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