QUESTION: Is there anything specific you need to know about bicycle maintenance and repair before attempting a bicycle tour of any kind? Which bicycle maintenance and repair skills are necessary?
ANSWER: The truth is, I’m not a bicycle mechanic and I don’t really enjoy fixing up or cleaning my bicycle. But even though I don’t like repairing flat tires, adjusting my brakes or cleaning my chain, I still know how to do all of these things… and if you’re planning to conduct a bicycle tour of any length, you need to know a few basic bicycle maintenance and repair skills.
Before you head off on your first cycling adventure, you should be able to:
- Install a new tire
- Replace a flat tube with a new one
- Patch a bike tube with a patch kit
- Adjust your front and rear brakes
- Install new brake pads
- Adjust the height and position of both your seat post, saddle and handlebars
- Install your front and rear racks (if you are using racks and panniers)
- Attach your trailer (if you are using a trailer)
- Clean your bike chain
- Adjust your front and rear derailleurs
- And install/remove your pedals
If doing any of these things frightens you, then you definitely have some work to do.
The good news is, all of these things are pretty easy to do… and if you practice doing these things just a few times before you leave home, you will really save yourself some grief once you get out on the road.
If you have no idea how to do one or more of the repairs/adjustments I just listed, then I suggest you either find a friend who can teach you, or you get a book that will teach you how to make these basic repairs and adjustments to your bicycle.
There are a lot of great books out there that deal with basic bicycle maintenance, but one of the best places to start is with “The Bicycling Guide to Complete Bicycle Maintenance and Repair.”
This book covers everything mentioned above… and a whole lot more. I know a lot of people who have purchased this book, learned the basic repairs, and then photocopied some of the more advanced repairs to bring with them on their travels – just in case! This is probably a good idea.
But don’t worry! You don’t need to become a certified bike mechanic in order to go on a bicycle tour. Just learn the basics and you’ll feel so much more confident once you hit the road.