A helpful guide to preparing and fixing your bike for those unexpected breakdowns.
What’s your biggest fear? Taxes? Bears? How about you bike breaking down in the middle of a six-hundred-plus ride across Korea.
Bike shops and pop-up vendors litter the cycling paths in cities like Seoul, Daegu, and Busan. So, you’re never too far away from help.
However, once delve deep into the wilderness of Mungyeong or
Let’s get started with our bike maintenance checklist for your cycling trip across Korea.
Bike maintenance checklist
You don’t have to be a mechanic to make your machine reliable. A quick once over can spot the gremlins lurking in your gears.
Here’s a list of things to check before you go on a ride.
Why does my bike feel so sluggish? Often the answer is low tire pressure.
It’s physics. The more tire on the road, the more friction. It’s harder to pedal. If you want to get your bike into shape, pump those tires up. You’ll feel you’re riding on air.
But, stay away from the max. First, check the psi (pounds per square inch) on the side of your tire. Narrow road bike tires need more psi (80-130 psi). Thicker mountain bike tires need less pressure (25-35 psi).
The more pressure in your tires, the less the rolling resistance. However, your hardened tires will pass on every bit of uneven, unfriendly pavement to your hands and butt. Pumped up kicks also increase your chance of a puncture.
Less air smoothes out your ride and lowers the chance of a puncture. In the rain, a slightly deflated tire grips damp roads better. However, don’t cheat yourself out of easy speed.
So, what’s the lesson: balance.
For further informatino, Check out this guide to pumping up your tires.
A wet bike chain is a healthy bike chain. Like oil for your car engine, it’s better to keep metal parts that rub together well lubricated.
There are two types of bike chain lubricants. Wet and dry.
Dry lubricant (for dry conditions) is the consistency of water. It is the best lube to reduce friction between your chain and gears.
However, because dry lube is a low-viscosity, rain and regular use will wash it away. You need to apply wet lube every 80-150 km (50-100 mi).
Wet lubricant (for wet conditions) is stickier than the dry lube. It won’t wash off in the rain. It’s great for all weather. However, dirt and grit will stick to the lubricant. All that extra dirt and rocks will wear out your
Always apply lube to a clean chained. However, life doesn’t always allow “always.” If you’re in the field and need to lube up, wipe the grit off with a towel and apply. A dirty lubed chain is better than a dirty dry chain.
Check out this tutorial for how to apply lube to your chain correctly.
Hands down the brakes are the most important part of your bike. You’ll understand when slaloming down the 500-meter peak near Mungyeong. If you can’t brake, you can’t stop.
Test Your Brakes
Hold the front brake and push your bike forward. You rear wheel should lift off the ground. Then reverse. Pull the rear brake and push your bike backwards.
If your wheels won’t rise in the air, you have one of two problems. Your brake cable tension is too loose. Or, time and use wore your brake pads
Adjust Cable Tension
For small cable tension adjustments, screw the barrel adjuster. You can find the notched
Hold the brake and try the wheel lift test. If it isn’t tight enough, repeat until your wheel firmly lifts off the ground.
Next, lift your wheel and spin. Watch to see if your wheel rubs against the brakes. If they do, the cable might be too tight. Back off the tension.
Or, if you have rim brakes, you might have an alignment issue.
Aligning the Brakes
You can force rim
Take a 6mm hex wrench and loosen the bolt that attaches the brake to the bike frame. Pull the brake lever and firmly tighten the bolt. Let off the brake. The pads should
Brake Pad Alignment
Since you’re already down there, if you have rim brakes, check the alignment of the brake pads on the wheel. Make sure the brake pads align with the metal rim. They shouldn’t touch the rubber on the tire.
You can reposition the pads with
If your bike has disc brakes, check the wear on the pads. If there’s about a millimeter or two of pad left, replace them.
Rim brake pads have grooves on the surface. If the pad is as flat, replace the pads.
It’s usually a one-tool job. Unscrew a little bolt. Slide the old pad out and the new pad in. Re-tighten the little bolt. Finished.
Check out this detailed guide to inspecting your brakes.
If you’re front derailleur won’t shift up, you’re walking anything with a slope. If it won’t shift down, you’ll spin, spin, spin at a snail’s pace on flats.
Check the reliability of your shifting before your cycling trip.
First, find a good place to hang or prop your bike so your rear wheel hovers. You can flip the bike over. But, this will reverse everything. It also makes shifting difficult.
Next, turn the pedals by hand. Shift the rear (right hand) gear shifter in a middle gear.
Now, run the front (left hand) gear shifter through its gears. This will push the chain up and down the
If the chain doesn’t jump smoothly between chain rings, adjust cable tension with the barrel adjuster. This controls how far the front derailleur pushes the chain.
Add more tension (a quarter turn clockwise) the chain won’t jump into the largest chain ring. Release tension (a quarter turn counter-clockwise) if it won’t fall onto the smallest chain ring.
Always put the front gear shifter in its lowest gear before adjusting tension.
If you still have issues, check the front derailleur’s limit screws. The limit screws make sure that the chain doesn’t stray off the chain rings. They could restrict the chain a little too much.
Check out this video on how to adjust your front derailleur here.
First, shift into the smallest chain cog (highest gear) on the cassette and the largest chain ring on the
If you can’t get the chain into the smallest cog, twist the barrel
Now, shift down one gear. If the cable doesn’t jump into the second
You’re almost there. Shift through the remaining gears. Twist the barrel
Now, shift into the smallest chain ring on the
Check out this instructional video to see how to adjust your rear derailleur.
A hundred kilometers (62 mi) has away of amplifying pain. Any slight misalignment can brew trouble in your arms, your knees, butt.
You can minimize your aches and pains by changing your ride position.
Saddle (Seat) Height
The quickest way to comfort on a bike is to adjust the height of the seat. No matter which type of bike you ride (road, MTB, city cruiser) your knee should be slightly bent when fully extended on the pedals.
If your seat is too low, you’ll soon learn how grandpa’s knees feel when getting out of his lazy boy. If your seat is too high, you’ll find out how grandma feels after her hip replacement surgery.
Some seats require a hex wrench to loosen a bolt. Some have a quick release. Either way, undo the clasp on the bike frame and lift or lower the seat post.
Shift the post incrementally. Lock it down, climb aboard and test it out.
Once you find the correct height, make sure the saddle points directly forward before you lock it in place.
If your tender bits feel sore, your seat might not be level.
If your seat tilts back, your reproduction factory might suffer. If it tilts forward, you’ll slide forward when riding and put pressure on your arms.
You can adjust the tilt by loosening a hex bolt under the saddle. Level it up and re-tighten the bolt.
While you’re adjusting the tilt, check the forward and backward (fore, aft) positioning of the saddle.
You can check this by dropping a pair of headphones (or plumb line) from your knee. If it dangles over the center of the pedal, your everything is a-okay.
Adjust the fore aft positioning with the bolt under the saddle used to change tilt.
Check out this video for more help on getting the perfect fit.
Quick Bike Fixes
Once your get you bike in tip-top shape, you can feel confident to set out on your cycling journey. But, the unexpected always happens.
Here are some quick fixes to help get back on the cycling path.
Ghosts haunt houses. Flat tires haunt riders. If you have a traditional tube and tire wheel, you need not fear. Fixing a flat tire is a simple exorcism.
First, you need the right tools and gear.
Once you spot your flat tire, flip your bike over and take the wheel off.
Most wheels are have a simple thru axle. Just flip out the locking lever and twist until the wheel is loose. If you’re removing the rear wheel, lift the (greasy) chain off the cassette and pull the wheel out.
Now, inspect the outside of the tire. Look for obvious signs of a flat in the rubber. A nail. Piece of glass. Rock shard. Take it out.
Tire, Tube, & Wheel
Tire, tube, and wheel may be interchangeable in the layman world. But, they have specific meanings in the bike world.
Tire (tyre) refers to the rubber that meets the road. The inner tube is the tube stuck between the tire and wheel. This is the part inflated with air. The wheel is all of the metal parts: the spokes, hub, and rim.
Get That Tube Outta Here
Next, lets get that tire off.
If you have a Schrader valve, remove the cap and stick anything pointy into the valve. Your tube should take its last breath.
Now, get your trusty plastic tire levers (never use a metal
Work your way around the tire until one side of the tire is completely off the wheel. Now, pull out the tube’s guts and stuff it in your bag.
If you’re nervous that the puncture culprit is still inside the house, take the tire completely off the wheel. Run your fingers along the inside the tire and feel for sharp bits.
New Tube Time
Now, let’s break out a fresh inner tube.
Remove the valve cap and locking nut (for
Next, wedge one tire bead back on the rim of your wheel. Slip the tube’s valve stem into the valve hole and stuff the tube under the tire.
Place the wheel on the ground in front of you. Starting at the valve, use your thumbs to slip the second bead over the rim.
Work both sides at the same time. If you use one hand, you’ll find yourself in an endless loop: tire bead goes in one side. Tire bead pops out the other side. (It’s only funny for the first hour.)
The last bit of the tire bead will test your grit. Whip out your tire levers. Stick one between the rim and tire. Use the other to lever the last stretch of bead over the rim.
You can use your bare hands to reinstall the tire. But, you’ll come out the other side a different person.
Pump, Pump, Pump It Up
Next, take out your portable pump. Attach it to your valve and pump once. Pump Twice. Stop!
The quickest path to another flat is a pinch flat. This is when your tube gets caught between the tire bead and the wheel. When you inflate the tube and ride, the ensnared tube will rip when jostled.
Therefore, pump the new tube a few times, then rock the tire back and forth in the wheel’s rim. This will free any flabby tube bits from the clutches of your tire.
Now, pump, pump, pump it up. But, not too much.
The tiny slit from a piece of glass won’t make a difference. However, a dime-sized hole from a blowout might mean serious trouble.
You can fix it. But, it might cost you. Literally!
Before you pump up your new tube, stuff a three-times folded ₩ 1,000 bill between the tube and the hole in the tire. then, pump the tire till it’s minimum psi.
Instead of money, you could also use a vinyl candy wrapper or rugged leaf. But, what’s the fun in that?
This is a temporary fix. Replaced your tire ASAP.
Let’s classify two types of bike riders. Spinners and crankers. Spinners stay in a low gear and pedal with ease and efficiency. Crankers stay in high gear and pedal with power and force.
Being a cranker puts a lot of strain on a bike chain. Sometimes too much strain.
From Personal Experience
My first day riding across Korea. After a few pics of the I•SEOUL•U, I hopped on my bike and cranked down. Pop! My chain split in two. I found a shop quick and was back on the road in an hour.
My second break, however, was on a mountain in Mungyeong. My bike trip suddenly turned into a walking and coasting trip.
Once your chain pops, remember this: chains are grease covered filth machines. Wear gloves or just embrace the dirty.
Turn the bike upside down or lean it against a pole. Find the broken link.
You can take the chain off the bike. However, remember how the chain threads through the rear derailleur cogs. It can get tricky reinstalling.
Find the link you want to punch out. Rest the chain on the tines of the chain breaker tool. Line the metal probe up with the pin you need to remove. Now, turn the rivet tool until the rivet punches out pin to the broken chain link.
Take out your quick link.
A quick link is a single link chain link you can easily pop in to reconnect the chain.
Check that your quick link is the correct speed. A ten-speed chain needs a ten-speed quick link.
You can mix-and-match brands.
Quick links will replace an outer (wider) chain link. That means you need to connect two inner (narrower) chain links, not two outer chain links.
Now, if you took the chain completely off the bike, thread the chain through the cogs of the rear derailleur and front derailleur‘s cage.
Stick the quick link pins through opposite inner chain links holes.
Bring the quick lengths together. You should feel tension in the chain. If there’s no tension, you might have missed threading the chain through a cog.
Stick quick link pins through each others’ slotted holes. The divots at the end of the pins will catch on the slots.
If the quick link is a permanent, it’ll take force to push the pins into the back of the slotted holes. However, once they’re back there, they’re fixed. No redos.
Now, pedal the chain. Check that the chain runs through the gears smoothly.
If you lost
You can finish your ride with a short chain. But, stay away from the larger gears. Visit a bike shop to resize your chain.