,4,5 and 8mm (have used the 4 and 5 and wished for an 8 that I didn't have)
    ~5 feet of galvanized wire (not yet needed)
    3-sided spoke wrench
    1 1" hose clamp (not yet needed)
    3 zipties for field-expedient repairs of broken/loose stuff (used one once)
    1 tire lever (used regularly)
    ~4 feet of Gorilla Tape (not exclusively for the bike)
    Spares - Spare tube. This is to allow me to fix a flat quickly and get to where I can patch the spare tube in safety.
    Boeshield Chain Lube
    1 fiberfix spoke (never used)
    A Sram 9 sp master chain link and 2" of 9sp chain (have used the master, but never the extra chain)
    1 pr spare brake pads (haven't needed these, but have wished for them in the past)
    A few nuts and bolts, chosen based on what exists on the bike. Right now there's a chainring bolt/nut, a cleat screw (useful for cleats as well as braze ons) and a longer nut/bolt combo that could be used in a few places. (wished for a spare cleat screw once, partner nearly lost a chainring bolt)
    1 combination cable (1 end fits brakes, 1 fits shifters, clip off whatever end you wind up not needed) (not yet needed)

    It all rolls up to a tiny package, gives me some peace of mind and occasionally lets me play the hero to some broken down pilgrim.
    Last edited by truman; 03-19-10 at 03:09 PM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by tiggermaxcocoa View Post
    What's the max pressure anyone has gotten this to work? Most touring tires don't run at 100 psi... more like 60-80 psi.
    Normal road tire pressure. About 110 p.s.i. At least twice. Some people use PowerBar wrappers or even boots made from plastic beverage bottles.
    "I've wanted you to succeed, but watching you find excuse after excuse after excuse and then laugh it off as the loveable, quirky, chubby guy is getting old."--Ill.Clyde

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by breakaway01 View Post
    Torn tire: a folded dollar bill will work in a pinch as a boot
    Remember: boots only work if the bead is still attached to the sidewall. The last major tire problem I had involved the bead separating from the sidewall. Only way to fix it was with a new tire, which I didn't have. Luckily, I was on a training ride rather than a tour. Pushed the bike 1.5 miles to get back into cell phone range, then called for a ride home. These days, I carry a spare tire on tour...

  12. #12
    Senior Member robow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by breakaway01 View Post
    have seen a dollar bill work up to 80 psi, never tried more than that. Also have heard that Tyvek works well as a boot but have never seen it in action.
    Always carry some duct tape wrapped around a pencil or something. Makes a great layered boot that will not break.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    Remember: boots only work if the bead is still attached to the sidewall. The last major tire problem I had involved the bead separating from the sidewall. Only way to fix it was with a new tire, which I didn't have. Luckily, I was on a training ride rather than a tour. Pushed the bike 1.5 miles to get back into cell phone range, then called for a ride home. These days, I carry a spare tire on tour...
    I think this response really gets down to what I'm thinking here. How likely is it that a tire would suddenly separate at the bead, assuming you pay attention and not run the tire past its usable life? Is it more likely than your stem or seat post suddenly breaking? If not, then why not carry a seat post and stem with you... just in case?

  14. #14
    Senior Member crazybikerchick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tiggermaxcocoa View Post
    I think this response really gets down to what I'm thinking here. How likely is it that a tire would suddenly separate at the bead, assuming you pay attention and not run the tire past its usable life? Is it more likely than your stem or seat post suddenly breaking? If not, then why not carry a seat post and stem with you... just in case?
    Hasn't happened to me personally, but I've known friends who have tires chewed up by something they ran over to the point where it was not bootable. Personally I think the weight of a foldable spare tire on tool is well worth the peace of mind. (and ah no seat post for me )

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    Other sugestions:

    Wire, zip ties and tape. Kevlar emergency spoke. Spoke wrench. Vice grips, wire cutters. PowerLink appropriate for your chain.

    Make sure that the tools you carry actually will work on your bike. Some of the multi tools won't work in tight spaces.

    I also carry chain lube. If it rains you'll need it and waiting at a bike shop (if it is even nearby) for such a trivial service is...

  16. #16
    Senior Member BengeBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tiggermaxcocoa View Post
    I think this response really gets down to what I'm thinking here. How likely is it that a tire would suddenly separate at the bead, assuming you pay attention and not run the tire past its usable life? Is it more likely than your stem or seat post suddenly breaking? If not, then why not carry a seat post and stem with you... just in case?
    There are 3 things at play here:

    1. How likely is something to break?
    2. How serious is the problem if you can't fix it?
    3. How small and light is the fix?

    A tire boot is cheap, light, and small. I don't see any reason *not* to carry one; you can buy one from Park Tool that costs about $1 or two, and add almost no weight or bulk to your tool kit.

    A chain tool and a couple of extra links are practically the same.

    On the other hand, seat posts, stems, cranks, etc. are arguably prone to failure as well, but awkward and inconvenient to carry.

    I also think we all are *most* likely to carry stuff we have needed in the past (e.g, I always carry a tire boot because of a situation that led me to hitchhike to the closest town and then knock on doors until I found a suitable tire in a town without a bike shop -- I never want to do that again).

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
    I also think we all are *most* likely to carry stuff we have needed in the past (e.g, I always carry a tire boot because of a situation that led me to hitchhike to the closest town and then knock on doors until I found a suitable tire in a town without a bike shop -- I never want to do that again).
    And herein lies the correct answer: strictly speaking, all you need is your wits. Anything else is arguably unecessary- we all draw a line in the hypothetical-contingency-plan-sand that will vary depending on what we are willing to put up with to fix the hypothetical problem... If you have no problem being stranded, walking miles, hitchiking, knocking on doors etc etc, you can certainly get away with carrying close to nothing, and then dealing with the consequences.

    personally, I can fully disassemble my bike with my tools, and fix that which is likely to break: in my experience chains, spokes, derailleur hangers etc. I invest in high quality seatposts, cranks and the like, so I can ignore them with regards to durability trip to trip. I also buy high quality kevlar-lined tires so that i dont have to worry about them crapping out except in freak situations, where i laugh and then do what i have to do to source and replace the tire.... the thing is, i know it wont ruin my day to deal with that unlikely situation when it happens to me. YMMV

  18. #18
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    >>Spare seatpost clamp bolt: these do break and they are light, so why not.

    Ride buddy suffered this failure last week. ALL of his seatpost hardware went all over heck's half-acre, and we didn't recover all the parts. Now I have to carry a full set of hardware (or full spare seatpost), I suppose.
    Busted bolt was recovered, but unusable.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by tiggermaxcocoa View Post
    I think this response really gets down to what I'm thinking here. How likely is it that a tire would suddenly separate at the bead, assuming you pay attention and not run the tire past its usable life? Is it more likely than your stem or seat post suddenly breaking? If not, then why not carry a seat post and stem with you... just in case?
    I generally carry spares for things that I'd be completely stranded without, for parts that I expect to replace (e.g. tubes), or for stuff that's light and easy to carry (e.g. cables, bolts). A tire or chain failure makes a bike useless, so I carry the appropriate spare parts (spare tire, 4-5 chain links, 2-4 master links). Tubes often get flats, so I carry spare tubes, a pump, and a patch kit.

    A seatpost failure, on the other hand, is unlikely to leave the bike completely useless so I don't bother to carry a spare. I can always pedal standing up, or shove the remains of the post into the frame and limp to the next town. I've never seen a good stem fail, even after a heavy impact, so I don't worry about carrying a spare stem.

    FYI, the tire I was riding when the bead failed only had about 1000-1500mi on it. It appeared brand-new... right up until the bead failed! I've switched to a different brand of tires... but I still carry a spare with me on tour.

  20. #20
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    I'm young and have only been riding heavily for about 3 years. The closest I've been to stranded, even with tools, is when I let a roadside branch get into my rear spokes where it got caught in the rear derailleur. This left the wheel intact but the derailleur knuckle snapped in the middle of the casting. I shortened the chain to kludge the bike into a singlespeed, but since the bike had vertical dropouts, I couldn't properly tension the chain.

    When I rode the profiled teeth would drag the chain into a larger sprocket in back, overtensioning the chain and locking the rear wheel. I discovered this when I was thrown off the bike cranking up a hill. All I could do was crank forward-and-back slowly along the sidewalk. It took me a long time to get home, despite not being that far out.

    So if I didn't have vertical dropouts I might take a spare rear derailleur with me on tour, since there's not too much else to do to tension a chain if the rear derailleur breaks.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    I've used our folding spare tire on at least two tours. I also carry a basic tool kit: chain tool, spoke wrench, multi tool, spare spokes, a small assortment of nuts and bolts, a couple of Shimano chain pins, Sram univesal link, very small roll of duct tape, chain oil, patch kit, tire levers, frame pump, and a couple of spare tubes. We had 13 flat tires (2 bikes) going cross country, and changing the tube is a lot quicker than patching. Patching was done in the evening. And yes, we have had to use both spare tubes in one day!

    We've never had any major components fail, but I've used almost everything in my kit at least once, except the nuts, Sram link, and spare spokes. I've broken spokes, but was always too lazy to fix them and close enough to a bike shop to limp in.

    I think the make up of a tool kit is personal preferance, and folks take enough to feel comfortable that they can handle the most likely situations. Heck, someone on a thread earlier this week was going to take his floor pump, which is another reason not to use a trailer!

  22. #22
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    Everyone carries the parts and tools they are comfortable with. I won't tour without a spare tire, but I know lots of folks who will. I've never needed it so far, but it will be folded and stuffed in the bottom of my pannier for my next tour for my own peace of mind.

    For any breakdown that will cause you to walk, especially a destroyed tire, consider what it will be like pushing a 60-80 lb. loaded bike. You won't be walking along beside it, steering with one hand on the stem.

  23. #23
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    On my last mini-tour I got a tear on my sidewall. I business card folded 3 or 4 times has held it together for hundreds of miles since then @ 100 psi.
    Next Cruiser from Wal-Mart (hells yes)
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  24. #24
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    I weigh the likelihood of a problem against the weight of carrying something to fix it. My backup plan in case something unforeseen happens is to hitchhike to civilization.

    I've never torn a tire to the point of needing a boot in 40 years of riding. I make sure my tires are new or nearly so before starting a tour.

    I carried my chain tool for years, but it was heavy and I never needed it. I stopped carrying it. Then I bought a new multitool that had one. I also carry a spare masterlink.

    I carry one spare tube and a patch kit. The only holes I've had that couldn't be patched were around the valve stem. I think the odds of having two of those at once are small.

    I've had spoke breaking issues. I carry two spare spokes, a Fiber-fix spoke, a hypercracker, and a spoke wrench.

    I carry a small bottle of Tri-flow.

    I carry a few spare bolts (especially the ones that fit my racks) and some Loctite.

    I carry some zip-ties. I've never used them but they weigh next to nothing, so I'll probably continue to carry them.

    I carry a spare brake and derailleur cable - again, they're so light, why not?

    I consider my Swiss Army Knife an invaluable tool. I never leave home without it.

    Oh, and don't forget tire irons.
    Last edited by BigBlueToe; 03-22-10 at 09:16 AM.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigBlueToe View Post
    I carry one spare tube and a patch kit. The only holes I've had that couldn't be patched were around the valve stem. I think the odds of having two of those at once are small.
    I went off the shoulder once and rode through a patch of goat heads. I kept the bike upright and got back on the road, but when I stopped I had at least a dozen thorns in each tire and even more punctures. I was pretty glad to have 2 spare tubes.

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