I started out with the mindset to write solely about Burley D’Lite trailer maintenance. I kept however returning to the idea that the day to day maintenance of all trailers AND bikes are some common concerns. The basic care, tools and checklist is really what is so important and not enough people discuss this other than, maybe your user manual and who reads these, really :)?
I finally changed my mind on the topic when, recently, I had that lovely opportunity to change my rear bike tire (the worst tire to get a flat) when hauling the kids back and forth to school. This was on one of those days almost too hot too ride but without a car not really an option.
I remember a women with a bit of a disgusted look come out of her house to watch me change my tire/tube so we could make it to school. She was shaking her head and telling my daughters to not go in her yard although we were over 100ft away. I actually thought she may be offering water or help but came to realize she thought we were either planning to rob her or trample through her yard. Once I finished changing the tire and tube and we were ready to go, she yelled the comment (along with some other words) ‘Changing tires is a man’s job’ to which I replied in the same loud voice ‘You mean a man can change tires too?’.
To be completely honest my flat was my fault – I got behind on maintenance and safety checks after vacation. I knew my tire had the ‘worn’ patch that enabled a puncture to the tube on my excursion. If I had been I little more proactive knowing this worn patch was there and replacing it before riding I may have had a much better day but c’est la vie.
The thing about family biking is maintenance and care is not only a good thing to do for your sanity BUT a safety feature for you and the kids.
And the great thing today is we have a wealth of knowledge and we should use it. There are videos all over the place to help with maintenance. Knowing what to looking for, the terms and what is important can make a heaven or hell of your family biking adventure (Kids are not known for their patience).
With above being said I wanted to help facilitate the awareness of trailer/bike maintenance to the family cycling crowd. I want to empower you with the knowledge and courage to maybe change your own tire/tube, wrap your rims, true your tires, and keep riding. We may not get to all of this on one blog but there are so many links out there to share to give you are start.
So, what should you look for heading out on your family voyage with a trailer, bike seat and/or cargo bike? Below is a nice list of items to check before a ride either daily weekly or after a long break from riding.
- Tire pressure, condition/tread, skewer ‘tightness’, ‘trueness‘- both bike and trailer.
- Hitch condition of the trailer and bike attachment of the hitch.
- Trailer arm conditions (depending on type of trailer- are attachments and pins correctly in place without damage?)
- Lube the chain if needed
- Suspension response (if needed)
- Bike seat/cargo bike connections
- Brake response- critical!!!
- Reflectors, trailer flag and lights (charge check too)
Once you are ready, lubed and trued up- what do you need for the road ‘just in case’?
Well- most important- you need a seat bag to load with tools for the road!
What tools do you need? Some basic tools to acquire and have every ride are (for further detail Bike Tools for every kind of rider):
- Handheld pump or CO2 (I prefer the pump- you only need one :))
- Tire lever (2)
- Multi-tool (Mutli-Tool Options)
- Patch Kit
- Extra Tubes
- Rim Tape and Super Glue are helpful
So, if you are a beginner you may be asking – CO2? What? What is any of this? (that was my first reaction)
CO2 is basically a pump, does all the work for you to fill the tube BUT is ONE TIME use only. Once it is done, it is done. I have 2 issues with the cartridges. One, if you have ever been biking and replaced a tube with kids far from home your nerves are frayed and you might have ‘misplaced’ the cartridge in a time of distress. Your bike pump however most likely is attached to the bike and hard to miss AND can assist you with your trailer bike tires too! My second issue with cartridges is the waste. If you are on the roads here in Tucson or anywhere cyclists frequent you will see these littering the road. As a commuter it irks me to no end how wasteful this is as I think of cycling as one of purity and environmental preservation- not littering or wastefulness. That being said- they are convenient and where used responsibility they can save you a great deal of time and pumping.
Tire lever– huh? New to the game of changing tires/tubes here is an link for a step by step guide to changing your tube. The levers help you ‘get the tire off the rim’ to remove the tire and/or the tube.
A multi-tool (and possibly a crescent wrench – if you don’t have quick release tires) is exactly that- a multi-tool but smaller than your ‘normal’ household tool. Some have levers included, some don’t. This is helpful tightening the child seat, trailer, handlebars, bike rack etc as well as providing other bike maintenance on the go as needed to get you home as safely as possible.
A patch kit is exactly that- you have no other tube and can locate the leak then you can patch it. The patch kit is sometimes found free or only a few dollars but may take some work to find the leak and patch it if trying to get moving as fast as possible. It could also be a fun adventure for the kids trying to find the leak (this is where a hand pump comes in handy).
A tube or tubes. This is critical (in my opinion). Not only for your bike but maybe the trailer tire tubes. We have our trailer stocked with slime tubes to help minimize (hopefully) work on the road repairing a flat.
Rim tape (or electrical tape, duct tape in a pinch) are not absolutely necessary BUT if you have a spoke issue, need to true the wheel for whatever reason or have a tape issue replacing this could save you a tube or two.
Super Glue is a ‘just in case’. It can save your tire to last for the ride home OR save you after kid damage to the trailer/child seat. This is a just in case that may just be your secret weapon and can be carried in a very small package.
Now we have above basics, some good links to inform yourself on changing a tire and basic bike parts! You are on your way to a self reliant ride and no fear of getting ‘caught’ with angry kids, no food and a potty break need…
Make it home safely! And enjoy every moment outside with the family!