If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s that it’s okay to ask people for help.
The humans we surround ourselves with are there to share in our joys and in our burdens- it’s what connects us. We hold out the same hands we use to offer help to also ask for it. It’s a beautiful cycle of human care.
But with that being said, there’s also a pride and value in being able to accomplish a task on your own- to say that, if it were solely up to you to complete a task, you could rely on your own knowledge and skills to get the job done.
At the outset of our epic cycling journey from Manali to Leh with Bikat Adventures, I realized that there were a lot of things that I didn’t know about the bicycle I was riding. Together, this machine and I are going to carry each other 561 kilometers across northern India.
“I should probably try to understand how this thing works,” I think to myself.
Luckily, the expedition leaders at Bikat Adventures agree, and go out of their way to include a quick session at the end of each day’s ride to teach you different cycle upkeep skills.
After all, if you take care of your cycle, she’ll take care of you.
By the end of your expedition, you won’t just have pictures that last a lifetime, but knowledge too.
So take the next five minutes for some self-growth as I share with you the three most important things I learned on our journey about keeping my bicycle in tip-top shape, straight from the experts themselves.
If you want to be a #BikeBoss, these are the three things to know:
1. Basic Maintenance and Cleaning
This is your go-to daily checklist- just remember “Cyclists Can Be Superheroes” to jog your memory of the four things you should always check - cleanliness, chains, brakes, and shockers.
At times it may seem mundane, but trust me on this one- the little things make a BIG difference when you’re traveling 561 kilometers.
Your daily checklist begins with one question, plain and simple: is my cycle clean? Cleaning your cycle is more than just making it sparkle, but a security check for you as well. The more diligent you are about cleaning your cycle, the higher chance you have of catching something that may not be quite right- small mechanical difficulties that may cause a large issue later. In this sport, proactivity will carry you far, literally.
So, where do you start?
Let’s get our toolkit together. This can be as fancy and high-tech as you’d like, but at the end of the day, a few clean rags, toothbrush, soapy water and bike oil will do the trick.
Step one? Give your bike a bath! Get it wet with soapy water while it rests on a kickstand, let sit for a few minutes (to bring out some dirt first), and give it a thorough once-over with one of your rags or sponges.
Step two, get the drivetrain clean. What is that? Basically, it’s fancy cycling lingo for everything on the bike that actually propels it forward, aka the chain, pedals, chain wheels and derailleur (the thing near your chain that moves your chain around when you switch gears). Toothbrush time! Use those little bristles to de-gunk all the hard-to-reach areas and small parts. Use another clean rag to floss through areas you can’t otherwise reach.
Rinse and dry your bike- and last but not least, oil your moving parts! Make sure to use a lubricant specifically designed for bikes to keep it from rusting or jamming up from too much friction. Focus on all pieces where movement occurs- any pivot points, your chain links, brake cables (avoid getting it on brake pads, no one wants slippery brakes!), gear shifters and pedals where the rotation occurs.
Voila! Ready to ride?
Take 30 seconds to investigate your chain- is it aligned properly on the chainwheel?
Do your brakes work? Both front and back?
Are your shockers (the things that protect you from uncomfortable bumpy roads) on or off? Have you asked your trekking leader what today’s terrain will be like so that you can decide which position to have them in?
Have a quick practice around the immediate area making sure everything is just the way it is supposed to be. You’ve got a long day ahead of you, make sure it’s a good one!
2. Disassembling and Reassembling
Sometimes you’ve gotta consolidate. Or (if you’re like me, you like to take your wheels of to really clean them thoroughly).
Whatever your reason, if you know how to take your bike apart and put it back together, it switches from a daunting, time-consuming task to one that you can confidently tackle in just a few minutes.
First thing’s first: remove your brakes. Your front wheel is simple- find where the brake is hugged around the tire, pinch it in with both fingers and lift the gate off the top from the wire. Your tire is almost free!
Holding the wheel’s lever steady with one hand, slowly unscrew the bolt of the axle from the other end, being careful not to drop the little spring inside the bolt. Once you’ve pulled the axle out through the center of the tire, your tire is ready to be removed. Just make sure you reinstall the axle to its place so you can properly mount your bike.
Once you’ve got disassembly under your belt, reassembly is a piece of cake. Just retrace your steps backwards!
Be sure to remember to reattach your brakes around your tire (don’t want any unnecessary accidents, now do we?) and give your wheel a few good spins to ensure nothing is crooked or aligned incorrectly- your tire should spin effortlessly once you set it in motion.
There you have it, you are two-thirds of the way toward becoming a bike expert!
3. Changing a Flat Tire
No one ever wants to do it, but a serious cyclist will inevitably encounter a tire that’s given up from time to time. The right know-how will get you back on the road in no time, no worries!
First step, remove the wheel from the bike. Congratulations, you already know how to do that!
Your bike tire has an outer tire, a hard shell if you will, that houses a softer tube inside. You’ll need to remove one side of the outer tire by wedging a tire lever in between the tire bead (the hard part that touches the rim) and the metal rim itself.
Second, remove the inner tube and check for the point of damage. Once found, you can determine whether a new tube is required or just a patch (any standard bike-patching kit will do the trick). Finally, re-insert the tube, enclose it in the tire and reattach the wheel to the bike- reattach those brakes!
Boom. You are now a #BikeBoss.