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Basic Repair Knowledge for USA tour?

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Basic Repair Knowledge for USA tour?

Old 12-15-18, 02:40 AM
  #1  
5kdad
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Basic Repair Knowledge for USA tour?

I'm planning what I hope will be a long bike tour next summer, in the US. I'm picking up a new Salsa Marrakesh next week (my Christmas/semi-retirement present). I'm a bit "mechanically challenged". I can fix a flat and have changed brake pads (but the Marrakesh has disc brakes). But I've never replaced a cable nor fixed a broken chain. I do have a chain tool, and have practiced on some old chain, so I think I could fix a broken chain. I've usually made things worse, when trying to adjust shifting. I've never replaced a broken spoke.
Last year, I visited with a cyclist who did a 9 month US tour. He seemed to have minimal knowledge of repairs, even telling me about breaking his chain while in Oklahoma, and needing to hitch a ride to the nearest bike shop.
My LBS did tell me, they would go over some basic repairs with me, even how to replace a spoke on the rear wheel, which might involved removing the cassette. One reason for wanting to purchase a new bike, was to lessen the possibility of repairs.
So, experienced touring cyclists, what would you consider the basic repair knowledge, for a US tour?
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Old 12-15-18, 06:37 AM
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Beyond what you have done, I think 1) emergency wheel truing and spoke replacement, 2) chain repair, 3) shift cable adjustment/replacement, 4) brake adjustment (no particular order, though working brakes should be at the top).

But perhaps more important is an awareness of all parts of the bike. I get a few warmshowers guests whose bikes are near failure and they don't know it--very loose headsets, failing bottom brackets, loose wheel bearings, end-of-life chains and cassettes. I often convince them to spend an extra day and use my tools and stand.

Look for a non-profit bike shop or coop in your area to volunteer at, if at all possible.

Of course, your friend's method is certainly valid. Mechanical failures can be just part of the adventure. You may make a new friend.
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Old 12-15-18, 07:00 AM
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Fix a flat (you got that). Cut some pieces of tyvek out of a postal service envelope about the size of a dollar bill. If you get a small cut in your tire, you can use that to keep your inner tube from pushing out of that hole, carry the tyvek with one of your spare tubes. On a tour I carry two spare tubes, plus a patch kit.

Replace a cable. I carry one spare rear brake cable and one spare rear derailleur cable.

Adjust your derailleurs - there are two kinds of adjustments, (1) adjust for cable stretch or when you install a new cable, and (2) adjust the range of the derailleur to move in and out, there are limit screws for that. If your skill level is low, learn how to adjust for cable stretch and replace a cable, but avoid messing things up with the limit screws.

I know a lot of people that can't replace a spoke, that is less likely to happen to you. But if you really want to learn how, go for it. If you go that route, several years ago I wrote up a short piece on how you can avoid having to carry a heavy chain whip at this link (the photos are a bit messed up, the software on the web site has changed since I posted it):
https://www.bikeforums.net/touring/8...ip-travel.html

I have never used a FiberFix emergency spoke, but some have used them that say they are great. It is not a permanent repair, it is intended to get you to the next bike shop.

I have never broken a chain but I do carry the chain tool and a spare quick link or two.

Some people carry duct tape or gorrila tape in their spares, I carry a small roll of electrical tape. Carry some spare M5 bolts incase you lose a rack or fender bolt. Maybe a spare seatpost bolt, they almost never break but if you break one you will have a tough time of it. Bike shop can help you figure out what spares you need.

Some chain lube. If you ask 100 cyclists what to use for chain lube you will get about 110 answers, so I am not suggesting one. If you might get on an airplane, do not get a chain lube in a pressurized can.

If you see a doctor or dentist before you go, ask them if they can give you a half dozen pairs of disposable gloves in case you have to do a messy repair on the road.

Do you have a good pump yet? I like one of these that has the hose:
https://www.bikeforums.net/touring/1...l#post18521373

Sounds like you are asking the right questions, but overall the repair skills that you really need are not very hard.
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Old 12-15-18, 07:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post

Some chain lube. If you ask 100 cyclists what to use for chain lube you will get about 110 answers, so I am not suggesting one. If you might get on an airplane, do not get a chain lube in a pressurized can..
Thanks for that info. How often would you lube a chain when on tour?
I'm a bit over-cautious (maybe from being a wedding photographer, and being prepared to handle any camera problem that might pop up). I'd plan to stop by a bike shop periodically, just to have them look over my bike.
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Old 12-15-18, 08:06 AM
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This page has 11 links to information about bicycle maintenance/repair . There are youtube videos, books, articles, and other resources you might find useful, both before you go and as needed on the road.
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Old 12-15-18, 08:26 AM
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Originally Posted by 5kdad View Post
what would you consider the basic repair knowledge, for a US tour?
It will vary a bit depending a bit on it you are willing to stop in on a bike shop occasionally or consider a backup ride in the (rare) instance of a breakdown.

I've done a little of everything including taking a one-week bike school class where we disassembled major systems on our bikes and then put everything back together. At the same time, I'm more comfortable having someone get a basic tune up adjustment or repairs - so I'll bring my bike into a shop including on a long tour. So for a long tour, I tend to divide things into several categories:

1. Before I leave:
- Make sure the bike is well set up, adjusted and that worn parts are replaced.
2. Most common issues/failures on the road while underway:
- By far the most frequent occurrence is a flat that can be fixed by patching a tube and swapping in patched/new tube.
- After that, minor adjustments such as brakes.
- Next most common might be a sidewall cut in a tire and swapping in a replacement tire.
- Breaking spokes has been rare for me. I've replaced one or two one the road; "limped" ~20 miles to next bike shop in another case or two. I've also carried a fiber spoke for many miles and never used it until I lent it to someone in Argentina last year. We installed it together and the instructions were straightforward.
3. Next issues will be things that wear underway - but may not cause a catastrophic failure. So if one is attuned, one can bring it into a bike shop and have it fixed/adjusted.
- An example I think of is a worn drive chain (chain, cassette). For these if my trip has an obvious via point, I might try dropping past a bike shop to have a quick check of the chain stretch and as necessary ask them to replace worn components.
- Rarely something has been off, so I'll get some warning and then bring it in to check on as well. An example might be a bottom bracket that is not quite running well but lets me still ride for long enough to bring it in next place.
4. Final set might be a catastrophic failure that I can't fix on the road. An example might be a pedal stripping out of a crank or my rear rim cracking. Sometimes I can limp for a short distance (e.g. with one pedal or with a rim split but still rideable) or just get a ride.

In general, other than flats I've been fortunate that most all failures are rare - and many of them give me some advance warning so I can have preventative maintenance done. So I've got basic knowledge on a lot of subsystems but am also at least as comfortable in paying someone else one some of these if they aren't a roadside emergency.

I see you've done the Katy Trail. Think of that longer trip as doing the Katy Trail eight times in a row... the likelihood of something going wrong isn't too high and it might be useful to have a check/replacement of worn systems as you notice them and perhaps a preventative check after the fourth time - just in case...
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Old 12-15-18, 09:55 AM
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Sorry, I'm on my phone so I can't see your location, but if you live in the US and have an REI nearby, they have good, free, basic maintenance classes.

Otherwise, you can always pick up a cheap bike on CL and teach yourself without messing up your primary bike, its how I learned. If you can patch a flat (both tube and tire), fix a broken chain, and replace a cable well enough to get adequate shifting/braking, you can always hobble yourself to a shop. Bikes are not complicated devices, any moderately handy person can learn these in a matter of an hour or two.

Also, measure each of the fasteners on your bike and carry a couple spares. Theyre probably just an assortment of M3-M6, but metric fasteners aren't always tge easiest to find in rural America. I second the advice for a Topeak RoadMorph, its only equivalent IMO for touring is the assorted other Topeak offering.

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Old 12-15-18, 09:56 AM
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Tons of great detailed advice so far about what to bring thsts useful without bringing the proverbial kitchen sink.

just want to highlight a comment that was made to ensure it wasn't missed- take a basic repair class or two.
in NWAR, there has to be a co-op or collective that holds basic repair classes.
I was going to suggest REI, but am shocked there isnt one in your state, given the overall population, wealth, and infrastructure in NWAR over the last 20 years.
bike shops often hold these classes too- its more than just a rundown by a shop, it's you working on your bikes as a group so it takes a lot longer and allows for more questions.

bikes arent complicated...well at least typical touring bikes arent complicated. Its a bunch of cables and screwed in parts- that's really all the adjustable parts are. You just need to know how much to adjust em.
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Old 12-15-18, 10:21 AM
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Some things, you should replace at home, before you start Like brifter shift cables on the road lever..

I started tours with new chains

with the current, flush pin, derailleur chain you only shorten them , and add a quick link ,
so bring some extra of same chain and spare quick links to bridge broken chain links while keeping chain long enough.

I toured with a 3rd tire + a couple spare tubes and patch kits (not the self adhesive patches)......


wrenches to keep things tight and a way to get the pedals off and on if you need to box the bike for air travel. ..



..




...
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Old 12-15-18, 10:38 AM
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Good advice here all around. First thing is to start the tour in very good mechanical shape. Second is to plan on a day to service your bike every few weeks/once a month. (Cleaning including chain, lubing, checking and potentially correcting basic stuff). By staying ahead of the wear and tear curve the chance to be stuck out on the road is vastly less.

One way I have suggested many to begin to learn this stuff is to get a bike that it doesn't mater if the efforts are not good ones. Cheap used, from co op or bike kitchen or even the curb lawns on trash day. Try doing stufv to it like removing and reinstalling the chain. Same with a spoke or two (and deal with that rear cog set for the first time). Same with a cable and so on. Sure you'll spend some small amount of $ for a few low cost parts and maybe a tool or three (and if done with a repair class/bike kitchen the tools might not even have to be bought). But the understanding about the basic stuff, the confidence gained will be large.

When I tour I tend to kitchen sink the tools and basic repair parts for my bike. But I rarely have needed more then a tube because I stay up on my bike's condition before and during the tour. When I did my sort of cross country tour in 2017 I brought a spare tire and chain too. After about 1000 miles I swapped out theses with the now worn old ones. Many will say that this is a very low mileage for needing replacement. I would say two things in reply. One is that touring miles are harder on wear prone parts then any other riding. You're powering far more weight along and often leaving the bike outside for days at a time. Rubber and metal wear away at a faster clip and UV takes it's toll with no daily pauses. Two is by replacing before a part is worn out you both extend the life of associated parts as well as avoid those worn parts from causing your break down. Andy
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Old 12-15-18, 10:57 AM
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Originally Posted by 5kdad View Post
Thanks for that info. How often would you lube a chain when on tour?
I'm a bit over-cautious (maybe from being a wedding photographer, and being prepared to handle any camera problem that might pop up). I'd plan to stop by a bike shop periodically, just to have them look over my bike.
keep your chain clean at all times after a days riding just give it a rub with a cloth take all the grime off it. pro gold lube it brilliant will last for the tour across america no problem.
if you get your wheels /spokes properly tensioned before you go u wont have any problems new cables will last thousands of miles .good luck with the tour stop worrying and enjoy every pedal stroke stay safe.
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Old 12-15-18, 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by 5kdad View Post
Thanks for that info. How often would you lube a chain when on tour?
I'm a bit over-cautious (maybe from being a wedding photographer, and being prepared to handle any camera problem that might pop up). I'd plan to stop by a bike shop periodically, just to have them look over my bike.
I lube my chain whenever it gets noisy. That might be daily if it has been raining, might be weekly otherwise. And it depends on the lube, some lubes last longer.

I used to use a liquid oil based lube, but that is a dust magnet, I have switched to something more wax based but I have to put it on twice as often.

Another point I should have mentioned above and forgot, I use a threadlocker, blue loctite on all my rack bolts and on my shoe cleat bolts. If I use a kickstand on that bike I use the threadlocker on those bolts too. You want the stuff that makes your bolts stay in instead of vibrating loose, but non-perminent for when you later want to undo those bolts.

And I should have mentioned this above too, for a trip of that length you might want a spare tire or you might not. If I was doing a trip that long, I would carry one but I would not carry a heavy tire that would last for thousands of miles. I would carry a light weight tire that folds up to a small volume that is good enough to get me to the next bike shop. I would put it in a freezer zip lock and leave it in the bottom of a pannier until it might be needed.

One more point - you have done some short to medium trips so you likely already know this but it is a good idea to put your loaded panniers and racks on the bike well in advance and make sure that everything plays well with each other. I made this mistake, I had done several tours and I knew that my panniers and racks worked great. So, I did not bother to do a test ride. But I used a different touring bike on that trip - and when I was thousands of miles from home at the starting point, I realized within the first 20 miles that my bike was going to be a disaster on that trip. Bad shimmy that I could not get rid of. For the next 692 miles I had a bad shimmy.

I used to work in a bike shop. I built up most of my bikes from the frame. But I recognize that a lot of people lack mechanical aptitude and are not good at bike mechanics. If you are not good at it, don't obsess over it, rely on others to fix what needs fixing. From your comments I take it that you already have that figured out yourself when you said you plan to occasionally have a bike shop go over things. But if the bike shop has no direction on what to look for, they might not find problems. So, if you hear some squeaks, or clicks, or feel any odd bumps, think about how you will describe those to a mechanic in as good detail as you can. The mechanic will need a lot of detail to try to isolate what and where the problem is. The thing that I hate the most is when someone says, it has a funny noise in the back that comes and goes.
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Old 12-15-18, 12:24 PM
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Somehow feeling compelled to add a few things.

1. In my experience, the most frequent "mechanical" task is, by far, adjusting/tightening. Your saddle's height and pitch, your handlebar's height and orientation. Levers placement. Rattles. Especially if you fly to your starting point, which means that your settings will be off. My suggestions are: (a) standardize fasteners. Bikes come with a mix of Tor-X, hex and slotted head bolts of various sizes. I've standardized to hex 5mm whenever possible. And hex everywhere with the exception of the cranks. (b) Make a decision wrt the tool you'll use. Multitools are great for a Sunday ride. But I find a small ratchet + bit set much better for the longer haul. I've invested in a stainless steel bit set and am very happy with the result. (regular bits tend to rust, which reduces their ability to fit properly). (c) Make a decision wrt to how to secure bolts in place, so they won't come off the bike. Usually with some grease. Blue locktite whenever a bolt shouldn't come loose (e.g. rack bolts).

2. Flats are by very far the most frequent roadside repair that you'll be confronted with. Most other mechanical failures are creeping on you and can be fixed in a bike shop, during a rest day. (a) Invest in the best quality *touring* tire you can find. Excellent tires should last the entire trip and it is not unreasonable to expect riding across the continent without a single flat. (2) Carry at least one, high quality, spare tube. Maybe one spare tire. Several patch kits. (3) Invest in good quality tire levers. Those that sometimes come bundled in patch kits tend to be flimsy and could bend under load. (4) Invest in a good pump. Inflators, while they can arguably be useful, must be supplemented with a pump. Tiny hand pumps are dreadful to use. Make sure that you can inflate a tire with minimal discomfort. Think about how to carry your pump (may not fit on the frame where you'll have several water bottles).

3. Chain maintenance has two components. First there's the lubrication issue. On our first trip we applied lubricant once a week, but didn't know that the chain *must* be wiped as dry as can be. We ended up with a considerable amount of gunk on the chain, jockey wheels and sprockets. There is endless debate on the merits of various lubrication schemes. I prefer resilience so we apply a thick oil with an expected life of 800kms per application (i.e. lasts roughly one week). One 4oz (120ml) bottle lasts forever (probably 15 000 kms). Which fits perfectly with our touring style.

Second, there's the chain wear issue -- across the USA means roughly 5000kms / 3000 miles, i.e. the upper end of a chain's expected life. You may be able to complete your trip on the original chain, but that is not a certainty such that: (a) you may want to invest in "arguably" more durable chains. Wipperman's Sx is said to last 50% longer than competing brands. (b) I would suggest that you fit quick links to your chain such that it can be easily removed. Here again, Wipperman comes to mind since their quicklink does not require any tool. (c) For a cross-continental trip I would rotate 2 chains, once a week (and clean / lube the off-bike chain when convenient). (d) You may want to carry something like a small spray can of WD40, used as a solvent/cleaner to clean your drivetrain (chain, sprockets, derailleurs) when rotating your chains.

---

Other mechanical failures are so rare that it is probably not worth worrying about. Brake adjustment and pad replacement come to mind. But since our bikes are fitted with V-brakes, this is a no-brainer. Never had a broken spoke (but a spoke wrench is a useful addition to your tool box, and a kevlar emergency spoke not a bad idea). We also carry spare cables and enough tools to completely disassemble a bike. Dead weight so far.

Have a great trip. If you crash weddings and post pictures on a blog, let us know -- that would be a cool insight into America
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Old 12-15-18, 02:27 PM
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WD 40 is your friend. Covers a multitude of cleaning and maintenance generally. Above all, keep your mobile phone charged. Not only can you call for help, but the GPS also tells you exactly how far away you are from any given location.
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Old 12-15-18, 02:46 PM
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As long as you can fix a flat, adjust brakes, replace brake pads, adjust shifting, and replace cables, you're mostly good to go.

Generally speaking, know how to do everything you can do with an allen wrench. Adjust handlebars, adjust seat position, maybe adjust headset. Anything past that, and not only do you need knowledge and practice, you need a lot more tools, and you'll be carrying a bunch of extra stuff you'll probably never use.
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Old 12-17-18, 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by gauvins View Post


Have a great trip. If you crash weddings and post pictures on a blog, let us know -- that would be a cool insight into America
I've already started working on a blog. Maybe a bit premature, but I'm excited, and doing lots of research: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/21199
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Old 12-18-18, 11:31 AM
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Like you, I am not the most mechanically-inclined person. Like you, I can fix a flat tire. I recently saw a YouTube video on how to remove the rear wheel, and that was tremendously helpful the last time I had to fix a puncture. I know how to take in the slack on brake cables, clean and oil the chain, and not a lot else.

My lack of skills has not prevented me from bicycle touring. However, I take my bike in for a tuneup before every big trip. On occasion, the mechanic has identified something that needs TLC or replacement, e.g., brake pads nearing the end of their life. So I don't normally have significant mechanical issues on my tours.

There have been times I've needed to find a bicycle shop while on a tour. Sometimes the problem was just beyond my capability to resolve. Other times, the problem was due to unexpected circumstances, like being forced to ride on a freshly paved surface, which destroyed my tires and completely gummed up the drivetrain. In the end, these problems just became part of the overall experience. In the last instance, I had a nice conversation with the mechanic.

The more that you know about bicycle repairs, the better off you will be. If I were riding off into retirement, I would be tempted to take a few hands-on courses on bike maintenance.
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Old 12-18-18, 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
...
I have never used a FiberFix emergency spoke, but some have used them that say they are great. It is not a permanent repair, it is intended to get you to the next bike shop.
...
Lots of good advice. Just wanted to add that I have used a FiberFix spoke on the road. We were on a club ride when a friend broke a spoke on the cassette side of his rear wheel. We put in the FiberFix Kevlar replacement by the time all the other riders caught up. As mentioned, it's designed to let you ride to the next shop where a regular spoke can be installed and the FiberFix one can then be reused. Worked great for the remaining 40 or so miles on our ride that day.

I'd also note that most touring bikes have quite a few spokes (at least 32 in the rear wheel) in which case a single broken spoke usually only results in a slight wheel wobble which can be made even smaller by minor tension adjustments of the spokes next to the broken one. Good enough to ride to the next town with a bike shop.
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Old 12-19-18, 04:06 PM
  #19  
pdlamb
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Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
Second, there's the chain wear issue -- across the USA means roughly 5000kms / 3000 miles, i.e. the upper end of a chain's expected life. You may be able to complete your trip on the original chain, but that is not a certainty such that: (a) you may want to invest in "arguably" more durable chains. Wipperman's Sx is said to last 50% longer than competing brands. (b) I would suggest that you fit quick links to your chain such that it can be easily removed. Here again, Wipperman comes to mind since their quicklink does not require any tool. (c) For a cross-continental trip I would rotate 2 chains, once a week (and clean / lube the off-bike chain when convenient). (d) You may want to carry something like a small spray can of WD40, used as a solvent/cleaner to clean your drivetrain (chain, sprockets, derailleurs) when rotating your chains.
If you're going to be near the TransAm, the front range cities in Colorado (Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo) all have good bike shops, and they're located roughly half way between the coasts. You might want to plan on the lazy man's way of handling chains: lube once a week or after a rainy day's ride, wipe off, and have a bike shop there change the chain for you.
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Old 12-19-18, 04:53 PM
  #20  
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if you arent someone who has experience doing mechanical stuff, I second or third the suggestion of taking a basic course. Reading stuff on the internet is one thing, but you have to put your own hands on stuff to get a feel and learn properly, so if you have the interest look into them (and lets face it, its in your interest to have some experience, if not anything its good from an anxiety thing) .

dont know if others mentioned this, but ride your new bike a lot, and have it checked out by a good mechanic WELL before your trip, not days before---spoke tensions etc, so that you can ride it a certain amount and make sure all is good.
Generally, a newish bike in good shape will work fine the whole trip, having the spokes checked is a big plus to avoiding spoke issues, and generally, once gear shifting cables are adjusted a bit after after new, they will stay fine for years--but again, its good for you to have the understanding of what to do to adjust a rear derailleur cable for instance, and to understand what the "high and low" screws are on a rear derailleur etc --just so you dont do something willy nilly and make things worse.

bottom line, gradually learning some bike mechanic stuff has no down side, and you will feel better knowing that you understand things and understanding things usually means your bike will stay in good shape and have a lot less chance of anything going wrong.

Im a very big fan of the "once a week on your rest day" bike checkup, look things over, wipe the chain, clean dirt off etc--being physically involved with your bike like this hands on means you will become more aware of stuff, and may pick up on something little before it gets bigger. (btw, wiping the chain regularly is a super fast, easy peasy way to keep gunk from accumulating, all it takes is a rag. After a rainy ride, or simply to wipe off the excess lube that always comes out and ends up on the outside of the chain.
On my rest day, I also check all the rack bolts to make sure they arent loosening. This little stuff is what I mean by the advantage of physically knowing and being aware of your bike parts and whatnot.

and like already said, bike shops exist. The idea to change the chain at mid point is not a bad one. A bike shop can do it in 5 mins. Better for your drivetrain anyway in the long run, especially if you arent someone who keeps on top of drivetrain maintenance.

Last edited by djb; 12-19-18 at 04:56 PM.
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Old 12-21-18, 11:31 AM
  #21  
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Before my first tour I killed two birds with one stone by taking an evening course at a LBS where I disassembled and rebuilt my whole bike, replacing all the cables and bearings while I was at it. Cost was $400 but well worth it I thought.
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Old 12-21-18, 11:52 AM
  #22  
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The more you know the better. That being said, I know people who cycled around the world (except the wet parts) and didn't know diddly. In fact, one acquaintance of mine did a 900 mile tour and didn't put air in the tires even once.

Having good working knowledge of bike repair sure relieves a lot of stress for me. And I generally carry some spare parts - a brake cable, a shift cable, chain quick-links, two brake pads, and of course spare tube(s). Off road trips I even carry a spare rear derailleur and hanger. I can adjust anything on my bike and repair just about anything that does not require a replacement part that I do not have. This knowledge and ability has never caused me any problems and has mostly been put to practice on other people's bikes along the way.

Keep in mind, you can always Google some instructions. You can't Google up a shift cable.
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