August 9, 2016

GIRLS ON TOUR – What do the pros have in their packs?

Girls like to go on tour with their bikes but when it comes to fix a flat bike tire they often are afraid of breaking something. But tinkering is easier than a lot of female bikers think. GORE RUNNING WEAR® athlete Nathalie Schneitter gives you her best tips.

ROSE Vaujany fueled by ultraSPORTS - photo: Irmo Keizer
She tries to fix the little things arround the bike herself: Moutainbike-Pro Nathalie Schneitter on tour in the mountains. © by Irmo Keizer.

Summer time is time for tours. On a sunny summer day, there’s nothing better for both recreational cyclists or bike pros than saddling up on the ol’ iron steed (or perhaps the sleek carbon number) and heading out for several hours. Precisely when the temperatures in the flatlands are hitting unbearable highs, how great is it to grab the mountain bike and take off for a day’s adventure in the hills.

Women and mechanikal tinkering: A lack of self-confidence

For many women, it’s still a bit taboo to tinker about with the mechanics of a bike. Normally, the reason is simply fearing breaking something – Women often don’t have enough self-confidence when it comes to mechanical tinkering. If you have a husband, boyfriend, brother or father at home who not only takes care of cleaning your bike, but also manages the entire service package, it’s not a surprise. Although it is too bad. I myself was lucky that my dad was all thumbs and my brother was more into soccer than bikes. That meant I had to figure out all kinds of things on my own pretty early (even though today I still prefer to head into my trusted bike shop for really complex things). In fact, cleaning my bike turned into my weekly meditative routine.

Still, when you’re out on an adventure, there is no bike shop available. That means there is no place for a women’s fear of breaking something.

The following tools and all-purpose aids are always in my bike pack or in my jersey pocket:

Multi-tool: A multi-tool can’t really do everything, but it can do a lot. Sometimes one screw or another is shaken loose just from the vibration of riding a trail. A loose brake or gear lever doesn’t just drive you nuts, it can also put a real powerful kibosh on your fun. Therefore, always tighten down loose screws to keep your fun and safety high.

Spare tube and a pump: A flat is aggravating, but is a given on most big outings. Inflating your tires excessively is a poor strategy to prevent flats. That makes your tires lose a lot of traction and you slide and wobble about on trails and gravel paths. A better strategy is to have your spares along. I can change my tube and pump up the tire in less than two minutes. It’s really pretty simple. The best thing, though, is to practice this at home so when you head out you know what to do. I usually have tire levers with me. Normally the tires pop back into the rims without them, but better safe than sorry.

Tape: You can repair anything with tape. Improvising is magic. Broken buckle on your shoe? Derailleur off? Spoke kaput? Many of us can thank a big ol’ piece of sticky tape for getting us and our bike back home and still being able to finish the big ride.

Zip ties: If tape doesn’t help, then you can turn to good ol’ zip ties. In fact, zip ties and tape work together well when you’re trying to improvise. There are no limits on your creativity!

Pocketknife: You never know how a knife will come in handy along the way. Even when it only comes down to cutting up that versatile tape into personally sized pieces or cleaning up screws impacted with grit and grime.

I usually have a lot more with me. But with just the five items I’ve named here, you can really do a whole lot. And you don’t really need to have a lot of experience or expertise when it comes to tinkering. Just a little courage when it comes to improvising and a few jury-rigging tricks from your childhood will take you far and get you home in one piece. Tackling a problem with a little confidence also helps a lot. Having the self-assurance that everything will come out OK in the end is, however, my No. 1 tinkering tip!!

No fear of flats any more, girls. The next tube change is yours.

Nathalie’s outfit for a tour with the girls:

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