Category Archives: maintenance

5 flights, 15 lions, 2 more flats

Time to catch up. Been away for a while again. It started a week ago last Wednesday when I got up at 3am to catch a 5:10 flight to Zimbabwe – well actually a flight to Nairobi, followed by a flight to Gaborone, followed by a flight to Harare.  A direct flight from Dar to Harare, if there were one, would take 2 ½ – 3 hours. Thanks to Kenya airways and their bizarre routing, it took me 12 hours. I did my schtick in Harare and then flew back to Dar on Friday – this time only two flights, one to Nairobi, then one to Dar.

Up at 5am on Saturday to get ready to leave at 6 for the Selous game reserve.  It is mid-term break for the kids and we were off on Safari. I cycled to Kibiti, about 160km and very hilly, where I met up with the family and a vehicle. We stayed in a local guesthouse across from the police station in Kibiti that night. Nice little place with about ten rooms around an inner courtyard, showers and loos in a block at the end. We got two rooms for 16,000 shillings, about US$10. Next morning we did about 100km on bad dirt and sand roads into the game reserve, where we spent 4 days. It is very dry in the park this time of year. No real rains yet, so lots of game near the water. We saw 15 different lions, lots of crocs, buffalo, elephants, giraffe, hippos, kudu, wart hogs and impala. No leopard this time though.

After arriving in Kibiti the Saturday before I had sent my bike back to Dar in another vehicle with Georgina, who had cycled down with me but had to get back to Dar that evening. When I got back to Dar on Wednesday night I found that both tires on the croix de fer were flat again. X!c@##! What is it with me and slow-leak, pinch punctures? There were a lot of corrugated speed bumps on the road, at the front and back ends of every village we cycled through. I can only think that I went over some of these too fast and hard and pinched the tubes. But this is ridiculous. I can’t get off and carry my bike over every speed bump.  Haven’t had the new bike for a month yet and I have already had 4 flats. I feel like I am single handedly keeping a rubber plantation in business.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

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Patching tubes, trueing wheels

On Saturday I decided to try and patch some of the punctured tubes that have been piling up in the garage. I have not been very environmentally responsible this last year. Instead of patching tubes I have simply put in a new one and thrown the punctured one on the pile in the garage. There were eighteen of them. Three were beyond repair. Two had exploded and had foot long tears in them. One has so many holes it would have been more patch than tube. These three went to my daughter who wants to be Medusa for Halloween and will use them to create a writhing snake wig. The others all looked sort of repairable. I had three new patch kits and set to work. Seven tubes had pinch punctures so each had two holes, side by side, one from each side of the rim. These were tricky. The other eight all had single holes. Twenty-two patches later I had almost used up all of my three new patch kits – you only get 8 patches in a kit. I inflated them all and left them overnight to see which ones would hold. Five didn’t. So I have retrieved 10 tubes. Not too bad I guess. May have another crack at the five that still leak. Maybe not.  Maybe more rubber snakes for the Medusa wig. At any rate, need to get some more patch kits. Chris would say forget the tubes and get tubeless tires. He has a point. No pinch punctures with tubeless.

Also had the back wheel of the TREK – the wheel with all the broken spokes – properly trued. Mejah, who runs a bicycle advocacy group in Tanzania called UWABA, http://www.uwaba.or.tz/ has a good mechanic who did it for me.

No flats for five days now. I think ‘new bike’ and I are getting along better.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

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Out on the new bike

My new bike arrived last Sunday. Thanks to Georgina for bringing it on the plane with her from London. Thanks to Damian at C&N Cycles for making sure it was packed up and delivered to Georgina at Heathrow Terminal 5 on time. Thanks to British Airways for not losing it and for getting it here undamaged. So many things could have gone wrong. Everything worked. A good sign. A charmed bike.

I have been out on it every day since it arrived. If you look closely at the poster in my last post – Fundraising Update – you will see the new bike. On Monday I took it with me to have the photos taken for the poster. On Tuesday we had the poster.

The assembly was fairly straightforward – except for adjusting the Avid BB7 disk brakes. I had not mounted and adjusted this type of disk brake before. The instructions that came in the package were crap. Thank heavens for YouTube. I found a great instructional video and had it sorted in no time.

Looking forward to some much longer rides on the weekend.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

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Bikes: banana seats and butterfly bars

Back around 1967 my little brother got a CCM Mustang Duomatic for his birthday. It was very cool: mustang bronze, 20 inch wheels, 2 gears, a banana seat and butterfly bars. I was about 14 then so it was too small for me. But I liked it. At that time I still had a paper route. One afternoon while I was delivering papers I noticed that somebody on my route had thrown out an old Raleigh bicycle frame. In those days we talked about bikes in terms of the size of the wheels. This frame was for 26 inch wheels. My size. After I finished my route I went back and asked for the frame. They thought I was nuts but gave it to me. Over that summer I used that frame to build a bike. I painted it white with red flashes in the middle of each bar; it had a 26 inch rear wheel and a 20 inch front wheel; a banana seat and butterfly bars: a real chopper. I had a great few weeks with it. Then one Saturday, shortly after school had started again, I rode it to the local pool to go swimming. When I came out from swimming the bike was gone. Of course I hadn’t locked it. We hardly ever locked bikes back then. And I had spent all my money building the bike and hadn’t kept any for a lock. It was a 5 mile walk home. The croix der fer that I will ride on the Tour d’Afrique is also a lovely white bike.  Perhaps I should paint red flashes on it, and get a banana seat and butterfly bars.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

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Training: What is it with spokes?

About 45 or 50 km into my ride this morning I broke another spoke. I know the roads are rough and there are corrugations in places but this is ridiculous. I seem to be breaking a spoke on the same wheel every 200 or 300 kms. All spokes have broken on the rear wheel drive side and they are breaking at the nipple where the spoke enters the rim. From what I can find out, it may be one of two things: either the tension of the spokes is not right, or hard and sudden pressure on the drive train (i.e. going up hill) is popping them. I don’t think it’s tension. When I have replaced the last two spokes I have checked the tension on all spokes on the wheel. I have even tried to listen to see if they were playing roughly the same note. The wheel now has a few thousand km on it. I wonder if the original spokes are just crap and now after a few thousand kms they are all beginning to suffer from metal fatigue. I was at the  top of a stiff climb when noticed I had another broken spoke today, and I had accelerated and hit the drive train hard a couple of times on the climb. But I’m not Chris Hoy for heaven’s sake! Time for a new wheel perhaps.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

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Training: broken spokes

I got up at 5:30 on Saturday morning because I had a ride at 6:30 and knew I had a flat that needed fixing. Too lazy to do it the night before. I thought I would fix the flat then have a leisurely breakfast. No such luck. As I was taking the tire off I noticed that I had another broken spoke – right at the nipple so it was hard to see. I had another spoke but I was also pressed for time. I had to leave at 6:15 to get to the ride start point. So I got out the tools, took the rear cassette off, pulled out the broken spoke, threaded in the new one, put the cassette back on, put a new tube in, found the valve on the new tube was defective, put a second new tube in, it worked, put the wheel back on, sort of trued the wheel and looked at my watch. It was now 6:10. I jumped into my shorts and shoes, filled water bottles, jumped on my bike and was gone. No breakfast. And …. I was the first one there. Should’ve had breakfast. Nice ride though.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

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Sorry to be late

Sorry I have been silent for so long. I have been away on holiday for almost a month and have just returned to Tanzania. But I am now back at work and the kids are back at school. Time to think about bikes again.

While I was away I visited a few bike shops on the off chance that something that hadn’t come up during my research would jump out and say ‘buy me’.  But it didn’t happen.  So, after looking at a dozen or more options and seriously considering three, I have decided to get the Genesis croix-de-fer https://alanknighttourdafrique.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=177&action=edit . It is the closest to what I have been thinking of and nobody has suggested it is a bad idea.

I have now been in touch with a bike shop in the UK that I have used often in the past and asked them to see what they can do for a full bike plus spares package. Hopefully it will all be set up and with me by the end of September so that I can put a few miles on it before the TdA starts.

All of a sudden January doesn’t seem that far away. I have now sent in almost all of my forms and other paperwork to the good folks in Toronto who run the TdA. I am sure they try to keep bureaucracy to a minimum but there is still a fare bit of bumph:1) RIDER CONTRACT; 2) RIDER RELEASE; 3) HEALTH AND FITNESS QUESTIONNAIRE; 4) RIDER INFORMATION; 5) NEXT OF KIN INFORMATION; 6) INSURANCE INFORMATION; 7) TOUR INFORMATION; 8) BICYCLE INFORMATION; 9) FUNDRAISING INFORMATION; 10) GETTING TO KNOW OUR CLIENTS FORM; 11) RIDER QUESTIONNAIRE; 12) PHOTO AND TEXT FOR THE TdA WEBSITE; 13) COPIES OF PASSPORTS.

It is now time to start compiling lists of all the other things I will need. I can’t wait. When will I have time to ride my bike?

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

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