This article will address the need for cyclists to substitute bike shop brand name care products with basic products that are more readily available at small market stores and roadside shops in Thailand. It has been my experience that setting off on a biking trip, whether it is for a day’s ride or an epic multi-day adventure, with a properly serviced bicycle greatly increases the chance of having a pleasurable ride. Likewise, proper care and servicing of your bicycle immediately following completion of your biking trip will extend component life and have you ready to go for your next journey.
Carrying a large amount of bicycle care products isn’t always necessary or convenient. At a minimum you may want to carry a small bottle of chain lubricant (non aerosol) with you on extended trips, especially if you plan to encounter inclement weather conditions while riding. Aside from your favorite brand of chain lube, many products may be substituted along the way.
If you can locate a 7-11, Tesco Lotus, or motorcycle repair shop then you’ll be able to find these items. If you cannot locate a 7-11, Tesco Lotus, or motorcycle repair shop during your ride then recheck your map because you are NOT in Thailand. Here is a list BicycleThailand.com has put together to assist you in recognizing products that are easily found throughout Thailand, far from the shelves of your local bike shop.
Supplies & their substitutes
Chain cleaning / Degreasing fluid: At the front of every motorcycle repair shop you’ll see what appears to be an odd display of different Thai whiskeys for sale. This is in fact petrol for use in motorcycles. It is yellow in color and sometimes pink when it has been mixed with an additive. Going price for one liter is about 20 Baht but you’ll not need that much to clean your drivetrain. Bring your own container as some of the shops are reluctant to give away the glass whiskey bottles with the sale.
Bike wash: Every Tesco Lotus and 7-11 have laundry soap on their shelves. A small bag of this stuff will cost you about 15-25 Baht and it cuts dirt and grime off a bike frame like you wouldn’t believe. It’s safe to use on all surfaces of a bike including tires and brake pads. Make sure you give the bike a good rinsing afterward to prevent powdery white residue.
Bearing & Cable grease: Tesco Lotus and any motorcycle repair shop will have a tube or tub of grease on hand to cover all of your ball bearing and cable greasing needs. The brands may vary from store to store. There are a great many different greases on the market with different special features, mainly for automotive applications. For bicycle use, almost any grease is adequate, since the loads and temperatures are generally low. An exception is coaster brakes, which need a heat-resistant grease.
Chain lube – dry: Sonax brand oil is available at nearly every 7-11, Tesco Lotus, and motorcycle repair shop in Thailand. It can be applied on chains, derailleurs, pivot points, and inside cable housing. It does not hold up well in wet weather conditions so if you ride in the rain be sure to reapply as necessary. Apply the oil after your post-ride cleanup. This will allow time for the oil to penetrate and dry before the next day’s ride.
Hand/General purpose cleaner: Basic dish-washing soap works wonders when used on your hands to cleanup after working on your bike. You can even spot wash your clothes if you splattered grease or solvent on them while you were working. Do not use this type of soap directly on the frame of your bike as it tends to diminish the luster on some paint.
Bike rags: While you’re in the convenience store pick yourself up a packet of rags. They come in so handy when washing, cleaning, and lubing a bike. At 15-20 Baht a piece you can toss them after a couple of uses. I choose at least two different colors to avoid mistakenly wiping down my frame with the same greasy rag I used to clean my chain. In the freezer section of convenience stores in Thailand there are small cotton towels for sale that are icy cold and perfumed. After you’ve cleaned your face, neck, and arms with these refreshing towels save them for use on your bike. -Happy Riding!