Tag Archives: bike maintenance

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.

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List of lists

I can feel time passing quickly. Even though the start of the ride is still four months away it is beginning to feel very imminent. It has reached the point where I am making lists of lists. I have a list of spares; a list of camping stuff; a list of clothes; a list of cycling gear; a list of medications; a list of electronic stuff.

One big piece of luck has come my way though. Two Australians who did the full TdA in 2010 are passing through Dar Es Salaam at the moment. I was put in touch through a friend. They are all coming over for dinner tonight – and we will go through the lists. Kind of like asking friends to come see the slides from your trip with the kids to Disney World. But hey. They get a free dinner.

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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Bikes: Just get me to Zambia

I know I have now ordered my bike for the TdA. And I am really looking forward to getting my Genesis croix de fer. And I know that one of the major selection criteria was whether or not it would get me all the way from Cairo to Cape Town. But I am feeling a little less anxious today because I have just been introduced to a bike manufacturer in Zambia that is making brilliant bamboo bikes. So now all I need to do is get to Zambia on the croix de fer. If I break down there I can pick up a bamboo Zambike for the rest of the trip. Check them out at http://www.zambikes.org/ . An impressive story. Zambikes is “a social business that manufactures, assembles and distributes high quality bicycles, bicycle ambulances and cargo bicycle trailers to the underprivileged, empowering individuals to fight the mindset of poverty and address the economic and social needs of Zambia.” Zambikes was started by Dustin McBride and Vaughn Spethmann who visited Zambia on a University lead trip in 2004 and recognised the need for high quality bicycles, not only in Zambia but throughout Africa. While participating in an Azusa Pacific University class for entrepreneurs in 2006 they developed a business plan, and in 2007 launched the business in Zambia. Since Zambikes’ launch in 2007, they have:

  • Assembled and delivered over 8,000 bicycles
  • Employed an average of over 30 Zambians
  • Custom designed and manufactured over 900 Zambulances and Zamcarts
  • Built over 300 custom Bamboo frames
  • Purchased 20 acres of land in Lusaka West and built our warehouse and community center
  • Provided education sponsorships for over 15 staff members

Gotta get one.

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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More and more bikes (2)

Another thing that is changing is our discourse on cycling. If you look at ads for bikes over the last century you will see a perceptible shift from a very inclusive discourse to an increasingly exclusive discourse, from a ‘bikes are for everybody, the prices are coming down, gain more access to your world’ discourse, to a discourse of specialized knowledge, high tech materials and clothing and skyrocketing prices.

1920s ad

modern ad

How much does the bike community’s own discourse on cycling negatively affect the number and type of people who are willing to give life on two wheels a try? How many people are put off by this discourse and avoid cycling because they feel excluded by esoteric vocabulary, physical requirements and price.  On the other hand how many people buy expensive bikes only because of the exclusivity they feel it gives them and actually have no interest in cycling.

Those of us who do cycle are all complicit in this discourse.

On the other hand, in reaction to this ‘exclusivity discourse’, there is a growing back to basics bicycle thing happening. There is even a Bicycling for Dummies book – a series of books usually reserved for explaining the complex and technical for the layperson.

Bicycle designers and builders are also speaking out. A guy by the name of Grant Petersen, a bicycle designer and the founder of Rivendell Bicycle Works,  has just published a book titled: Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Bikes, Equipment, Health, Safety, and Attitude. The PR for the book declares that ‘his wise words will muffle the noisy show-offs’.  He is not alone. The liner notes for another book I looked at recently said it was all about ‘deflating the smugness associated with bikes’. Wow!

So where is the discourse of the Tour d’Afrique?

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.

ChipIn: Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.