"Trail Mix" Class Description and Outline

"Trail Mix" Class Description and Outline

"Trail Mix": (AKA, what to do when sh&t happens out on the trail)

Class first held August 19th 5:30pm (Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Wellhouse Drive BBQ Area). See Class Schedule here.

This is a new class for us, but is years in the making. After leading over 100 bike camping trips, I've got a pretty good idea about what can happen to your bike out on the trail. Bring your bike, or not. This is a free class...but signing up for our newsletter would be cool...

Class Outline

This purpose of this class is to get to the heart of what can go wrong out on the road, and what can be done to continue your journey. Frankly, some things just can't be fixed out on the trail, and I've seen some trips end prematurely for some of our riders this way. 

Below are not step-by-step instruction of HOW to handle these repairs (that's what the class is for!), but more about the process.

8 Tips for Trail Maintenance

  1. Take a deep breath and take it all in (time, location, issue, tools)
  2. Know how to use your tools
  3. Pack your tools in an easy to get to place
  4. Bring nitrile gloves
  5. Bring a clean handkerchief
  6. Find shade to work in
  7. Lay all of the small parts you will be working with out thoughtfully, these are very easy to lose in the heat of the moment on the side of the road
  8. Unpack and repack your tools after each trip

Bike Stuff

Tool Kit (Bare Minimum)

Here is my recommendation for a bare Minimum Tool Kit.  You really should not venture out to an area where a bike shop isn't walkable if you don't have these things (as you will be walking a long way if you get stuck).

  • Tube (maybe 2 if you're feeling unlucky)
  • Tire Levers
  • Air Source (pump or co2)
  • Patch Kit
  • Tire Boot
  • Multi-Tool (preferably one with a chain-breaker tool and spoke wrench).
  • Nitrile gloves and a clean bandana. You will be getting dirty, and you dint want that grease rubbed into your eyes, etc.
  • Tweezers (to remove items from tire)
  • If you are running a tubeless setup, include some repair strips and a 2 oz vial of sealant...but, don't forget that tube!
  • A small collection of bolts (if you have a rack)
  • A 15mm Box Wrench (if you have solid axle hubs/wheels.
  • $20 bill (trust me)

Tool Kit (Nice to Have)

  • Extra brake and shift cables
  • Master-Link (these are specific to chain brand and size)
  • Chain-Breaker Tool (not necessary if your multi-Tool has one)
  • Chain Master Link (and maybe even a master Link removal tool)
  • Spoke Wrench (wheel truing)
  • Chain Lube (to lube drivetrain after rain)
  • Extra Set of Brake Pads
  • Ratcheting Hex Wrench Set
  • FiberFix (Spoke replacement Kit)
  • Cleat Bolts (if you are using clipless pedals)

1. Flats

This is by far the biggest issue that I see out on the trail (and its the rear tire 90% of the time!). Generally the rule is 1 flat per 15 riders per day.

  • Find a nice (preferable shaded) location to set up. This is very important, as you may be spending a lot of time here getting frustrated. 
  • Determine if you are going to flip the bike over to remove wheel, or not
    • If flipping the bike over, remove bags and be mindful of items (saddle, handlebar items, etc.) that will be in contact with the ground). Avoid asphalt for grass if possible.
    • If removing the wheel right side up (and assuming it's a rear wheel) ensure that bike is leaned/positioned in such a way that the rear derailleur DOES NOT TOUCH THR GROUND, as it can get damaged.
  • Remove wheel from bike, inspect
    • Tire
    • Tube
    • Rim
    • There are few things more frustrating that reinstalling everything for it to go flat again. You're already on the side of the road...spend the 10 minutes to really inspect all items.
  • Install new tube or patch existing one.
  • Install wheel, test brakes and shifting
  • Do not discard old tube, it me be a candidate to be patched if problems persist.

It's important that at least one person in the group has the ability to change a flat, and that EACH person in the group has at least 1 tube for their bike.

2. Chain Issues

Chains can get damaged in a number of ways, including due to crash, or a shifting malfunction. The repair here is to remove the offending section/links of chain, and reconnect chain with a Master Link. This will cause your chain to be shorter, and may limit the easier gears you can get into.  As this is a temporary fix until you hit the next bike shop, make a note of the limits of your drivetrain AND DON'T SHIFT INTO THOSE GEAR (this may causa further drivetrain/derailleur damage)

3. Wheel/Rim Issues

Rims can get bent, and spokes can break due to a crash, or an overloaded bike on wheels that aren't up for the task. 

A rim goes out of "true" (gets wobbly), when spokes lose their tension or are damaged/broken. If this is a minor situation, a spoke wrench can be used. If its more major, a combination of a replacement spoke kit and/or physicality bending the rm back may be what is required to get you to the next bike shop.

Bike tourers on more remote rides will bring actual replacement spokes.  If you are going this route, it is highly recommended that you learn how to actually replace  a spoke (just having them with you won't do the trick).  Also, please note that rear/drive-side spoke replacement will require the removal of the cassette (tools required).

Broken spokes need to be replaced at the first opportunity, as the wheel will go into a state where more and more spokes will un-tension and break.

4. Shifting Issues

Adjusting your shifting from normal wear and tear generally involves the tightening of a barrel adjuster.  One would assume that these adjustments were made prior you your trip (?).

If something more serious occurs, like a crash/impact, there might not be much you can do to the physicals shifter and/or derailleur. In a situation where the rear derailleur (hanger) gets bent, it may be possible to "field set" (bend) it back in place, but keep in mind this is a temporary solution until you get to a bike shop.

Many long distance tourers will carry an extra derailleur hanger (the small metal part that attaches the rear derailleur to the frame), and with a little learning, it is possible to replace these in the field.

Having an extra shift cable can help if you are in a situation where you cable gets damaged, cut or frayed, as they are easy to replace.

5. Brake Issues

Adjusting your brakes from normal wear and tear generally involves the tightening of a barrel adjuster and monitoring pad wear. Bringing extra cables and pads will help fix minor issues, but are not seen too often as there repairs are generally part of routine maintenance and done prior to trip (?)

If a brake caliper fails or is damaged, one can most likely proceed to the next bike shop using the one working brake. Please be mindful of the increased load on that single caliper on your loaded bike.

6. Rack and Cargo Mounting Issues

I would say we see rack and/or cargo strapping malfunctions on every other trip. It is a best practice to have your bike loaded up about 1 week before your trip so that these issues can be sorted out at that point.

The 3 reasons that racks fail are:

  1. Faulty Install
  2. Previous Damage/Existing Conditions (loose hardware, etc.)
  3. Over-Loaded

In all 3 of these instances, it is the sole responsibility of the bike owner to ensure these conditions are satisfied.

Rack failing can range from a time-consuming distraction (if you're lucky) to creating a very dangerous situation.  Also, gear, bags and the rack itself can be damaged or ruined.


7. Pedal (and cleat issues)

The issues that I see out on tour regarding pedals generally are those of a clipless pedal/cleat/show system being damaged.  Having some cleat bolts with you can be a life saver (this is the bolt attaching the cleat to the shoe, and is a pretty unique piece of hardware not easily found ion the wild).

Trail Etiquette

I personally will ask anyone stopped if then need assistance. 95% of the time, the answer is "No". Maybe they just need to make a call and their phone is dead, maybe they're out of water. We've all been there, in that position of needing assistance.  You might not be a super pro at changing flats, but maybe all they need is a 2nd set of hands. I think this act (of just asking) goes a long way to furthering the camaraderie and friendship that we all seek out on the trail.

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