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I am planning to tour India. And I have heard many of the US brand bikes don't have support in Tier-2 cities in India. I am worried, if I get struck with out being able to get any spares or a good mechanic who can set things right.

I have searched for Indian brands, with the hope of finding a mechanic easily and ease of availability of spares. Apart from Montra and Firefox, I could not get anything decent. All other brands seem to focus mainly on the mass market bikes.

Any suggestion and advice would be worthwhile exploring.

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    What kind of repairs are you thinking of? Most components on bicycles are more less standard, so the same spare parts are suitable even if the name on the frame is different.
    – ojs
    Jan 21 at 15:45
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    @ojs: What about things like thru-axle hubs, 142mm (or even 148mm) dropout spacing, 622mm wheels and tyres, hydraulic brakes, 11 speed groupsets, press-fit bottom bracket bearings and so on? I’d assume it could be hard to get replacements for such components. I have a very dim memory that 635mm wheels are common for some reason in India.
    – Michael
    Jan 21 at 15:47
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    @Michael true, but does the name on the down tube or the origin country of that brand have anything to do with it?
    – ojs
    Jan 21 at 15:49
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    @Michael I wouldn't take any of the brands you mentioned for a trip in India (except maybe the Trek 520): there are brands that are doing more 'rustic' bikes specifically for this kind of use — Salsa and Surly for example.
    – Renaud
    Jan 21 at 16:10
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    You seem to presume that bike brands are like car brands where they're a separate dealer ecosystem and noone crosses over. That's the sad state of autos, but in bicycles its not really a thing.
    – Criggie
    Jan 21 at 23:55

2 Answers 2

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This is a problem that is not particularly specific to India, but common for anyone touring a long way from home and primarily through small towns and rural areas, even in major industrialized countries.

When you have the potential of a mechanical issues in areas far from a well equipped bike shop, you are faced with choosing some combination of a few options:

  • Start by using tried and true components on the simpler end of design.
  • Carry spares of parts most likely to fail.
  • Plan "escape routes" to major cities.

Simple Bikes and Components

Many of the long distance tour riders that I hang out with are still riding decades old steel-frame bicycles equipped with 3x8 or 3x9 drivetrains and friction shifters. While this is decidedly old-school, on a bike like that you don't have to worry about things like the index pawls failing on your fancy shifters. In fact, in the course of a days ride, you can dial in your shifting by feel of the friction levers.

I know that some touring riders prefer wheels built on internal hubs, allowing them to pack a single replacement chainring and use a larger & sturdier chain.

By the same token you could stick with ISO 559 mm / 26" or ISO 622 mm / 700c wheels because tires and tubes for those wheels are far more common in most places.

There is even an advantage to the steel frame, in that if there is a significant frame failure, almost any welder can make a passable repair.

Carry Spares

While you have to balance weight and bulk for spare parts against all of your other packing needs, most touring riders in this situation would carry spares of parts likely to fail.

For my touring bike I have a "rural" kit for multi-day trips that includes

  • a folded tire,
  • tubes and patches,
  • a small selection of bolts/screws,
  • a replacement friction shifter,
  • a brake cable and shift cable,
  • master link and short section of chain,
  • 3-5 replacement spokes (taped to my rack),
  • cable ties,
  • tape,
  • appropriate tools.

Escape Plan

On any long distance tour, you need to have an "escape plan" for what you will do in the case of a catastrophic equipment failure or illness. In places I have toured, that may be relying on the kindness of strangers in the next tiny town to get you to the next bigger town, where you can catch a bus or train to the next larger city.

Even in North America and Europe it is unreasonable to expect that the majority of small rural towns will have a well equipped bicycle shop, so you need to plan to get to somewhere larger.

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    My touring/long-day-ride kit is similar, but I omit the friction shifter and spare chain (if you shorten, be very careful not to cross-chain) and add pads for my disc brakes. I've ridden 200km with a failed rear shifter cable (fitted the spare but when the previous one broke it damaged the outer and there was too much friction) so know that locking off one derailleur can get be the backup for shifting fails
    – Chris H
    Jan 21 at 20:39
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The best 'support network' in a country with largely 3rd world infrastructures regarding bikes*, would be to chose a bike where you would have learned to handle your own maintenance with half a dozen basic tools on standard components.

Such a bike should ideally have a steel frame which is easier to repair for a local blacksmith, rim brakes, externally routed cables for easier change, ball and cone hubs and a rugged, sub-10-speed drive-train. I would pack a correctly sized spare quick-link chain and several spare spokes & nipples for both wheels, safely stored inside the seat-tube.

*As you will certainly travel in rural areas.

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  • One thing on spokes: with well-chosen (disc) hubs it's actually possible for all spokes on both wheels to be within 2mm of each other, so you may only need to carry one size. The ones that are most likely to break are the drive-side rear, and changing those means getting the cassette off. Can you? Can a rural shop/garage? You may want to carry a cassette tool. For Shimano at least there are some you put between wheel and frame, do the skewer back up, and turn the wheel. Small enough to carry on the road
    – Chris H
    Feb 25 at 10:22

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