When Things Go Wrong on Tour

Feb 11, 2019
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Bicycle tours rarely go according to plan, and that’s what I love about them. Unexpected events keep you on your toes, but if you’re well prepared with good equipment and surround yourself with good people, you can get through just about anything.

I've got a couple of life experiences that illustrate this.

Great Divide Route 2012

Since 2012, I spend more time than I should thinking about my touring bike repair kit. I always start with the basics, which includes a multi-tool, spare tube, pump, and patch kit; and then add on some extras, such as a spare tire, brake and shift cable, a few spokes, and duct tape.

Biking the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route
Riding the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in 2012.
Josh Tack

What I did not bring on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in 2012 was a binder bolt for a seatpost, and that's exactly what broke on my wife's bike. With fully loaded bikes, rocky dirt roads ahead of us, and mountain passes to climb, we wanted the problem fixed on the spot. We scavenged our own equipment to see if we could pull a less important bolt from somewhere else. When that failed, we resorted to duct tape — which lasted a few hundred meters. At that point, I bit the bullet, tossed my seatpost on my wife's bike, and rode the next day and a half out of the saddle.

One would imagine that when we did finally arrive at a hardware store, I would have bought two binder bolts. One can only imagine — it broke yet again 2000 miles later in the New Mexico desert, where I spent another few days riding out of the saddle.

Giro D'iscovery

Back in 2007, fresh out of college, I did what any unemployed cyclist would do: I sold my body to science. Giro D'iscovery was an experiment to test human endurance and the effects of overtraining. Instead of riding in a lab, a group of us took to the road with a science team. The route was Missoula, MT to Colorado and back in three weeks, which included 100-mile days, 1-hour time trials scattered throughout, muscle biopsies, and blood tests. It was a sick and twisted supported bicycle tour. 

Somewhere out of Rawlins, WY, I struck a piece of metal that was laying flat on the ground. It stuck to my tire, got caught in my fork, and threw me over the bars and onto the pavement. There was a rider that fell on top of me, and pushed my arm into the pavement as I slid along. I ripped a couple good-sized holes near my elbow — the kind where the doctor squirts water into one hole, and it comes out the other. That came along with road rash on my shoulders, back, and hip.

Fortunately, Rawlins has a great hospital and I was stitched up pretty quick and back on the bike in two days, just in time for a V02 max test. I spent the next 1,000 miles riding in a lot of pain, while trying to keep all the various wounds from getting infected.

Hopefully, you have better experiences than that! But like I said, if you’re well-prepared with good equipment and surround yourself with good people, you can get through anything.

This story has been updated and was originally published on January 18, 2016.

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