Bike Basics: Trip Planning and Flat Tire Repair

Bicycling is arguably the healthiest, least expensive and most eco-friendly means of getting around. Whether you bike to work or are planning a weekend ride, here are practical tips to help you be prepared and thus enjoy the ride.

| December 10, 2010

The following is an excerpt from The Self-Sufficient-ish Bible by Andy and Dave Hamilton (Hodder & Stoughton, 2009). An “eco-living guide for the 21st century,” this extensive book includes a variety of fun ideas and practical advice on everything from gardening to home energy to travel that will help you “live in a more frugal way, while still enjoying life to the full.” The Hamilton brothers, known as “the green twins” are the founders of the Self-Sufficient-ish website and bring an engaging, practical and realistic approach to incremental self-sufficiency. The excerpt below is about bicycles —arguably the least expensive and healthiest means of travel — and covers bike trip planning and the basics of repairing punctured tires.  

Cycling is by far the most environmentally friendly way to travel; it’s also a great way to stay fit, get fresh air and feel at one with the surrounding countryside. We’ve cycled over much of England, Scotland and Wales, and most of the time it’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience, provided you’re properly equipped and sufficiently fit for the holiday you’ve planned.

We try to take a cycling holiday through Britain at least once a year. Climate change means it’s considerably warmer that it used to be, we have spectacular scenery, delightful pubs and a vast number of places of historical interest to visit, scattered throughout the country. Most people don’t have go far to find areas of outstanding beauty. In the north of England, there’s the Lake District, the Peak District and the Yorkshire Dales. Scotland is so full of naturally stunning places we could write an entire chapter about them (one of our favorites is Loch Ness). In the South there’s New Forest, the Forest of Dean, Cornwall and Devon. The Midlands has Derbyshire and Ironbridge, and vast areas of rural Wales are breathtaking, especially Snowdonia. 

Cycling Practicalities

We learned a lot about cycling over the years, often by making our own mistakes. Here are some tips to help you avoid common pitfalls.

  • Plan your trip carefully and don’t be over-ambitious — 32 kilometers (about 20 miles) a day is a good, steady pace that most people will be able to cope with, although obviously this depends on your fitness level.
  • Buy an Ordinance Survey (OS) map that shows you the contours of the land and plan out the flattest route. A distance of 1 kilometer (five-eighths of a mile) uphill can take longer than 10 kilometers (a little more than 6 miles) on level ground.
  • Eat carbohydrate-rich foods, such as pasta and rice, for at least three days before any long journey and during the trip if you can.
  • Get your bike checked before leaving to ensure it’s roadworthy, particularly the brakes.
  • Pack for all weather conditions.
  • Travel as light as possible. Think about what you would desperately need and what you could buy or forage on the way. The more weight you carry, the harder it is to cycle.
  • Take a pump or puncture-repair kit and a spare inner tube. Learn how to carry out simple cycle repairs.
  • Buy or borrow some bike lights and reflective clothing. Even if you don’t plan on cycling in the dark, your journey could take longer than you think, and you may want to keep going until you find a suitable place to bed down for the night. It’s best to be prepared.
  • Wear a helmet.
  • Carry plenty of water to stop yourself from dehydrating. Try to have at least 2 liters of water with you at all times. More will be needed if you’re not going to be anywhere near civilization for a bit.

Simple Bicycle Repairs

If you cycle you’ll one day get a puncture — it’s inevitable. You can get them fixed at most cycle shops but this can sometimes cost far more than you would expect. Besides, they’re not open all the time and are not on every street corner. It’s much cheaper and more convenient to know how to do the job yourself.

There’s a great invention known as the tire sealant, which helps prevent the most frequent smaller punctures of about 3 centimeters (about 1¼ inch). Many trial cyclists and courier riders rely on this product, as they don’t always have time to fix a puncture properly. It’s pumped inside the inner tube and coats it when the wheel revolves. For more serious punctures, see the instructions below. If you get the puncture while out biking, move the bike to a safe, level spot off the road or cycle path before trying to fix it.

12/24/2010 9:36:41 AM

I have a back pack with the heavy chain, lock, and all the tools to repair a flat. I did buy one of those CO2 inflation devices as pumping up a tire by hand takes too damn long when the tire pressure is 80 psi! Yeah, I did not look to see the tire pressure rating before purchasing it. I turns out that mine was a "HYBRID" rather than a plain mountain/cruiser bike!

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