Whether you take a bike ride on the local trails or cycle across America, you run the risk of the bicycle breaking down while you’re miles away from a bike shop.
In some situations it’s practical to call for help, hitch a ride, or walk to a bike shop, but on long distance bike tours the cyclist will eventually have a need to make bike repairs and keep the tour moving.
Two things are essential to making proper bike repairs on a long distance tour – 1) skills and 2) equipment. Both become pretty useless without the other, so it pays to learn some simple bike mechanics.
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You not only need to pack the right gear and tools to make the fix, you have to know how and where they are used.
Here are some bike repair tips will almost 100% be put into use on a long distance bike ride.
Changing Flat Tires / Changing Bike Tubes
A flat tire is about as likely on a long-distance ride as rain, though in theory both might be avoided if you are really lucky.
Most people who are even considering going on a ride across America will have at least the basics of bike maintenance down – one of the most important of which is changing tires.
Acquaint yourself with a tire levers and practice changing tires before you leave.
The shock of the road can be bad enough to throw shifters out of whack.
On our bike ride across America, my riding partner rode right over rumble strips on the site of the highway that jacked up his shifter so badly he was stuck with a single speed for a couple miles until we could get to a spot to make the repair.
Having the knowledge to reset and adjust your derailleurs can be a lifesaver.
Routine Chain Maintenance
Depending on the route and riding conditions, your chain can build up with dirt, mud, dust, and just general grime collected from various states on a bike ride across America.
Although a bike shop is the best place to have a chain cut and attached to size, you should at least be familiar with cleaning the chain, deburring sharp edges, and reattaching it when it slips.
Adjusting Brake Cables
While the brake pads or discs themselves (if new) shouldn’t need to be changed over the course of a bike ride across America, the cables will likely need some adjusting.
You should be comfortable loosening the holding bolt and adjusting the brake cable so that the lever doesn’t go more than 2/3 of the way to the bar when braking.
I can speak from experience that nothing is more frustrating than having a brake pad rub against the rim while you are slowly and painfully biking up a mountain. That little rub can torture your psyche, since you know the resistance is only making the climb more difficult.
General Screws and Bolts
Before heading off on the route each morning, you should give your bike a general inspection, which includes making sure most of the essential screws and bolts are in place and tightened.
Areas to evaluate include the handlebars, seat, stem, pedals, wheels, and other brackets.
Get a Bike Multitool for your Bike Ride Across America
A bike multi-tool will be indispensable for making minor adjustments on your bike, so don’t bike across America without it.
Ideally, you’ll never have to perform any major bike repairs and will simply enjoy the bike ride across America. I’ve heard that some people have cycled across America without a flat, but if the unexpected arises for you, you should be prepared to deal with it in a easy and safe manner.