Maintenance: the wrench on the road.

Busted bounce box

Even with reinforcement, this box did not survive a short ride from Pensacola.

Trip update: Perry, Florida was not only the end of the Forgotten Coast and the Big Bend, it marked the end of two weeks of rainy headwinds. On Saturday, I rode half-way to Cross City on a broad reach from the northeast, before a German analyst named Ute stopped her van to give me a lift to my motel. The good fortune continued with tailwinds on the Nature Coast Trail and State Road 26 to Gainesville. I have been working here all week, collecting my mail, repacking my things, and researching alternatives to the cardboard bounce box. So far, no box has lasted more than one trip. I am just lucky not to have lost anything through the holes and splits in the boxes. I am investigating alternatives to the single-wall, cardboard box that is the UPS and Postal Service standard.

One of the first things that I needed to do in Gainesville was to rinse the sand and grit off my bicycle, and clean the drive train. Regular maintenance and repairs are important on the road, whether you are biking, driving, sailing or flying.

I can pack everything I need for routine maintenance in the trunk of my car, and most service beyond a basic code check or tire repair can be handled at the garage in any small town. A bicycle presents different challenges. I can’t carry a whole shop, and bicycle shops are not found in every hamlet along the American highway.

My plan is to divide the weight according to what I will need for the next leg of the journey.

Things that I will need at the next mail stop go in the bounce box. This includes the chain cleaner kit with rags and lubricants, an extra tire if a change is coming up, and parts that I plan to replace at the end of the leg.

Things that I could need before the next stop go with me. This includes chain oil and some rags (to wipe down the chain after a muddy day), the basic tool kit (described in the post on 9 November 2013), a spare inner tube, spare spokes, and the ubiquitous Swiss Army knife.

The kinds of maintenance I do regularly include: cleaning the chain, truing wheels, pumping up tires, replacing batteries, and adjusting seat, gears, brakes, handlebars and pedals. Simple repairs I can do myself include: flat repair (and inner tube replacement), replacing spokes and tires, replacing broken cables (brakes and gears), and replacing small parts that break or wear out.

However, I am not a wrench (a professional bicycle mechanic), and some things are better left to the people who have the tools, equipment and skills to do the job right. For example, I expect to replace both gear cables preventively when my odometer reads 27,000 km, probably next month. I know that I will need a new front wheel this spring. Then there are the annual overhauls and quarterly tune-ups. As with a car, parts wear, so I have to plan to buy new chain rings, chains, gears, derailleurs, etc. To handle these issues, I plan to be in cities with full-service bicycle shops. It is easy to keep an eye on the odometer and figure out what will need to be done up the road.

Until next week,

Smooth roads & tailwinds,


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