Author Topic: Staying out of the breakdown lane; staying safe  (Read 968 times)

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Offline New Jawn

Staying out of the breakdown lane; staying safe
« on: August 17, 2021, 08:53:13 am »
I've a few questions for those who've done long tours.  I intend to do the TransAmerica in the spring, and although it's months away, still it seems like a steep learning curve.

Assume that you're not riding in the rain and doing the archetypal 60-80 miles per day.  How often do you apply chain lube?  Every day?  Every 200 or so miles?  Do you carry spray lube for derailleurs or just do the best you can with liquid?

Assume you've been on the road for 1,000 miles, your bike is running just fine, but you have another 1,500 miles to go.  There's a bike shop ahead.  Would you stop to have your chain and cassette degreased/cleaned?  Do riders typically plan town stops in places with a bike shop to have that and other adjustments done that require more than a multi tool?

I'm studying Park Tool videos more intently than I ever prepped for the GRE.  My goal is to be competent in changing tires, adjusting brakes and derailleurs, and replacing cables.  Any other repair skills that you consider "must know" before doing a long tour?

On the ACA maps, I noticed that many small towns, particularly in the midwest and Great Plains, allow riders to camp in a city park (although most require giving the sheriff's office a call to let them know).  For those who've frequently used this option, did you feel safe?  In my city, quite a few parks are the unofficial home of those without homes, many of whom have serious substance abuse and mental health issues, and I'll be blunt here -- I don't know that I would feel particularly safe camping next to people smoking meth.    So for those who've used this option, were things almost always just fine?  Sometimes kinda sketchy?  Keep in mind that I'm going solo.  I probably wouldn't give it a thought were I in a group of cyclists.

Any and all comments and suggestions would be most welcome.

Thanks.

Offline jamawani

Re: Staying out of the breakdown lane; staying safe
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2021, 09:41:35 am »
I'll leave the chain lube questions to someone else.
(I admit to being less than attentive in that department.)

As for small town park camping - the smaller the town the better.
Bigger towns with a motel will be less likely to permit park camping.
(Small = less than 1000; Big = 5000)

I would suspect that you do not know small towns very well.
In nearly all of the small towns on the TransAm, Northern Tier or PPP -
You are more likely to have someone stop and ask if you need anything that bother you.

Two possible exceptions:
If there is an oil boom nearby with lots of temp workers.
Towns bordering Indian reservations that sell booze.

On the TransAm, the little west Kansas towns are very welcoming.
Give yourself permission to enjoy them and their small-town hospitality.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Staying out of the breakdown lane; staying safe
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2021, 10:01:15 am »
John answered the small town questions, and I have nothing to add to his answers, so I'll go back to what he skipped.

Chain lube?  Once or twice a week, depending on rain en route, whenever it starts squeaking.  (If other people can hear it, go ahead and lube it; you'll hear it soon enough!)  If you grab a couple extra paper napkins from a diner at lunch, you can wipe the chain off, re-lube, and wipe it again.  No need for excessive cleaning.  If you're using a decent lubricant on the chain, it'll work on the derailers and shifters as well -- wipe the excess off with yet another paper napkin.

The only time I went into a bike shop on tour was when I needed something.  Couple times to check wheel true, once for a new tire, once to change brake pads.  I could have done the brakes and wheels myself, but hey!  I was on vacation!

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Staying out of the breakdown lane; staying safe
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2021, 03:58:35 pm »
I keep my chain lube (NFS, the best lube in the galaxy) in a sandwich bag along with a small cloth. Does the job. As mentioned, lube when it makes noise.

I have only had two questionable experiences in municipal parks. Had to shoo off who appeared to be an itinerant tweaker in Montana who stopped by as I was making coffee early one morning during a rest day.  Sherriff came around looking for him later that morning after a resident called to report a suspicious acting person in town. On the flip side, that afternoon a family was having a picnic in the park and offered me food.

In another incident, in Vermont, a guy was walking around looking into car windows at a town campsite. Shined my bright headlamp on him for a bit (I was outside my tent late reading) and he moved on.  That was in Burlington, which is not exactly a small town.

As noted above, people are more likely to check on you. Happened to me just two years ago in a small town in Montana. It was raining. Guy came over from one of the businesses across the street to let me know it was fine to pitch my tent under the small pavilion.  And a couple of folks riding ATVs to get around town waved to me as they were laving the bar/restaurant.  Even had a visit from a friendly local dog.

Offline ray b

Re: Staying out of the breakdown lane; staying safe
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2021, 04:48:14 pm »
Sounds like you do a lot of things right.
In addition to the Park Tool videos, spend time on your bike. The local shop or co-op would likely be open to walking you through the stuff you need to know and be able to do. You'll find the anxiety levels go down quite a bit when you understand the simplicity of the machine.

On motorcycle or bike, I always get a lot of giref about the amount of tools and replacement parts I carry..... That saiid, recent positive reinforcement for my habits, as the binder bolt for my seat post collar broke as I tried to loosen it to adjust the seat height last week in Dell, MT..... Turns out,  I always carry a spare seat collar and bolt. Working with your mechanic to put together a list of potentially easy fixes for otherwise minor, tour-delaying  mechanicals should be fun and reassuring.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2021, 12:00:06 pm by ray b »
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline staehpj1

Re: Staying out of the breakdown lane; staying safe
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2021, 04:51:26 pm »
I'll add that wiping off excess lube is key.  I apply lightly, spin the cranks a inute or so and wipe the chain as free of lube as I can.  THat prevents build up.  I do zero cleaning beyond that except in the rare case I get the drivetrain loaded up with sand or something.  In that rare case I have rinsed a chain off with wd40, but I try to avoid that.  My favorite lube is Boesheild T9, but Prolink or other similar lubes are fine.

I have stayed in many small town parks usually I just say something like "do you think anyone will care if I stay in that picnic area tonight?" when I am making my purchases at the general store or mini mart.  I have only rarely called anyone, but do so if the ACA map says to.  Most of the towns are too small to have a cop to ask.

In general the people, especially in the middle of the country have been exceedingly nice to me.  I have been invited in for meals and even offered a place to stay in their homes now and then.

I most often stay in small towns.  Small means towns without a comma in the population.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Staying out of the breakdown lane; staying safe
« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2021, 12:26:19 am »
I don’t call the sheriff anymore, even when the ACA maps say to do so. Usually the sheriff’s office has no idea why you called them.

I camp almost anywhere except where there are signs saying that you can’t.

I lube my chain and pump my tires about once every 10 days. I also lube the chain after a hard rain. And I might put a drop on the derailleur pivot points if I think it’s not shifting well.

I only stop at a bike shop if I need to buy something or something is broken, or to borrow their pump. It’s a lot easier to pump up your tires with their pump than with yours.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2021, 12:29:41 am by John Nelson »

Offline staehpj1

Re: Staying out of the breakdown lane; staying safe
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2021, 06:33:00 am »
I don’t call the sheriff anymore, even when the ACA maps say to do so. Usually the sheriff’s office has no idea why you called them.
Yes.  Just to clarify...  I dont recall ever calling the sheriff.  I have called someone that was recommended to be called on the maps for some special sites that were managed by some person or group.  Even that was a rare occurrance.

How welcoming things are wrt impromptu camping will vary with what part of the country you are in and with the size of the town.  The closer to a coast and the larger the town the less welcoming.  I find that in larger towns I may need to ask around for a place to pitch camp and may or may not find any.  It helps to lead with " I am riding my bicycle coast to coast and...".  Often that will lead to someone making more effort to either help you find a place to stay or to even offer hospitality.

People who have gone out of their way to offer or track down a spot are librarians, people working in churches, or staff at firehouses.  I never seem to need to resort to this unless in a bigger town or maybe a smaller one where the picnic area or park are posted "no camping".

By the way look out for sprinklers that come on on timers at night.  In much of the west and the great plains, anywhere with green grass is sprinkled.  Most of us have been awakened by sprinklers coming on at one time or another.

Offline HobbesOnTour

Re: Staying out of the breakdown lane; staying safe
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2021, 07:30:15 am »
As regards the chain maintenance, what do you do now?
Do you monitor the distance or have a set timeframe?
How about pretending you're on tour and using whatever you think you will have with you?
For me it's a rag and a bottle of lube. At home? Not much more.

Videos are good as we can slow them down to our pace. I believe you can save Youtube videos for offline use.
I also make short notes on the things I know will trip me up.

Do you actually practice on your bike while watching/after the video? There's a world of difference between the theory and the practice and "studio conditions" are never quite the same as road conditions.
Finding that tiny piece of wire that punctured this tube and will puncture my new one may not be so easy!

I can't comment on park camping but I can comment on safety. "Over there" is always more dangerous than "here", or at least that's what people tell me. It's not my experience.The fact is, most people are friendly and hospitable. The ones that aren't can be usually  picked out if we keep our wits about us.
I always think the most important thing to pack is a smile - it opens so many doors.
Your greatest risk will be vehicles.
I've read of more than a few touring cyclists who complain of having to be friendly to helpful locals at the end of a tough day! :D

I may have the wrong end of the stick but I found your title to be a tad dramatic in relation to the subject matter. A little anxiety is normal, it's when it gets out of control that it can hamper us.
The best thing I can recommend is to practise. Ride to a friend's house to camp out in his yard. Storm coming in? Out with the tent and see how much fun it is to set up!
Too hot/wet to ride? Replace the front tube with the rear one.
The more we do, the less fear we lug along with us.

I am no mechanic and before heading off into parts unknown I cycled out to a local forest with my "touring" tools and did everything I could think of to the bike. It was slow, cumbersome, not a lot of fun but incredibly rewarding.

If you're not familiar, CrazyGuyOnABike is a treasure trove of cycling journals with a useful search function. Loads of information but more importantly, tonnes of inspiration!


Good luck!

Offline staehpj1

Re: Staying out of the breakdown lane; staying safe
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2021, 07:43:28 am »
I always think the most important thing to pack is a smile - it opens so many doors.
A warm genuine smile is important.  Folks respond in kind.  These days of wearing masks for Covid may complcate that where masks are prudent.

On the topic of smiles, I'll add that in addition to a giving a warm smile you should always take off your sunglasses when speaking to the local folks.  It matters greatly in the impression you make.  It is always true, but especially so with the down to earth small town or country folks in the middle of the country.

Offline New Jawn

Re: Staying out of the breakdown lane; staying safe
« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2021, 08:50:28 am »
Thanks for all of the good answers.  I appreciate the time and thought that went into them.

In response to questions posed, I do long rides on weekends and typically apply chain lube every hundred miles or so.  If I ride in dry conditions, I will degrease chain and cassette every 600-800 miles.

The bike I will use on the TransAmerica is being built (Surly Disc).  If any of you have tried to buy a bike over the past year, they can be few and far between, with parts being equally scarce.  I hope my bike will be complete by late Fall.  Currently I ride a Giant Escape, and I practice all repairs and adjustments on it.

I have quite a bit of  experience with distance hiking -- a bit over 1,000 miles on the AT (Amicalola, GA to Boonsboro, MD) -- so setting up and breaking down gear in all types of weather is not an issue.

For me, "here" -- Philadelphia, Fishtown, E. Dauphin St, about 2 miles from Kensington  -- will almost always be more dangerous than "there." 

Apologies if my post title seems overly dramatic.  I tried to keep things light and not so serious with an attempt at dry humor and exaggeration.  Being new to the forum, I'll work at staying clinical and on point.


Offline John Nelson

Re: Staying out of the breakdown lane; staying safe
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2021, 09:11:22 am »
I never carry a rag for chain maintenance. It’s too hard to keep the smell from permeating your clothes, even if you double bag it. As others have stated, I just use napkins or paper towels acquired en route.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Staying out of the breakdown lane; staying safe
« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2021, 09:27:26 am »
I have quite a bit of  experience with distance hiking -- a bit over 1,000 miles on the AT (Amicalola, GA to Boonsboro, MD) -- so setting up and breaking down gear in all types of weather is not an issue.
Anyone with a fair amount of experience with outdoor activities and self supported travel, expecially backpacking, should easily suceed at bike touring if equipped with a set of adventure cycling maps, a bit of commonsense, and maybe a willingness to adjust a bit along the way.  On that last bit, remember that you can always buy stuff, discard stuff, or mail stuff to or from home.  It helps if there is someone at home who has access to your gear and is willing to send and recieve stuff.  The ACA maps have post office info for the towns along the way that makes it pretty easy to plan general delivery mail drops.

BTW. John's comment about a grease rag's smell permeating your clothes has never been an issue for me.  While I too usually use napkins, I have used a rag, but it was in a tiny seat wedge that contained only a spare tube (or tubes) and a few tools.  Often it was an old sock that had the dual purpose of being a rag and a bag to contain and protect the tube(s).  I generally didn't get it greasy/oily enough that I worried about it degrading the tubes.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Staying out of the breakdown lane; staying safe
« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2021, 11:12:21 am »

By the way look out for sprinklers that come on on timers at night.  In much of the west and the great plains, anywhere with green grass is sprinkled.  Most of us have been awakened by sprinklers coming on at one time or another.

And during the day. Camped at the city park in Lander, WY on the Trans Am. Guy there had left his tent fly open the previous while he went to visit his riding buddy at the hospital the day before. (Buddy had crashed and the two were waiting for the wives to drive out from MN to pick them up.) He told me when he returned his had at least an inch of water in his tent.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Staying out of the breakdown lane; staying safe
« Reply #14 on: August 18, 2021, 11:18:25 am »

For me, "here" -- Philadelphia, Fishtown, E. Dauphin St, about 2 miles from Kensington  -- will almost always be more dangerous than "there." 

Based on your user name I guessed you are in Philly.

For those who don't know:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jawn

I was West Philadelphia born and raised. Except for a couple of year, I have been lived in Spring Garden or Fairmount since '92.