Monday, 11 April 2016

Trail Tips: tools and broken things...

I thought I'd pop down a few of the things I've learned as I've ridden more about the little things that happen whilst out on the trails... We've had punctures galore, collapsed wheel bearings, drowned bikes and plenty of broken bits...and then fixed them enought to finish a day or get the bikes back in some way!

Lucy swimming again!

Let's start with the tool kit that I carry then look at what I've used it for... Everybody has their own favourites for tools, I've seen some beauties and some very basic ones... each to their own really.

Tool Kit:
I carry enough tools to do just about all the main fixable jobs on the bike that don't require a full engine strip down.  And enough to make a bodge repair to get me either home or back to the van. I put all of these into a bag on the back of the bike.

Starting from the top left and going right...
Top Row:
1. Puncture repair - standard cycling one
2. Spare Spark Plugs - make sure they are the correct ones for your bike!
3. Piece of 2 core household electrical cable
4. Some kind of soapy liquid - for tyre changes
5. Metal fixing goo - This is a pste that seals engine cases etc
6. Small piece of piping - I've used this to drain fuel from one tank to another

Bottom Row:
1. Spark plug spanner
2. Selection of allen key heads, screwdriver bits and mini sockets
3. Allen keys
4. Ratchet screwdriver for the assorted little bits
5. Non ratchet screwdriver type tool for the assorted bits
6. selection of open ended spanners, 8mm to 15mm
7. KTM Axle spanner.

I also carry in my rucsac: 
1. A Gerber multi tool with pliers
2. 3 x tyre bars for getting the tyre off a rim.
3. A spare lightweight front inner tube
4. A head torch.
5. A small sponge in my airbox
6. Some electrical tape, (as this still sticks when both wet and cold, unlike duct tape)
7. A rope tow rope 15m
8. 10-15 various length cable ties (attached onto one of my fork legs).

The tool kit rests behind my saddle in an old bumbag. It's fell off once recently which is maybe because it's very battered and the fabric is stretching a lot now, so I'm on the look out for another bag, maybe a Kriega Tool Roll or the Moose racing Fender Pack.

I've made a point of testing every tool out in the rain and on the trail by trying to fix something at somepoint and found it does the job reasonably well now although it's taken a bit of time & patience to get it right!

If I'm doing a longer multi day trip I'll add to this a selection of bolts/nuts/washers/cotter pins and a spare chain link, but for a day ride I often don't take this stuff.

Tubes or Mooses?
There is an ongoing debate about whether it is better to ride on the trails with inner tubes or to fit a tubeless system like Mooses or TUbliss.


TUbliss setup

I have tried Mooses and if I were competing in a rally event or an enduro would definately fit them, but for trail use which is often slower and more relaxed I use tubes.

My personal favorite is Vee Rubber Extra Heavy Duty tubes.

Around £18.00 per tube

I like these because so far in two years of riding I haven't had a problem with them at all. No punctures in any one I've fitted and they have now gone into 3 seperate bikes and been ridden on all surfaces and in UK winter conditions. The older standard tubes and what is called Heavy Duty tubes I now use as spares and carry just a front one in a rucsac or on the bike.

A lot of people have their own opinions about these and it's entirely upto you which you use.

What changed my mind was riding the TAT Trail in 2014. Geoff and I used heavy duty tubes and got loads of punctures, yet we weren't riding particualrly hard terrain most of the time. this was a pain and so led me to look around at the options out there. One of the American lads we rode with had fitted a TUbliss set up to his bike and the plastic inners broke in Utah in the middle of the desert, 40 degrees and we're fighting to get that bloody plastic thing out of the tyre. We swapped him over to tubes and he finished the TAT like this.

I know and ride with plenty of guys who ride on Mooses, they run them slightly softer which you feel on the tarmac road surfaces, but then on the trail you carry less tools and repair stuff so your fresher after a longer or harder dasy riding.  They cost around £200 ish to get fitted and last for a long time. In extreme heat they break down and crumble inside the tyre so folk on the Dakar and other hot rally's carry spares to fit.

Changing a Tyre
For changing a tyre on the trail I've found two YouTube films that seem pretty good. The first gives me garage tool envy, I want one of those tyre stands. the guy in this one is very good and slick

Changing a Tyre in a Garage

The second is more like how I change a tyre on the trail. I find it a bit dry but it is as I say more realistic when you don't have a tyre stand.

Changing a Tyre on the Trail

I was lucky in that Geoff, a long time riding mate, fitted tyres for a living and so showed me his method and what to watch out for... then I had loads of practice on the trails. It's not the easiest task in the world but it is a necessary skill I think personally.

Drowning a Bike.
One thing is for sure, if you ride on UK trails a lot, you will cross plenty of rivers! Some people, (like me), love this, some hate it, either way it's part of riding and a skill like any other.

If it all goes pear shaped and you end up dropping your bike in the river and water gets into the engine there is a process you need to follow to sort it out...

Strata Florida Drowned Bike - Have a look at 3.45 mins
My KTM 400 EXC in the Caldew - small epic session one evening...

1. Turn off the engine
2. Up end the bike onto the back wheel and drain the exhaust out.
3. Remove the spark plug and crank the engine to release the water in the piston cylinder. Pop in a clean spark plug if you have one, if not thoroughly dry the existing one.
4. Empty the air box, wring out the air filter, (use a sponge to mop up the last dregs).
5. Drain the float bowl on the carburetteur if you have one
6. Try to crank the engine over. If it starts leave it to run for awhile to clear out any water.

If it doesn't start, go back to the start and repeat the whole lot again. It will start at some point unless you drain the battery!

You also may need to dry out the electrical switches on your handle bars as the 'Kill Switch' sometimes shorts, especially on older bikes.

When you get home after a drowning, change the oil and filters, (it may need 3 or 4 changes to get it from being milky). Do it ASAP as the water in the engine can do a lot of damage!

Collapsed Wheel Bearings
This shouldn't be much of an issue in the UK if you do regular bike maintenance, you can get to a road head or get towed to a town most of the time and with most bearings they'll last a fair while until they totally die, enough to get you back anyway.

Where it becomes a problem is on multi day trips, where you have poor access to towns etc. We had an issue on The Vince in the Pyrenees. Lucy's back wheel bearings collapsed and she was really upset by the bike, so we swapped bikes and rode it back to camp, some 20+ miles on a motorway!

We had no bearings but luckily some lads did and over beers and chat we sorted it out. I learnt a lot there about types of bearings. The cheap ones you change a lot but they are cheap, the expensive ones you change less but they last longer. Good makes includ FAG & SWM. When you buy bearings from a car parts place they are usually cheap chinese imports and they collapse again fairly soon.

Getting them out is usually harder than getting them back in as they have heated and shrank with your hub over time, but basically get a long bar/screwdriver and hammer them out from the opposite side of the hub until the fall out. This can be ahard work as the longer they are in the more crap builds up and helps to hold them in place. As the hub is maybe alloy and the bearing stainless steel alittle bit of metal fatigue can also glue them together a bit.

The process is:
1. Remove the wheel
2. Remove the dust seal protecting the bearing
3.Clean the area and look for a circlip - (KTM's have one on one side of the wheel).
4. Remove any circlips
5. Pick a side, turn over the wheel, insert a long bar and line it against the outer rim of the wheel bearing, (push the internal alloy sleeve to one side to do this). Keep hitting the bearing around it's outer edge until it drops out.
6. Do the other side.
7. Clean the sleeve and all the parts around the hub of water, dirt etc.
8. Grease the outer face of the bearing and the inner face of the hub, then p
lace the new bearing over the aperture and tap it into place gently on the outer ring only. Once the sound changes you know it's seated properly.
9. Replace the dust seal
10. Insert the Sleeve back into the hub
11. Do the other side wheel bearing and dust seal.
12. Refit the wheel.

Dirt Bike Magazine YouTube Film: Replacing a KTM Wheel Bearing

Again after a few times you get pretty slick at this and we've done this using rocks and sockets on the side of a road a few times now on longer trips.

I'll add more to this as I remember things...