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Tips & tricks: Cycling

We pick up lots of cycle and travel tips as we pedal around the globe. Some purely out of common sense and some we learn from other travellers. In any case, each month we dedicate a space on our 'on the road' diary page to the 'Tip of the Month' and after a year of gathering this info, we thought it would also be good to show them as an entire overview. That way you can look through them easily, to see if you can use any yourself...

tip of the month August 2010

August 2010: split tyre?
So your tyres are wearing dangerously thin and you haven't managed to find any decent replacements yet. Then the inevitable happens: your tyre splits.

No need to panic if you have a square of strong awning cloth (also known as canopy or shade-cloth) in your repair kit. Folded double and placed inside your tyre, it can get you a lot further on your trip. It is lightweight, cheap, doesn't take up much space and is available at most garden centres. It is also advisable to put this tyre on the front of your bike, thus taking less weight strain from your luggage.

tip of the month July 2010

July 2010: stuck in the middle of nowhere with a snapped quick release skewer?

We never thought that this would happen, but it did. The quick release skewer snapped and we were stuck nearly ten kilometres from a decent sized town with a bike shop. We had to get to that bike shop, but how?

Well a spoke will do the job for the interim. It's strong enough to withstand the pressure and if you bend it (see arrow) close to the sides of the hub, the wobble is kept to a minimum. You may need to adjust the brake blocks if they are really in the way. We cycled ourselves, slowly but successfully, to the nearest repair shop.

tio of the month: steel vs stainless June 2010: Stainless steel versus steel racks
Tubus make some of the sturdiest touring racks available and their trusty performance during the last four years of our travels is proof enough of this. In 2004, I was faced with the decision of whether to purchase a 25CrM4 steel or a stainless steel front low rider. Besides the extra outlay for stainless steel, I had no idea what the difference would be then. Here's what I discovered.

All steel tubus racks come with a strong polyester-based coating. However, modern panniers have plastic hooks containing fiberglass. Combined with sand and dirt, the continual grind can wear down the metal, which can lead to erosion. Tubus's advice: "Always affix our Art. 79000 Anti-scratch set before using bags" and "If your carrier has already scratched areas, you can repair it with a common paint stick. Such a repair is not necessary for the fatigue of the carrier, it is only for a nicer visual impression."

The picture on the left is taken after four years of continual travel. It shows how extremely resistance the stainless steel version is compared with the 25CrM4 steel. The only disadvantages of the stainless steel carrier are that they are a bit heavier; have a slightly lower maximum load capacity; and if you are faced with having to weld it at some stage, the metal requires a different solder and depending on the set-up, quite possibly another gas source. Likelihood of a local garage having suitable equipment is not high.

tip 201005 May 2010: How to lace a 32 spoke hub to a 36 spoke rim

When time is of the essence; the only parts are a 32-spoke hub and a 36-spoke rim; then a little bit of improvisation is in order. And here's a solution to get you successfully back on the road.

Drill four extra holes in your hub keeping in mind that they need to be as close to dead centre of the two existing holes as possible. Lace the wheel as per normal with four spokes being a fraction longer. While your wheel will not be perfectly true, you will be able to pedal. And sometimes that is crucial.

tip 200903 March 2009: The next best thing

The NBT2 lockring remover has assisted us in fixing many a broken spoke in the last 5 years of travel and will continue to do so for the rest of our life no doubt. Honestly, don't leave home without one!

After the first broken spoke, it gets easier and easier to use this cassette removal tool and to find out more about how the NBT2 works take a look at the M-gineering site. Ordering can be organised by sending an e-mail directly to the company, who will ship almost everywhere and they conveniently have a Paypal account as well.

tour tips ergon grips October 2008: when the ergon-grips wear out...
I think most people that use Ergon grips or similar brands have felt the benefits while touring. We both have fitted the GP-1 series on our bikes. After a little more than a year of cycling however, they were wearing pretty thin on the top side and although the manufacturers will surely dissuade you from doing this, we decided to turn them over and see if the grips had the same supportive effect on the reverse side.

Turns out they worked perfectly, however they did take a few wear in, but then again, so would a completely new set. We cycled happily with them up until last month, when we both decided it was definitely time to replace our well weathered grips. That was an extra years worth of riding and all in all we cycled with them for a total of 26 months.

tour tips valves May 2008: Best travel value valve...
There are lots of debates about which valve type is better and we don't really want to enter into that, but as far as travelling in far off places and in not so westernised countries for extended periods of time, it is better to take the common car valve tube along for the ride. There are a couple of reasons why we recommend this:
1. You can purchase these tubes nearly everywhere in the world. Biggest bonus!
2. You can pump them up with air everywhere: at petrol stations, tyre establishments, bike and motorcycle repair shops. This valve is truly universal!
3. Once you have the car valve fitted, then the hole in your rim will accomodate all other tube types in an emergency. The other way around just doesn't work.

tour tips handlebar bag pillow February 2008: pillow equipment stabiliser
It was always a toss up whether we would take a pillow along or not on this trip. Comfort won out and amazingly enough, the super small and lightweight Yeti pillow gives just that little bit of angled support that it really does makes all the difference to your night's sleep.

And, as time went on we found a dual role for this little creature comfort... After trying all sorts of foam padding, which works well, but does take up a lot of space, I now pack my camera in the pillow, which fits perfectly double folded around the equipment, in my handlebar bag.

tour tips cd reflector January 2008: recycled reflectors

Anyone who has travelled in Asia will have seen this numerous times before:

Old cd's used as bicycle reflectors. I only use one on the back of my Ortlieb dumpsack which I think is enough, but I've seen wheel spokes completely filled with discs. Another popular spot is to attach one behind the usual back red reflector for added visibility. I made a custom ripzip (velcrose) strap so I can attach it to my ocky straps or anywhere else on my luggage.

tour tips shower cap November 2007: multi purpose shower cap

And you always thought that a shower cap was nothing more than to keep grandma's hair dry while she was under the shower. Well you are wrong... Of course, grandma still uses hers, but cyclists can make use of them too.

Perfect for keeping your seat dry while you're not sitting on it.
For extra waterproof on your handlebar bag and even your day bag in a downpour.
Available world wide for almost nothing in an amazing assortment of colours.

tour tips spares India October 2007: Take your spares to India!

Although we only travelled in the north of India, we imagine that finding specific parts is difficult all over the subcontinent, even though there is a bike shop to be found in the smallest of villages. Any of the bike bazaars in the bigger towns had only kit bikes and everything was of a pretty poor quality or completely different sizing to our mountain bikes. No car tyre valves or French valves on their tubes either, so, if that's your fancy then bring them with you. There is a chain of Firefox Bike Stations throughout India, stocking Trek bikes and associated parts so this could be an option in the future.

tour tips hand break bike stabiliser August 2007: Inner tube bike stabilisers
Miriam and Javier told us about this great tip for stabilising your bike in almost any parked situation. Just cut your old inner tube into rubber band like strips and put them around the ends of your handle bar. When resting the bike on a hill. slope or position likely to result in the cycle falling over or rolling away, use the bands to hold your front and/or back brakes in position.

The elastic bands also come in handy for setting your brake blocks in place.
Furthermore, if you cut the strips thin enough, you can use them as normal elastic bands.
They are super strong and don't deteriorate as quickly in the sun and heat like the normal variety do.

tour tips ortlieb bag clips June 2007: Tape and old tube to secure Ortlieb bags
Just to annoy all Tubus rack owners, a few years ago, Ortlieb decided to change the size of their clips, so they could be used on a variety of bike racks. In order to fit Tubus models, you now need to insert a small black clip into the existing fastener. Problem with this is, they inevitably fall out even when you glue them in, which of course, leads to irritating search parties around campsites and in hotel rooms and corridors. Furthermore, this system does not stabilise the bag at all and they continually fly off on poor condition roads. Nigel, a cycling guru, who we met in Osh Kyrgyzstan and on the road for over five years now, told us about this great idea. Wrap a few layers of old inner tube and secure them in place with gaffa or power tape. He swears his bags have never come off since he made this adjustment. And since then, neither have mine.
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