ABR’s resident expert of everything bikes answers your questions…

Hi Dave, after reading the last issue of ABR I was taken aback by Alun’s experience in the Alps when his chain broke in the middle of nowhere. Alun seemed to have luck on his side, but what’s the best way to deal with a situation like this if you don’t happen to have a V-Strom 650 and some rope to tow you to a hotel where by chance you find an Italian with a pick-up?

Tony, Hastings

Thanks for the question Tony! First things first, as Miguel de Cervantes once said; ‘forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory’. I know, we all like to just jump on the bike with a toothbrush and head off into the great unknown, but a little planning will keep things running much more smoothly. 

So, here are some recommendations, not law or compulsory. 

Before you head off, check the condition of your chain and sprockets on the bike. ‘Hooked’ sprockets will mean replacement is needed. To check the chain it’s as simple as gripping it on the rear sprocket and pulling away from it. If it lifts off, leaving a gap between the chain and the sprocket, then it’s worn and time to replace. 

It pays to be prepared; check your chain before you leave

A chain and sprocket kit is really quite cheap if bought wisely, try and find a kit with a good brand of chain, D.I.D or Isumi are usually top-notch. When ordering, if your bike spec is for 115 links order 120 links. Bung the extra links in a plastic bag and keep them in the tool kit that you keep on your bike, you’ll thank me later. 

You’ll also need a chain link splitter. These can be bought from as little as a tenner, get the best that your budget will stretch to. 

By this time you can see where I’m heading. That’s right, fit a new chain before you leave. It’s a really easy job that can be done by the home mechanic. A workshop or Haynes manual is a help but you can usually find all the information you need on various forums on the internet – the ABR forum (www.adventurebikerider.com/forum) for one is full of knowledgeable folk with great advice. If you’re lucky enough you may even find a member who lives nearby that can help you in exchange for a mug of tea and a few biccies. 

Once you’ve accomplished this task a breakdown on the roadside will seem far less daunting. 

Chain link splitters can be picked up for as little as a tenner

So what happens if the chain breaks on a mountainside? Dig out that plastic bag (remember, the one with the extra links in?) and your chain splitter, remove the offending damaged links and substitute the spare links and split links, making sure the closed end is pointing in the direction of travel. 

Sitting in the bar that night with a beer, telling everyone how you can cope with breakdowns will be worth the effort.