Losing our bearings and cracking up

11 02 2011

‘What do you do if your bike breaks?’ this is one of the most common questions we get asked, everywhere, always. ‘Well’ we confidently reply ‘we can fix most things; a puncture, a broken chain, a snapped cable etc. And for anything bigger than that, why, there are any number of bicycle shops lining our route.’ Brave words.

We are bike maintenance careful, we keep our bikes as clean as we can, we toothbrush our chains regularly and keep them well oiled and debris free. But this trip has taken more of a toll on our poor bikes than we could ever have envisaged. The roads have been rougher, the way bumpier. And now we are into problems beyond any learning accrued on our 8 hours of bike maintenance training. We are into wheel truing (which is surprisingly easy), bearing maintenance and rim cracking. The latter two are of significant concern as there are two tools we didn’t bring that we seem singularly unable to find; a chain whip and a cassette removal tool. Though these may sound like kinky sex toys they are in fact what you need to take off your rear bike cassette (the rear gear cogs) and thus get access to your bearings (they are small balls that live in the centre of your rear wheel).

After days of being plagued by an unidentifiable ‘thump’ from the rear of Catherine’s bike we turned to the great interweb. Whereupon BIGTOOL, ROADMAMBA and other such bicycle experts helped us to the conclusion that her rear bearings must be wearing out or worn out. While knowledge is a wonderful thing we are still left somewhat stumped as we can’t actually get to the bearings (because of the lack of cassette removal tools – in rural Laos no bikes have gears….) and are still hazy on the long term affects of cycling on wearing bearings. Thus Catherine’s, somewhat cautious approach to hills, has become a crawling ginger paranoia; ever terrified of the rear wheel spinning off or locking and throwing her onto verges littered with unexploded ordinance (UXO), carelessly left every which where, by the US in the Vietnam war, to be blown into a thousand smithereens! We take hills moderately now.

Thankfully we have what every long distance cyclist needs; a Mothership, or, in this case a Fathership, who has cast a few tools in our direction to be collected in approximately 200km time. … *gulp* .  On top of this a rim inspection (again, not a kinky sex game) has revealed cracking on Liz’s rim (see pic). …. God (and maybe BIGTOOL and ROADMAMBA if we could get close enough to a web connection to ask them) alone knows what this means….. anyone?

ps – we have turned Right and are now cycling through Laos to get to Saigon… if anyone is interested..



One response

11 02 2011
nick rawling

i could do with some rim cracking!
hope bike gets sorted..otherwise its a Dutch bike to Thailand

courage x

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