To Know or Not to Know: The Checklist of Bike Knowledge for World Touring

The Manchester Eye


Though it is early on in the game, with the World Tour commencing most likely in 2016 or 2017, being that I am an impeccably slow learner, especially when I don’t feel it is crunch time (ie, the night before the exam), I have spent a great deal of time scouring the Internets, pondering and considering what essential bicycle knowledge I need for the tour. As it stands right now, the tour could consist of many countries that include remote locations or simply no bicycle culture. What that means for me, is that not only do I need to know how to fix my bicycle, but also how to fix it without a bicycle stand, a vice or guidance.


Possibly Manchester at Night

Possibly Manchester at Night

While passing through one of the bicycle forums, a poster asked a similar question: “What do I need to know about my bicycle to tour?” One person’s somewhat agitated sounding response was that you needed to know EVERYTHING about a bicycle, if you’re even considering a world tour. While that makes sense and that I wouldn’t mind learning a bit about each part of the bike, I know that there are definitely more essential, need to know backwards and forwards, bits of knowledge than others. Like chain maintenance is invariably more important than handle bar tape (which I am as good at as birthday present wrapping (my birthday presents always look as if they were poorly handled baggage at the airport))

Restaurant in Geldrop, Netherlands

Restaurant in Geldrop, Netherlands



Like “pros and cons”, I always find it helpful to write a list to see of what you options you are working with. Since I am a somewhat impoverished artiste, using my printer as a foot stool due to my lack of funds to supply it with ink and also just like forcing strangers to read my “it looks like a writing with your bad hand, blindfolded competition”, I write it all out on lineless paper. I do this so that when I am done it, I can present it to others to consider my options. In this case, this list will consist of two columns, the knowledge that I have and the knowledge I that I must attain. I then have something I can present to bike shop employees as starting grounds to expand upon. Good bike shop folk, in my general experience, will not look down on you for admitting your lack of knowledge, but possibly praise you for your desire to learn more, rather than always relying on their expertise. It just shows your initiative and passion for cycling, which is something they probably understand all too well. My care isn’t being about to regurgitate the knowledge and names like a parrot, but to be able to practice these tools, commit them to memory and use them later when they are required.


So without further adieu, I present to you my list, of “Bike Stuff I Know and Bike Stuff I Think I Have to Know”




Tire and Tube – Tube patching, changing a tire

Wheel – Basic truing, removal, spoke replacement

Gears – Cassette removal, cleaning, basic knowledge of replacement

Chain – Replacement, fixing, lubing

Brakes – Minor adjustments, brake pad replacement, lever basic fixes

Seat – Raise and lower, removal

Handbars – Adjustment

Rack – Basic removal and replacement





Brakes – Brake cable replacement, better understanding of brake levers and adjustment

Gears – Better understanding of cable tension and limiters and setting them

Wheel – Better truing skills, if I run out of spokes, semi-fix solutions

Pedals – Removal and replacing

In General – Additional, non-bike stuff I need in kit for jerry-ed up situations


There is a lot more bike information that I haven’t even considered and that is possibly essential knowledge. That’s why having a list is a good starting point, to know what you are missing by showing it to others and getting their opinions to fill in the blanks, building a comprehensive, inclusive list. Readers, if you have any additional ideas and essential bits of knowledge that you feel I have left out, please feel free to comment below. Again, bike knowledge is about exchange and conversation. If you don’t ask, you will never know!



My History with The Bicycle, Part 2


Since Klalita, my first love (by love, I mean bicycle), I have had several successors, with their own colorful personalities. My Vancouver bike, that was only named recently, Mr. Coffeehead, sat in slumber at my parents’ house as I went to Edmonton and China. My Edmonton bicycle, Gomer (named because it was ugly like Gomer Pile, but also was the colors of Homer Simpson, a bright yellow and brown) was a terrible, terrible used road bike, that sounded like that really high note that Mariah Carey could hit. That wasn’t simply the sound that happened from braking, but the sound that happened ALL THE TIME. It was the soundtrack to my nightmares. I bought Gomer from the Edmonton Bike Coop, that looked more like some dude’s basement suite (biking isn’t really big in Edmonton, what with the snow and melon sized mosquitos). But Gomer got me places, including some short jaunts out into the stretching fields and farms north and west of Sherwood Park and along the River Valley Trail (which while the rest of the city isn’t the most beautiful thing in the world, this spot on lush green is quite loverly).


Not discovered by Blue Steal, but a rented bicycle. It's 500 year old Dragon Bridge, near Yangshuo

Not discovered by Blue Steal, but a rented bicycle. It’s 500 year old Dragon Bridge, near Yangshuo

In China, I had Blue Steal, which I bought from some drunk guy near the Beixinqiao Station in Beijing. He was selling “used bicycles” just in front of the actual used bicycle store. I am pretty certain the Giant Road Bike I bought was stolen, but that only dawned on me weeks after I had purchased it. The blue bike was then christened “Blue Steal”, as it was both blue in colour and possibly stolen. It was a lovely bike, that I covered in nail polish and scratches and bought two, big ass, heavy duty locks so no one would steal it (or re-steal it). Riding in Beijing was a put your life in your own hands experience. Swerving in and out of the constant rush hour and topsy turvy traffic, felt like a game of Frogger. It is not for the weak of heart, but it is a good way to get that rollercoaster thrill without paying the admission. Blue Steal helped me explore vast stretches of the city, follow the Grand Canal for hours and scoot through the ancient alley living quarters, the hutongs, discovering new nummy eateries and drinking haunts. Also having a bicycle made Beijing feel more like home, partaking in an everyday activity along with many locals (though sadly most are on electric bikes now).


Outside of Beijing

Outside of Beijing

When I left Beijing, I sold Blue Steal to a friend, who promised to ride him everyday. In Europe, I purchased a bicycle at a shop in Amsterdam, roughly translated to “The Bicycle Pirate”. I am fan of pirates, so I had exceedingly high hopes. This bicycle remained untitled until it’s very end. I don’t recall why, maybe I just didn’t feel any attachment to it. Anyways, this bicycle traversed the better part of the Netherlands, part of Belgium, sections of Rome (including the Via Appia Antica, which was AMAZING), before being stolen in the college town of Leiden, Netherlands. After years of being extra cautious with my bicycle, a slip in judgment cost me a stolen bicycle and almost all of my stuff (luckily, the thieves threw off the panniers, possibly because they were very heavy). Rather than give up my desire to cycle to England, on a limited budget, I purchased a two speed, Dutch bicycle, dubbed the Green Ranger. This hilarious bike, with an old school dynamo light (a light powered by the spinning of the front wheel), may not have had any bells and whistles, but it was tough and well built, getting me over the Penines and into Manchester.


Back in Vancouver, I was reunited with Mr. Coffeehead once again. The reunion is a love/hate one. Mr. Coffeehead requires a lot of TLC and repair, which is great, because for this world tour there is still SO MUCH that I need to learn and learn well, but there are some times where you just want to jump on your two wheels without having to worry about having issues with it. I will not get into the nitty gritty as to what those issues are (because…I want to save that for another blog), but I will say that me and Senior Coffeebrain have had more than a few arguments where I have threatened him with violence. I am just sayin’, our relationship isn’t always peaches and crème. But what relationship is? Am I really comparing a real relationship with what I have with an inanimate object? You are d

My History with the Bicycle – Part 1


Naselle, Washington, in a motel where sang karaoke with members of the Hell's Angels, 2010.

Naselle, Washington, in a motel where sang karaoke with members of the Hell’s Angels, 2010.


My memory is on of my lacking faculties. That’s why I take tons of pictures, to blow on the fading embers of yesterday and the day before that. I don’t remember my first bicycle. I do remember learning to ride it. My grandfather was suppose to teach me, but teaching requires leaving the house on your own will, at least to the sidewalk that runs in front of it. At that time, that was not something Zeda (grandfather in Yiddish) was willing to do. So I turned to my best friend at the time, my neighbor, who was three years older than me. I remember I was older than most kids, learning to ride my bicycle, but that was nothing new to me. My motor skills developed in an odd fashion. I learned to crawl backwards and when I started to write words and numbers, they too, came out backwards. Luckily this backwards trend did not affect the direction of my cycling, thanks to the all-powerful gravitational pull of hills. I remember my friend’s teaching method to get me to cycle was to roll me down the sidewalk that led to his front door. I remember I fell numerous times. But I have no recollection of that first bicycle.


Forks, the middle American town that climbed to fame due to a couple of books.

Forks, the middle American town that climbed to fame due to a couple of books.


My love affinity for cycling did not come about straight out of the gate. In fact, I don’t remember riding my bicycle at all as a child, barring a charity bike ride that we did in Grade 7, where I flew over my handlebars, scraping up my entire left forearm, which still bares the scars of the gravel that lodged itself deep into my skin. I actually remember thinking that I never wanted to ride bicycles again after that. So why did I ever get back on?


Sunset over Port Townsend, 2010.

Sunset over Port Townsend, 2010.


I attribute the resurgence of me and any interaction with any two wheeled vehicle with my mother. We were in the kitchen one day, discussing this and that and him and her (my mom loves gossip), when my mom started talking about my childhood. She recollected that when I was younger that I was not a very physical child, but that I was very smart. I told her, I could be physical if I wanted to. Her response was a faint reprise of what she had said about me as a child, “it’s okay, you’re smart”.


“Well…I could do something physical”


“Like what?”


“I could cycle…to Mexico”


And that’s where it all started. Two and a half weeks or so later I was on a bicycle, fully loaded, overwhelmingly uneducated as to what I was doing, heading south, against early spring headwinds, that if I had done any research, would realize, blow in the complete opposite direction in the summer. I remember THAT bicycle. I don’t remember makes of bicycle, unless it’s really apparent, but I do remember it was black. I remember I got it second hand from Our Community Bikes and I remember taking 3 hours to replace two tires and put on fenders. I remember going on a single training ride of 50km. Along with panniers, I wore a 60-pound backpack and looked like a torpedo coming down the highway. In Washington, my lovely steed was named, Klalita, after the Klallam tribe of Washington (their true name means “strong people”). With only a broken chain in the middle of the Redwood Forest in California (which was my fault for forgetting to take off the bungee chords when I went for an evening ride to the store), in two months, Klalita and I made it to the Mexican border. I thought about crossing onto the Mexican side. But Klalita, obese with my stuff loaded upon her, wouldn’t squeeze through the pedestrian gate. Asking a guard for permission, I stuck one foot into Mexico, took a photo of me and Klalita and was on my way.


The famous Custard King, in Astoria, Oregon, 2010.

The famous Custard King, in Astoria, Oregon, 2010.


Klalita had one more trip in her. Global Agents for Change, a now defunct charity and social incubating program that raises awareness and funds for micro-credit loans, ran Ride to Break the Cycle, a fundraising and educating bike ride from Amsterdam to Istanbul that same summer. I registered and two weeks after my trip to Mexico, I was in Amsterdam, prepping for a 5,000 km journey with a group of 12 or so other riders to Istanbul (our numbers dwindled to 5 by the end). From the local fix-it on the trip, I learned to true my wheel and readjust my brake pads. Klalita had a few minor issues on the way. Her rear axle snapped in the middle of Germany and the old chain finally died along the Danube in Romania, but aside from that, she sailed like a celebrity yacht to the finish line. After I returned to “life”, my job, my new home in downtown Vancouver, I rode Klalita everywhere. I worked about 45 minutes, uphill from home, and every morning at around 6:15am, rain or shine, I headed out, clipped into Klalita, across the Burrard Street bridge and up the endless array of hills that make up my fair city (well…not always fair, but that’s another discussion).


Unknown town, Oregon.

Unknown town, Oregon.


December 7th, 2010 changed that routine indefinitely. My memory isn’t top tier at all (nor probably middle tier), but I do remember that that it was drizzling a bit as I came over the bridge that morning. That’s the last memory I have, before some mild, hazy visions of being inside an ambulance. A truck coming off the bridge hit me from behind. I flew into the air and landed on my helmet, which flew off my head on impact. I had abrasions to my leg, fractured by spine in two places and had slightly bled into my brain.


Klalita getting a tune up from Steve-O's self appointed cousin. Ede, Netherlands, 2010.

Klalita getting a tune up from Steve-O’s self appointed cousin. Ede, Netherlands, 2010.


My Klalita suffered the worst and when I saw her again, this lovely creature who had taken me over ten thousand kilometers in a single year, was disfigured and broken. I fell to my knees and cried until my eyes hurt. “How could someone hurt something so lovely?” If it wasn’t for Klalita’s steel frame, essentially, her spine, my spine would have been a lot worse off and my life wouldn’t be what it is now. Recovery took three months. I was scared of roads. They made me nauseous. I don’t remember when it was, but I remember that it was soon after I got the go ahead to return to work in full swing, that I returned to cycling. I couldn’t throw Klalita away. I visit her from time to time in my parents’ basemen, where she permanently rests.


Miss you Klalita.

Miss you Klalita.