Mechanical Breakdowns on Tour - Some or None?

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)
simonhill
Posts: 2697
Joined: 13 Jan 2007, 11:28am
Location: Essex

Mechanical Breakdowns on Tour - Some or None?

Postby simonhill » 15 Aug 2013, 7:16pm

A recent thread on tools taken on tour revealed that some people carry enough to cover virtually every eventuality that could befall a bike. It got me wondering how often these got used - in anger I mean, not just to tinker.

Maybe I am just lucky, but I have hardly ever had any problems with my bike when on tour. My tours are fairly long and often in out of the way places, but nonetheless I don't expect my bike to fail. On tour it doesn't have any particular TLC, although I make sure that it is in good condition before I start out, replacing anything that may be a bit worn or suspect. At the end of a day's riding the bike is 'parked' and rarely looked at till next morning, when I just get on it and ride off. The odd lube and the very occasional clean is about it for me.

When having my new bike (LHT) built, I specified reasonably tough components, mainly Deore, good wheels, etc - my intention always being what I call survivability. I believe that modern bike components are excellent quality and can be relied on for months if not years of sterling service. Am I wrong?

So, please let me know if your tours are normally trouble free or are you constantly having to fix things. I personally believe that most are trouble free and it worries me that we may put off beginners who get the impression that their tour is going to be bedevilled by frequent breakdowns.

User avatar
andrew_s
Posts: 5061
Joined: 7 Jan 2007, 9:29pm
Location: Gloucestershire

Re: Mechanical Breakdowns on Tour - Some or None?

Postby andrew_s » 15 Aug 2013, 8:06pm

Me:
Broken spokes before I started building my own wheels, and once since due to a batch of bad spokes (broke in the middle).
The horn broke off an STI lever so it was only held on the the rubber (crash damage). Usable, but riding on the hoods wasn't a good idea at speed.
I did hit the bottom of a broken bottle once, and put a 3" gash in one tyre, and a 2" gash in the other. Fortunately I had a spare tyre, and I could cut a sizable section out of the worst tyre to boot the other.

People I've been riding with:
Replacement wheel: rim wore through
Replacement wheel: bike had been into the shop for service immediately pre-tour, and they had managed to strip the axle threads under the gearside cone locknut.
Replacement wheel: bearing cage broke up
Replacement forks: disc brake ejected the front wheel (no lawyer lips). The front rack was a write-off too, but repacking got round that.
[addition]
A pringled rear wheel (Lhasa airport) where there was no replacement rim possible. Exchanged front and rear rims so the good rim was carrying the load, and trued up the front wheel as well as was possible. It lasted OK.
Last edited by andrew_s on 20 Aug 2013, 12:44pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
b1ke
Posts: 475
Joined: 30 Mar 2010, 2:17pm
Location: West Yorkshire
Contact:

Re: Mechanical Breakdowns on Tour - Some or None?

Postby b1ke » 15 Aug 2013, 8:18pm

Tandem tour - broken rear spokes. I won't tour long distance again without making sure the wheels are properly tensioned.
Loose cones.

Re tools and spares, I have multi-tool, leatherman with snips, adjustable spanner, chain splitter, spoke wrench, chain splitter, hypercracker, tyre levers and a couple of small spanners. This plus assorted spares, tubes, tyre, cables, bolts.
http://www.farewellburt.wordpress.com - Europe on a Tandem....
http://www.thespokeandwords.wordpress.com - West Africa on a Tandem....

andymiller
Posts: 1716
Joined: 8 Dec 2007, 10:26am

Re: Mechanical Breakdowns on Tour - Some or None?

Postby andymiller » 15 Aug 2013, 8:45pm

I think there is an element of luck and an element of user error. Modern bike components may be robust but they don't last forever and they aren't foolproof.

Stuff that's happened to me over the years:

- leaking hydraulic disc system - too much stress on a joint when I packed it for a flight
- pump failure so couldn't pump my tyres up properly
- internal BB failed - crossing a river and got water in it (party my fault - crank wasn't tight enough)
- external bearing needed replacing - too many mountains (should have replaced it sooner)
- hub flange breaking - sadly my trusty Hope XCs didn't last forever
- rear mech meltdown (still not sure what happened but the mech ended up in a horrible tangle with a bent mech hanger)

This doesn't include planned replacement of chains and chainrings etc

As I said, some of these are down to my mistakes, some to bad luck, and some down to simple old age.

iviehoff
Posts: 2411
Joined: 20 Jan 2009, 4:38pm

Re: Mechanical Breakdowns on Tour - Some or None?

Postby iviehoff » 15 Aug 2013, 9:17pm

Quite a few of my on-tour problems have been due to trusting bike shops because I didn't know better. They probably did know better than me at the time but they didn't know enough. Now I'm still confused about the latest components, and if I'm a bit reactionary and go for old-fashiond simplicity it is because I have learned things which are relatively safe and Chinese basic components you can get in less developed countries will fix something old-fashioned and simple.

My pannier racks cracked up because they weren't good enough for the job, and they didn't tell me. My rims cracked up because that is what Mavic rims do, selected because the bike shop man had no knowledge of heavily laden touring. My spokes broke because the wheel builder built the wheel 4-cross on small flange hubs so each spoke rubbed on the next spoke's spoke head. I've also damaged spokes by getting the chain stuck between the cassette and the spokes. My pedals broke within a fortnight because they were crap and I trusted the bike shop to know good ones which I asked them to fit. My pannier rivets broke because of a design fault which Ortlieb have now fixed. My rear spindles were always breaking because that's what used to happen until cassettes came along. My pedals needed regular regreasing because a design fault meant the dust caps always fell off, and the replacement ones I made out fo bean cans were not very good. I nearly crashed into a bush because the bike repairer didn't know how to wire up cantilever brakes can you believe it.

I have broken chains a few times, and got them in a terrible tangle too, or stuck down by the bottom bracket, and been very grateful to have a chain tool (and helped out other cyclists by having one). I have regreased bearings, both hubs and pedals, and adjusted cones quite frequently, as well as replaced spindles. I've replaced worn out chain rings, for which I had to extract the crank. I have mended many many tens of spokes, and used emergency spokes until I could get the cassette off. I have devised all sorts of ways of getting cassettes off in the absence of a chain wrench. I've replaced cables and brake blocks. I have devised all sorts of temporary repairs to racks and panniers. I have had headsets and cranks come loose. Indeed I've done just about everything you can do to a bike on tour, short of welding (I got a tractor workshop to do that) and taking a headset apart. I've picked up assorted bits of metal and other stuff from the roadside, and searched rubbish dumps, to find useful things to recruit as tools or mending material.

The bicycle which suffered most of these misfortunes is a Roberts, today a very tatty and tired Roberts. Though many of the problems were due to later replacement components supplied by others.

vernon
Posts: 1584
Joined: 8 Jan 2007, 6:03pm
Location: Meanwood, Leeds

Re: Mechanical Breakdowns on Tour - Some or None?

Postby vernon » 15 Aug 2013, 10:05pm

My tool kit is limited to a pump, spoke key, multi-tool, puncture outfit and tyre levers.

Failures that I've had that could not be dealt with by an extensive tool kit include:

Fractured rear drop out on a Dawes Galaxy - brazed together by Bill Nickson in Heywood which allowed me to complete my LEJOG

Fractured rear drop out on a different Dawes Galaxy - abandoned in a park in Orleans with the brand new seat from a Decathlon hybrid bike replacing my Brooks B17

Failed Mavic rear wheel rim, it cracked around the spoke holes - replacement wheel bought in Dumfries while doing my LEJOG

Another failed Mavic rear wheel rim on my Woodrup Chimera - replaced under warrantee by Woodrup Cycles

Yet another failed Mavic rear wheel rim rim - bought a replacement rear wheel in Macon while doing a Channel to Med ride.

eileithyia
Posts: 7834
Joined: 31 Jan 2007, 6:46pm
Location: Horwich Which is Lancs :-)

Re: Mechanical Breakdowns on Tour - Some or None?

Postby eileithyia » 16 Aug 2013, 8:04am

Not sure how to explain, but the solder holding part of my lyotard pedal together broke.... the side plate of the pedal had spur that slotted into the front plate and it was this solder that broke meaning the pedal was floppy, I held it together with a strap pulled up tight.

Rear Axle on the tandem broke, and by the I had gently nursed it a further 10-15 miles to a bike shop so had 3 spokes (in Poland equivalent of £14 to repair and sort bike and 2 hours work).

Otherwise usual punctures and occasional broken cable...
I stand and rejoice everytime I see a woman ride by on a wheel the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood. HG Wells

zed
Posts: 25
Joined: 2 Feb 2012, 4:55pm

Re: Mechanical Breakdowns on Tour - Some or None?

Postby zed » 16 Aug 2013, 10:37am

Hi there Simon, from the owner of the matching LHT in Battambang last winter! Never had any problems with the bikes, my own or the wife's Giant crs. We only totalled about 500 miles through SE Asia on our bikes that time (too darned hot), but the worst the Cambodian buses could do to my bike was crack a front mudguard (still on the bike as a souvenir). Our tour of Europe last year ended after 1300 miles when I came off the bike in Lyons, fracturing a wrist - bike unscathed. Finished a 1700 mile trip through France this summer, absolutely no bike problems, though rear Continental Travel Contact tyre wall damaged on the awful Canal du Midi track (it was carrying a fair load, front and rear panniers plus tent) - if there was ever going to be a problem with the bikes, surely that's where it would have shown up. Like you, specified reasonably robust components for the bike, though the Giant is bog standard (apart from a smaller chainset to help her over the hills) and gave them a good going over before we left. I try and remember to lube the chains fairly regularly, (new when we started, though they were worn out by the time we got back home). Have now come to appreciate the LHT as a sturdy, dependable touring bike. Just wish I was as tropicalized as you!

iviehoff
Posts: 2411
Joined: 20 Jan 2009, 4:38pm

Re: Mechanical Breakdowns on Tour - Some or None?

Postby iviehoff » 16 Aug 2013, 12:09pm

vernon wrote:Failed Mavic rear wheel rim, it cracked around the spoke holes - replacement wheel bought in Dumfries while doing my LEJOG
Another failed Mavic rear wheel rim on my Woodrup Chimera - replaced under warrantee by Woodrup Cycles
Yet another failed Mavic rear wheel rim rim - bought a replacement rear wheel in Macon while doing a Channel to Med ride.

Yes, my Mavics cracked around the spoke holes too. The lesson, which I have learned well, is Never Use Mavic Rims For Touring. How can we make that clearer. There doesn't seem to be a code for enormous font size, but I can do Never Use Mavic Rims For Touring.

User avatar
meic
Posts: 19355
Joined: 1 Feb 2007, 9:37pm
Location: Caerfyrddin (Carmarthen)

Re: Mechanical Breakdowns on Tour - Some or None?

Postby meic » 16 Aug 2013, 12:23pm

I am just setting off for a mini-tour (with my Mavic rims :D ).

The chances and incidents of petty things interrupting your tour far outweigh the chances of something major. I can cope with having to take a train or abandoning the bike, if I was to crack my frame. To do so because you find your rubber solution has dried up or you dont have a spare cable would be infuriating.

The only time that I have called for "rescue" was because of a tiny nick in a chain sideplate that stopped me from being able to ride uphill. If I had been carrying my Hexus (purchased since) I could have dealt with it quite quickly.

I dont worry about it, my cheap bikes are affordably replaceable, my expensive bike will not break that was the point of paying all that money.
Yma o Hyd

Dudley Manlove
Posts: 249
Joined: 18 Jun 2009, 10:41am

Re: Mechanical Breakdowns on Tour - Some or None?

Postby Dudley Manlove » 16 Aug 2013, 1:33pm

Okay rough failure list and fixes from memory:

x3 rear wheels pinging spokes (very jammy - always happened within last 20miles of tour)
x2 chainsuck and subsequent jamming (chain broke with chaintool and repaired with spare links)
x1 several front disc bolts fell out (replaced with spares bolts from toolkit)
x1 frame snapped at rear dropouts (again jammy - happened on return flight or at least I noticed when rebuilding the bike at the airport - new frame)
x2-3 ortlieb pannier fixings broken (carried spares after the first time).
x4-5 punctures (I list punctures as it's worth noting how rare they are relative to more major faliures).

Regarding preventables with good maintainance...all the spoke breakages happened with factory wheels. I got a 36 spoke hand-built rear wheel from Spa and problem solved. Chainsuck was probably due to me skimping and mix and matching used drivetrain parts from eBay, I stopped with this false economy and that stopped too (i'd still bring a chaintool, couple of extra links and put a quicklink, or whatever they're called, in the chain). Disc bolts, well not sure...maybe I take the blame for not checking or using threadlock.

It is fair to say most of the mechanicals happened in my first year or two of touring, when maybe my fettling had something to be desired (probably still does) and I'd not really got a handle on what parts needed to be beefed up to avoid faliure (i.e. the back wheel).

iviehoff
Posts: 2411
Joined: 20 Jan 2009, 4:38pm

Re: Mechanical Breakdowns on Tour - Some or None?

Postby iviehoff » 16 Aug 2013, 2:17pm

One of the repairs I'm particularly proud of was to a complicated spring-loaded pannier hook on my wife's Vaude panniers (we learned our lesson and replaced them with Ortliebs for the next tour). These were a really poor design in that they defaulted to open - when you release the tension of the spring the opening mechanism operates. So any problem or accidental pull on the opener and your pannier falls off. What terrible design.

Well the spring is made of rather poor metal and it somehow got crushed and fell out, and was unsalvageable. Finding ourselves with this problem in a small Norwegian town on a Saturday mid-afternoon, after most of the shops were closed (Norway is still like that), amazingly we found a small haberdashery shop open (the wife had also ripped some clothes) and I purchased a few bits I thought might do. After trying this and that I managed to fashion a safety pin into crude spring of the appropriate size, fit it in the right place inside the mechanism, click the other bits into their confusing and proper places, all the time holding the spring in tension, until everything holds itself together - one of those jobs that appears to require 4 hands and 4 dimensions of space - and lo it worked.

User avatar
georgew
Posts: 1506
Joined: 27 Jan 2007, 4:23pm

Re: Mechanical Breakdowns on Tour - Some or None?

Postby georgew » 16 Aug 2013, 4:08pm

No matter how good your preventive maintenance is, things do happen on tour.

I cycled from Scotland to the south of France and back every year and my list includes: RD hanger bashed by a Lorry while on the ferry and only diagnosed after I'd dismantled the RD and checked the trueness of the cage on a pavement in Northern France; broken Campag large flange rear hub when I slipped into a railway track in Roanne; BB packed in due to the bb retainer clip splintering when I was just north of Lyon; various Pannier disasters but always mendable; extreme damage done to my dignity when I fell into a ditch of neck-high cold water and then was pushed under by my bike and trailer which followed on. I should say that these events were over a thirty-five year period.

These incidents are to be welcomed in my view (though not necessarily at the time). The sense of adventure which comes as a result of being reliant on ones own resources while on tour, was what made touring so enjoyable. It is the unpredictable which is to be savoured, be it a mechanical problem or a chance meeting which brought an unexpected kindness.

iviehoff
Posts: 2411
Joined: 20 Jan 2009, 4:38pm

Re: Mechanical Breakdowns on Tour - Some or None?

Postby iviehoff » 16 Aug 2013, 5:42pm

georgew wrote:These incidents are to be welcomed in my view (though not necessarily at the time). The sense of adventure which comes as a result of being reliant on ones own resources while on tour, was what made touring so enjoyable. It is the unpredictable which is to be savoured, be it a mechanical problem or a chance meeting which brought an unexpected kindness.

I agree with this sentiment. Cycle touring has given me an education in self-reliance I did not have before, and I am grateful for it.

johnonhisbike
Posts: 61
Joined: 10 Jan 2011, 2:20pm

Re: Mechanical Breakdowns on Tour - Some or None?

Postby johnonhisbike » 17 Aug 2013, 9:43am

Hi, I take a pretty simple 'standard' repair kit but (touch wood) I haven't had any major breakdowns. I got my current bike in 2010 - a Specialized Crosstrail elite, had an XT rear hub fitted and Marathon Plus tyres, but other than that it came as standard. It's just passed the 12000k mark after three longish (for me!), fully laden tours and a few shorter ones. Since new, all I've replaced is one cassette, a bottom bracket, a headset, a middle chainring and two chains; but these have been done between tours in preparation for the next. Maybe I've been very lucky but it has never let me down in any way whilst away.
I agree, modern bikes if maintained ought to last, given 'reasonable' treatment within the limits they were designed for. I'm sure a lot of you guys have done far more extended tours and expeditions than me - and have more 'specialized' bikes, fitted with tougher, more durable and more expensive components - horses for courses - but if they are well serviced and maintained beforehand, a modest repair kit is surely all you need. The more remote an area you're going, then the more extensive the kit (always assuming you have the skills to use it!). The beauty of a bicycle is that it is basically a low-tech machine and the lower the tech the easier it is to repair. And whilst catastrophic failures - a cracked frame - a collapsed rim etc., are always going to be beyond an unsupported roadside repair, an artisan in his little backstreet garage can usually fettle something together to get you back on the road ... and keep the adventure going, which is really what it's all about.