Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mechanical Issues

A friend wrote this week:
It seems I learn a little more about how to do these rides each time out. My main weakness now is I don't know about bicycle maintenance & repair. I haven't been able to find a course so I pick up what I can. Any time you have hard earned advice I have an open mind.
My randonneuring experience on more than 50 brevets or permanents is that only a few mechanical issues (beyond a crucial part failure, like a rim or the frame) will end your ride. For instance, I’ve ridden more than 120 miles where the rear dérailleur would not shift. It was inconvenient but not a show-stopper. But there are some things that will sideline you for good if not repaired.

* Tires. I carry one now, folded up beneath my rear tool bag. I’ve cut a tire so badly that it could not be booted. But for those cuts that can be repaired, I usually carry a tire boot. I have one made by Park Tools. Truth is, I’ve had very few flats on brevets (knock on wood). One reason is that I always inspect my tires before any brevet. It only takes a minute for a quick check. Do the tires look worn? Are there any big, suspicious cuts that might conceal a piece of glass or metal? If so, I fix, or switch the tire. Also, I use Michelin Pro Race tires. They are incredibly puncture resistant and perform well in roll tests.

* Tubes. I usually carry two tubes and a patch kit. As I’ve just noted, I’ve had very few problems with flats on rides because of preventive maintenance. I foresee the day when I have three flats, but I'm not looking forward to it.

* Broke spoke. I’ve had this happen a couple times. This is a huge problem on modern bikes with very little clearance and low spoke count wheels. I’ve switched over to 32-spoke or higher wheels, and I usually carry spare spokes or a fiber fix spoke kit. I also carry a spoke wrench. I’ve built several sets of wheels, which is a fun way to learn about wheel repair. That’s an invaluable skill on long rides. I periodically take my wheels off, check them for loose spokes and true them.

* Bottom bracket. I’ve had the BB loosen up on a few long rides. This can bring things grinding to a halt -- or at the very least, prove to be incredibly annoying. There’s usually not much you can do about this unless you’re willing to carry an assortment of tools (or stop in the local Wal-Mart and buy a $5.99 tool set with hammer and punch, as I once did). The better solution: If you suspect the BB's loose, or if the bike is fairly new, get it tightened before the ride. This one comes to mind because the BB on my new Coho just loosened up. The BB was a brand I did not have the tool for at home. I had to go into Ed's shop after pulling the crank arms. I ordered the puller while I was there.

* Rear derailleur adjustment. I’ll be honest. The 10-speed der. adjustment is still a mystery to me. I can get it close, but never perfect. Hearing myself say this, I’m going to crack this riddle. But it should not stop you. I rode PBP with my rear derailleur out of adjustment. I figured out which gears to avoid.

* Broken chain. I’ve seen this happen a few times and it will definitely end your day if you can’t repair. But it can be done roadside, assuming you carry a chain tool. I usually do, as well as an extra pin and a bit of extra chain. My current chain has one of those snap links in it, so I could shorten the chain if need be and get back on the road.

Of course, you can expect things to get ugly on a chain fix. Here's a shot of Brother Tim's hands after a successful repair. He broke a spoke on the same ride b/c the rear der. damaged some spokes when the chain snapped. He finished the century with a very wobbly wheel but a great attitude. He was not going to be denied.

* Front derailleur adjustment. I’ve seen people break chains by throwing the chain and trying to pedal it back on. The front der. is usually pretty easy to adjust with the two set screws. If you’ve been throwing your chain to the outside, or dropping it inside, take a moment to get this squared away.

* Lights. A broken light could/should put an end to the night ride. What to do? On my set-up, I carry a spare bulb for the front dynohub light (and often a spare battery light). I have redundant lights in the back.


Jerry Phelps said...

Good advice Mike. If we didn't before, now we all know who to ride with. You've got all the spare parts and the knowledge to put them to use.



Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jerry. You, of all people, know that you don't need a lot of gears to be successful. I'd remind our readers that Jerry completed a Super Randonneur series -- and PBP07 -- on a single speed.


Cap'n said...

What do you recommend for a kidney stone?

Anonymous said...

French nurses.

David Rowe said...

I always carry a pair of latex gloves and a small rag. I've never needed them ... until yesterday when I had to do a chain repair ~160K into a 300K. It was SO awesome to get the hands greasy, then just pull off the gloves. I thought about tossing them, but instead, cleaned them and put them back in the front bag. A gram of prevention ...