How A Cross-Country Bike Ride Will Turn Anyone Into A Master Bike Mechanic

posted by Anna

I’ll never forget that flat tire when we went on our first cycling tour in New Zealand a number of years ago. Prior to that one month-long trip, we were complete newbies to touring – and the art of bike maintenance!

When we got the flat, instead of replacing the inner tube, we patched the outside of the tire, which to no surprise had little useful effect. Eventually, we figured it out – after spending 2 hours on the side of the road that is.

Flat tire on New Zealand trip

First flat tire in New Zealand trip a long time ago ... yes, you may laugh


Well, you’ll be happy to know that we’ve come a long way since then. And we’ve had to repair a lot more than flat tires. Much of our expertise comes from touring, because when you’re stuck on the side of the road with nothing else to do but puzzle over why your bike is making strange sounds or not moving at all, you had better well figure it out.

We wanted to share with you a list of all of our maintenance woes and breakdowns that occurred over the past two and a half months.

Boris’ Bike 

  • 2 blown out trailer tires
  • 5 trailer flats
  • 3 bike flats
  • 1 broken chain
  • 1 snapped NuVinci cable
  • 1 broken trailer arm

Anna’s Bike

  • 1 blown out trailer tire
  • 1 trailer flat
  • 1 broken ball bearing

All in all, that’s not bad considering how much distance we’ve covered. For the most part, these issues — like flat tires, broken chains, loose links, and so on — were easily solved, because we had the right tools for the job.  Other times we were lucky, like when my trailer tire blew out close enough to town that I could hitch a ride back and replace it.

Sometimes we had to get creative, like when Boris decided to bungee two trailers together because another tire had blown out, or when I proposed Boris switch trailer arms because one side of his trailer base broke.

Broken trailer base

Broken trailer base

This past month has been the most eventful in terms of repairs. Prior to these surprises, the toolbox sat at the bottom of my trailer, unused, neglected and forgotten. But in the last few weeks it became a beloved friend. Without even thinking, every time an issue arose I’d immediately dig through its contents to find the right tool. The act became automatic, like brushing your teeth – you don’t really want to do it, but you know you have to, so why not just get it over with.

Now, I can proudly boast that I could fix a flat tire in less than five minutes. And Boris can handle a chain tool like a pro. But what’s most important to us both is that we’ve been able to come up withsolutions to more difficult problems and not rip each others hair out in the process.

This is perhaps the most useful skill we’ve learned – to take a deep breath and inspect an issue patiently and methodically no matter what conditions prevail. We’ve done this at 7 pm in the evening, with 40 miles and a large mountain pass still ahead of us. We’ve done it in 95 degree weather. And in all instances, it seemed to work out in the end.

So, here’s some advice for aspiring bike mechanics: taking a class is great, but better yet — go on a tour. Your breakdowns will force you to become a maintenance expert extraordinaire.

16 Responses to How A Cross-Country Bike Ride Will Turn Anyone Into A Master Bike Mechanic

  1. Dima says:

    No wonder car insurance for females is less expensive!

  2. Phil says:

    You guys are an inspiration! Kuddos to you both for a fantastic tour.

  3. Fraak Whitney says:

    The best news to me about your repairs is about what you did not need to repair. Your electric motors, batteries and controllers must have worked flawless. That is great news to me since I recently purchased one of you bikes. I could not be happier the way it powers me up the mountains in our area that I had given up on for many years due to my age. I am now looking forward to many years of trouble free riding. Thank you and your company for such a great bike. Congratulations on such a great tour. “To finish is to win” is the motto for the Great Race across America in antique cars that I have competed in many times. One year my car broke down and I was out of the competition but I still finished the race so Anna this is for you….I hope you feel like a winner because you are…..you did not give up and you finished. Boris….your are a winner as well when you went on alone determined to finish the tour. You two are a great team….I am proud of you both.

    • Anna says:


      I’m glad you’re happy with your new Evelo and we hope that it serves you well!

      Thank you for your kind comments and encouraging words. I’m definitely glad I was able to continue the ride after my injury and finish the trip. I think Boris was proud to continue the trek despite the circumstances, but happy that he didn’t have to go on biking solo. We both learned a lot from our experiences, that’s for sure, in addition to bike maintenance!

      All the best,

    • Eric Champion says:

      I just bought an Aries an love it. But Fraak the great race went in front of my home in Southern Illinois in ’92, I saw them miss the turn an back up. Next car goes by, missed the turn, backs up.3rd car I stop an ask WTH?! LOL that was awesome! I put a sign the end drive, TURN RIGHT!

  4. Ken says:

    I never carry a spare tire with me but after reading this I think I will try to do that from now on. Maybe a heavy duty tire….

    Thanks for sharing. This has been a lot of fun.

    • Anna says:


      I highly recommend it! We got lucky with our bike tires, because we invested in heavy duty ones to begin with, but if you’re going to lug a trailer around with you, an extra tire would definitely be a good investment.

      Thanks for following our journey!


  5. Patrick Lynch says:

    Just a little note about flat tyres – or punctures, as we call them – I have been cycling on an electric bike for about three years. I’m 73. When I bought the electric bike I got a new lease of life. I’m heading for 4000 miles since I bought the bike.
    I always carry a small ‘puncture repair’ can. I connect the nozzle to the valve like a pump and press a small lever. The tyre re-inflates and the puncture is repaired instantly. I have only got two punctures. Both were repaired very satisfactorily – and apparently permanently, in this way.
    Good luck,

  6. Kevin Young says:

    I second what Fraak had to say–the things you did NOT have to repair speak very highly of your ebikes. Your trailers are apparently not quite as tough! I hope you got tons of publicity and made many key contacts.

  7. John Bullaro says:

    How do you repair a flat on an ebike with wires from the motor to the rear hub.

    • Arnie says:

      I have a Polaris Vector E bike. The information I got was to take the controller box apart, and unplug the cable. Then cut all the plastic ties that keep the cable attached to the frame. You can then unbolt the wheel with the cable attached, and remove it from the bike.

      I haven’t tried this yet, but this information was supplied by someone at the Polaris company.

      • Sebastian says:

        Hi there! I live in Argentina and I own a polaris vector too. Have you been able to remove the rear wheel? There is no support in my country so any help on this will be really preciate! Thank you!

  8. Adam Smith says:

    Once I receive my Aries and build up endurance I would like to do a tour. How does one go about planning which roadways to travel? I would like to do a transAmerica tour but will do less ambitious riding, for now. Are there reliable solar chargers available to further extend range while riding? I mean charging a spare while riding with another? Thanks.

  9. Jeannie says:

    Great post however I was wondering if youu could write a litte more on this topic?
    I’d be ver thankful if you could elaborate a little bit more.
    Thank you!

  10. Lou Amaral says:

    Dear Ana,
    Would you kindly tell me where and how did you charge the batteries of your bikes, when crossing the US?
    I am thinking about doing it too, and I’ve been wondering on how it would be, before buying the bike.
    Thank you very much,

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