Bicycle Roadside Assistance

Even the best prepared cyclist armed with a multi tool can have a breakdown beyond what they can handle themselves.  In those cases, outside help may be needed.  However, if you’re on an epic adventure far from home who do you call for help?  

It nice to know that assistance is available from the American Automobile Association (AAA) in the USA.  All AAA Roadside Assistance plans include bicycle coverage at no additional charge.  So, help is only a phone call away at 800-AAA-HELP (800-222-4357).  However, to get roadside service, you’ll need to go through membership validation with your AAA Membership card and a photo ID. 

While AAA will not repair your disabled bike and they don’t cover transportation due to rider fatigue, their bicycle services does include transporting your bicycle back home, to a bike repair shop, etc. withing the limits of your plan due to a breakdown. 

Related Links

Bicycle Roadside Assistance & Repair Services | AAA Club Alliance

Ken Whittaker

Emergency Bicycle Toolkit

How to prepare for a bicycle breakdown

Have you ever been cycling in a remote area and had a bicycle breakdown? While you can’t be prepared for every eventuality, you can carry 25 of the most common bicycle tools needed for bike repairs with you in your jersey pocket or mini saddle bag.

The Topeak Alien III Multi-Tool includes:

  • Hex wrenches – 2-L / 2.5 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 8 / 10 mm
  • Torx® wrench – T25
  • Open wrench – 8 / 10 mm
  • Box wrench – 9 mm
  • Spoke wrench – 14G / 15G / Mavic® 7 / Shimano® compatible
  • Tire lever
  • #2 Phillips screwdriver
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Chain tool, Chain hook
  • Serrated knife / saw
  • Bottle opener
  • Disc brake spacer

While the Alien III Multi-Tool might seem a bit pricy with a retail price of about $75, when you consider that is only about $3 per tool, the price seems very reasonable. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve relied on the Alien to get me out of a bind. If I could have only one tool, this would be the one.

Note: I rarely write product reviews. When I do, it is always of a product that I use and paid for myself.  I do not benefit in any way by my product reviews. I share my opinion of a product with the visitors to this website so they might benefit from my experience with that product.

Ken Whittaker

Best Bicycle Touring Pedals

Bicycle touring generally means long hours on the bike where a rider may become acutely aware of every point that their body comes in contact with the bike. Since I’ve already posted about avoiding a sore butt and numb hands, it’s time to address the third contact point, your feet. It is not uncommon for cyclists to experience hot spots or soreness in their feet while touring. However, with the proper pedals these problems can be completely eliminated.

Shimano XT Touring PD-T8000 SPD Trekking Clipless Pedal
Shimano XT Touring PD-T8000 SPD Trekking Clipless Pedal

Five Features to Look for in a Touring Pedal

  • Reliability – First and foremost, look for a good quality, reliable and serviceable pedal. Many of my bicycle adventures take me off road or in areas where bicycle shops may not be readily available. While quality and reliability are important, serviceability is just as important in the rare case that there is a problem.
  • Comfort – Look for pedals that allow you to change position on the pedal. Being able to change your foot position will increase comfort by reducing the pressure on the same point on your foot and will help to eliminate soreness and hotspots.
  • Versatility – Look for pedals that can be used with more than just cycling shoes. While I prefer cycling with clipless SPD pedals, there are times when I want to be able get out of my cycling shoes. Who wants to put on their bike shoes to cycle, just to ride over to the restroom on the other side of the campground?
  • Stability – Look for a pedal that you will feel safe cycling on all terrain and at all speeds. While I like to be clipped into my SPD pedals on a good surface, on difficult terrain or at slow speeds I prefer a wide cleated platform for stability and that I can also easily put a foot down on if necessary.
  • Visibility – Look for a pedal that will make you more visible to vehicles on the road. I like to make myself as visible as possible on the road, especially at night. I prefer a pedal with reflectors as part of their design.

The best bicycle pedal that meets all my touring requirements is the Shimano XT Touring PD-T8000 SPD Trekking Clipless Pedal. If you know of a better pedal for bicycle touring, please share why in the comments below.

Related posts:

Related Links:

Ken Whittaker

Never buy a new bicycle

I admit it. I’ve always lusted for the latest and greatest bicycle and gear. Even though I thoroughly enjoy riding my current bicycle, I’ve always wanted the latest and greatest gear as soon as I see it. Sure derailleurs, disc brakes and tubeless tires were great improvements and justified upgrades to improve comfort, safety and performance. However, in reality there have been only a few truly breakthrough technological innovations in cycling in the past several decades. As cyclists we are like a child that only wants what’s advertised on the TV Saturday morning cartoon show for Christmas.

A brand-new bicycle can cost you anywhere from the hundreds to several thousands of dollars, depending on style and brand. Yet, with a fresh coat of spray paint or just a tune-up, an older bicycle can be made new at a much lower price point. By getting into the “Buy Nothing” group online you might just snag a bike for free. Especially kids’ bikes, which they outgrow so fast that it’s worth investing in a used bike to save money. But you can even buy adult bikes online at sites like eBay, Craigslist or checkout your local bike shop. Many bike shops take trade-ins. For example, as part of Trek’s sustainability objective Trek will begin selling used bikes through its Red Barn Refresh program. Spend the money you save on a brand-new helmet, which you’ll need to be safe.

Ken Whittaker

Old School Solution When You Can’t Go Tubeless

Tubeless Tire Sealant Sealing a Punctured Tire

In the past, I’ve been very outspoken about the advantages of tubeless tires, see “Ten Reasons To Go Tubeless“. But as the saying goes “a picture is worth a thousand words.” The picture illustrates how I fix most bicycle flat tires now. I simply let the tire sealant fix the puncture for me. It’s that easy. Admittedly, sealant alone doesn’t always repair larger punctures and sometimes I have to use a plug, see The Trick to Using Stan’s Darts on Tubeless Tires“. Nevertheless, given a choice, I will take a tubeless tire over a tube tire any day. However, there are times when you simply can’t use a tubeless tire. For example, the Bafang Monster Bike Build was a budget project, and I didn’t have tubeless ready wheels, and my 2.5 ” MAXXIS – Hookworm Tires weren’t tubeless tires.

Photograph of a Cannondale mountain bike conversion to E-bike using a bafang 750W BBS02 mid drive motor kit
Cannondale Mountain Bike Converted to an E-bike.

So, I had to revert back to an old school solution to flat proof my tires. The process is relatively simple, as follows.

  • Start with a good puncture resistant tire.
  • Next, pop Velocity Veloplugs into each spoke hole to eliminate spoke hole flats. 
  • While not necessary, I also put rim tape over the plugs to ensure the plugs stay in place.
  •  Finish the process by adding tube sealant in the tubes to self-repair any puncture. 

For a more detailed description of process, see “How I Eliminated Bicycle Flat Tires Forever!” I never thought I would revisit this topic since going tubeless, but since I’m doing this process again for the Bafang Monster bike build I thought I would share, for those who are still riding tires with tubes.

Ken Whittaker

Wheel with Velocity Veloplugs in Spoke holes

Disc Brakes Increase Bicycle Versatility

While there are many advantages to disc brakes, I rarely hear anyone talk about one of the biggest benefits I enjoy with my disc brake bikes.  Disc brakes have greatly increased the versatility of my bikes.  Today there are so many different types of bikes.  There are road bikes, commuter bikes, cross bikes, touring bikes, fitness bikes etc. and the list goes on and on, and the bike industry would like us to buy them all.

In actuality, there really are only minimal variations in the different bike style geometry.  For the most part, the most noticeable difference in the various bike designs is the wheel size and tire width.  However, with a disc brake bicycle that can accommodate a wide range of tire sizes, the versatility of the bike is greatly increased simply because it is so easy to change the wheel size and tire width.

As illustrated above, I can simply remove and change the wheel and tire set on my touring bike from 700C road wheels and tires for the road to 26″ Mountain Bike wheels and tires that I use on trails and paths. This flexibility has made my disc brake bike a great investment for me because I use the same bike to do on and off the road riding.

Ken Whittaker

Bicycle Tire Bead Tool

Kool Stop Bicycle Tire Jack Tool

I’ve been using the Kool Stop bicycle tire jack ever since I first learned about it when I was cycling across the United States, see Day 35 – Silsbee, TX to De Ridder, LA – Cycle Across America. It is a fantastic tool for mounting tight fitting bicycle tires. While I would still highly recommend the Kool Stop as a great compact tool to stuff in a seat bag for quick puncture repair when touring, in my home shop I’ve switched to a generic plier-like tire jack pictured below.

Generic Plier-type Bicycle Tire Jack Tool.

The plier-like tire jack makes grabbing the tire bead and rim a faster and easier one-handed operation. However, although the plier-type jack is easier to use, I don’t think I would ever carry this bulky tool in a seat bag for emergency tire repairs. Nevertheless, I found it easier to use while servicing my tires in my home shop.

If you struggle with mounting bicycle tires like I do, I highly recommend the Kool-Stop Tire Bead Jack or the generic plier-like tire jack. Pick one or both up at your local bike shop. If your local bike shop doesn’t have them (many bike shops don’t), they can easily be found online.

Ken Whittaker

Topeak Road Morph Pump

Full disclosure first. I rarely do product reviews. When I do, it is always of a product that I chose for my own use and paid for with my own money. I do not benefit in any way by a product review. I share my opinion of a product with the visitors to this website so they might benefit from my experience with the product.

With that said, you may have noticed in my post Don’t Forget to Service Your Bicycle Pump that I use a Topeak Road Morph Pump. While this pump looks like other mini pumps, the Road Morph transforms smoothly into a floor pump. This compact, easy-to-carry pump has all the features of my shop pump with a head that fits both Presta and Schrader valves, an in-line pressure gauge that reads up to 140 PSI, a flexible hose, T-type handle and fold-out foot pad.

Topeak Road Morph Pump

While you might think that a full featured pump like this will be big, it is barely noticeable on the downtube of my bike in the picture below. If you struggle with a small but ineffective mini pump consider the Topeak Road Morph. My Topeak Road Morph pump was essential to me on my coast-to-coast adventure and is still an essential piece of equipment for me today.

Day 52 – Victory

Ken Whittaker

A Must Have Winter Addition to Your Cycling Kit

Neck Gaiter

As the weather turns cooler, a neck gaiter becomes an essential part of my cycling kit. There is nothing more versatile at keeping my head and neck warm. An added benefit is that when it gets too warm to wear my neck gaiter it is easily stored on my wrist while I’m cycling. Below are the ways I use my neck gaiter:

Neck Gaiter

While it may take some time to learn how to transform this versatile garment into all its possibilities, with a little help from YouTube you can become a master at it in no time. So stay warm and keep cycling!

Ken Whittaker

The Hidden Cost of a Bosch E-bike

If you’ve read my post “BUILD OR BUY AN E-BIKE?” you know that I purchased a ready to ride Bosch e-bike and also converted one of my old bikes to a Bafang powered e-bike. After a year of riding both bikes about 1,000 miles (1.6K KM) each, which system do you think cost more to maintain?

The Bosch system was by far the most expensive to maintain. While neither the Bosch nor the Bafang systems had any mechanical or electrical problems, the Bosch system had to go to my local bike shop twice for service and the Bafang system never needed service.

Let me say that again.

While the Bosch never had a mechanical or electrical problem in the last year, it had to go into the local bike shop twice for service.

So why does a bike that has no mechanical or electrical problems need to go to the bike shop twice in 1,000 miles? Because Bosch designed their system so that a maintenance required indicator comes on every 500 miles (see wrench icon in bottom right corner of image). Once the icon comes on, it can only be reset by an authorized Bosch dealer using Bosch diagnostics software.

The joke among e-bike riders is that Bosch should change the maintenance icon (wrench) to dollar signs ($$$) because that’s what the icon really means. The bike doesn’t need service every 500 miles, the rider just has to pay to have it turned off. Perhaps it’s just an attempt by Bosch to bring revenue in to the local bike shops to help them pay for their expensive Bosch’s dongle and diagnostic software.

The maintenance of my Bosch e-bike is the most expensive of any bike that I’ve every owned. I don’t know if I would buy a Bosch system again knowing that Bosch intentionally created recurring hidden costs in their product that have no added value to the customer.

Ken Whittaker