Bike Stuff - Unchained Melody - CycleBlaze

Bike Stuff

Problems & Solutions?

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Bike Stuff

For the first four hundred miles of our trip I didn't think my bike was going to make it.  The first half of every day the gears inside the Alfine Hub sounded and felt like they were going to self-destruct at any moment.  It was not All Fine.  Then, suddenly, it was smooth for the rest of the day.  I thought of everything under the sun as to what was going on and then it dawned on me that the sun was possibly the remedy.  

We were often bringing our bikes inside our air conditioned room every night.  We would start riding around 6AM every morning, trying to beat some of the heat.  We would ride for two or three hours and my hub sounded horrible and felt horrible but often we would stop for iced coffee or something else and my bike would sit in the sun during our break.  When I got back on it often the hub was fine for the rest of the day!  The hub must be needing heat. Perplexing.  My hub was not leaking oil like Andrea's was but then I started wondering if it had ever been filled with any oil at all.  That was a pretty bad thought that I quickly put out of my mind.  It couldn't be.....could it?  I mean, it wouldn't suddenly get better if there was no oil in the hub so there must be oil inside it.  

The noise and grinding feeling continued every morning for many days, weeks. Some days it went on all day long even if the hub had heated up so that theory was going out the window.  There was absolutely nothing that could be done about it where we were.  Even if we were to show it to someone at the best bike repair shop in the region - in Bangkok - that was hundreds of miles away, our final destination ironically, they most likely wouldn't know what to do because it is a closed hub.  It is a hub they probably don't know anything about and would be reluctant to open.  I would be reluctant to have them open it up.  They may not know what to do once it was open.  About the only thing they could see would be if there was indeed oil in it.   Other than that, would they be able to see if something was amiss?  No idea, but certainly a moot point since we were hundreds of miles from Bangkok.  There might be a good bike mechanic in Chiang Mai too, also hundreds of miles away.  

I can reinforce what I just stated because we actually did take our bikes to the best bike mechanic in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and he took one look at our hubs and said he wouldn't touch them.  He didn't want to have anything to do with them.  As he walked away he asked, "Why didn't you bring extra oil?"  Interesting question!  Even if we had brought extra oil we wouldn't know how to get it inside the hub nor would we know how much to put in.  Andrea and I still quote him sometimes when we need a laugh.

Such is the quandary when setting out on a brand new bike with a gear system no one is familiar with over here.  So, I started thinking that if the thing seized up and quit all I could do would be to contact Bike Friday to send me a new hub but that would require me being in a big city, (like Bangkok), with a bike shop capable of replacing the broken hub with the new one. I certainly wouldn't be able to do it.  I've never even removed a spoke!   

If I had put a hundred miles on the bike before we left on our trip I would have been aware of the problem and I would have driven down to Bike Friday in Eugene, Oregon and demanded a new one.  Ridiculous to have such a problem since it was brand new.  Obviously it was defective.  

But I was too busy getting ready for the trip to go for several long rides on my new bike.  My fault.  It's hard when you are closing up a house for months on end, getting the house and yard ready for any foreseeable winter problem before a three month trip.  There were a thousand things to prepare for not to mention the other thousand things to get ready for on the trip itself.  And there were a flurry of doctor appointments getting my body ready for a long time away.  All of this went well but it was a lot to do for weeks before our trip began.  I had no time to actually ride my new bike.  I figured it was new, what could go wrong!  

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So, anyone out there with a brand new bike and intending to take off on a long trip.....don't go without putting at least a hundred miles on your new bike.

Back to my problem.....I had to just endure the noise and terrible feeling of the hub in every pedal rotation I took for around 400 miles.  Then, miraculously, the problem went away!  The hub seems to have gotten itself together.  It isn't making the horrid sound anymore and it feels smooth, as it should.  Maybe the hub didn't like the rough road conditions it was being subjected to and once it had Thailand in sight it started to be happier.  We kind of felt the same way with Thailand in sight.  I know that a lot of this doesn't make any sense but I wanted to report it.   

The crank makes bad clicking sounds sometimes but that's a different problem now which I will also have to ignore.  Andrea's hub seems to have quit leaking oil so, overall we are good, possibly.  I am feeling very lucky.  

For those who have never been on a bike trip I want to tell you that much of the time you are solving problems.  They aren't huge problems for the most part but at least for us, they are there all the time and usually we figure out how to solve them.  Or, in this case, my hub and Andrea's oil leak solved themselves, we just had to endure while we waited.  Now I'm waiting for my bad clicking sound in my crank to solve itself.  I am very proud of myself for solving the horrible screeching in my belt due to dust, simply by applying a very thin coat of sewing machine oil directly on the belt.  Besides bike problems to be solved there are also all sorts of other problems constantly.  But it's not terrible.  It challenges you.  If you think about it, there are problems while at home too and we solve them.  Every time I do a plumbing job in my house it leaks slightly.  I put a cup under it and a few weeks later the leak has healed itself.  It always seems to happen this way!!  Here there just might be fewer tools or solutions or there is a language barrier and you have to be more creative, have patience, use your wits and another language.  It keeps things interesting and everything usually works out.

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Gregory GarceauThe Dream On bike photo was a clever ending, but really, your "everything usually works out" analysis is TRUE! I recently wrote about my terrible bike maintenance habits, yet my bikes always seem to weather as much abuse as I can give them. Problems arise, then go away without explanation--as in your hub's case. I don't even worry about minor rust, clicks, squeaks, or wobbles anymore. If a problem doesn't go away, the bike still keeps on chooglin' for hundreds of miles until I stubbornly accept it has to go to a bike shop.
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1 month ago
Bruce LellmanTo Gregory GarceauI totally agree with your bike repair philosophy, Gregory. Since I'm no mechanic and being in a place so difficult to deal with mechanical problems we pretty much have to just let things go and see what happens. Although I'd probably do the same at home!!
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1 month ago
Mark LellmanYears ago, if there was a screeching water pump/fan belt in my car, I learned that holding a bar of soap against the contact side of the belt, while the engine was idling, would give enough of a coating to stop the screech. I probably learned that on the 1958 Volvo 444, which had many problems, all more serious than that. I learned a lot about mechanics from that car. I wish I still had it.
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1 month ago
Bruce LellmanTo Mark LellmanAnother person suggested candle wax which I think would work well. But a light coating of the sewing machine oil every now and then seems to work well too. I think a hard soap might as well.

I wish you still had the Volvo 444 too.
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1 month ago
Jeff ArnimZen and the Art of Hope for the Best Bicycle Maintenance.
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1 month ago