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October 4, 2006

Broken bicycle - go back 3 spaces.

Click on image to play video (high speed connection advised).

LOCATION: en route to Shigatse, Tibet
Longitude: N: 29.65°
Latitude: E: 91.13°
Miles from Singapore: 4440

My honeymoon experience with this region of Tibet started to fade yesterday heading west out of Shigatse with renewed stone-throwing action from the children and constant begging for money from both young and old alike. Almost every family I passed sent out their children with palms outstretched bleating 'give money, give money' - and it got very old, very quick. So much so that I hardly dared film or take pictures as I'm sure that would have incurred a hefty surcharge. It's sad, but inevitable, to see how Chinese sponsored mass-tourism in Tibet has effected these people so badly. But this is not a new story of course.

And then today both rims on my bike cracked. I'm counting my lucky stars it happened this side of Lhasa and not the eastern side, otherwise it might have been 'Broken bicycle - go back to jail'. But it's turning out to be enough of a hassle as it is. I carry a good many spare parts for the bike, as this is a part of the world where parts for non-Chinese bikes are basically non-existent. But there are only so many spares one can carry, and a pair of awkward wheel rims is clearly out of the question.

After the front rim cracked in the morning I managed to limp 60kms to the town of Lhatse and find a bike shop selling some Chinese mountain bikes. The one thing the Chinese-made rims have in common with my French-made rims is the diametre - 26 inch. Otherwise they are completely different - shorter spokes, different hubs and thicker rims. But the diametre is the important thing and after I agreed to an exorbitant amount of money for a front wheel off one of their bicycles (I considered myself lucky that I didn't have to buy the entire bike, although I probably paid the full price for it anyway!), I made the switch and incredibly the new rim fit. Magic! I was so happy not to have to backtrack by bus to Shigatse (150km) or even Lhasa (420km) in search of a new rim. But I spoke too soon.

Just a little while later this evening as I was adjusting the spokes on both wheels I found to my horror that the rear wheel rim had cracked also. I knew instantly that I was/am in trouble. The rear rim is much more complicated than the front as the centre hub is married to a 7-piece freewheel set (Chinese equivalents are only 6) and the derailleur system. Plus in my case the centre hub is specially configured to carry the BOB trailer. So at the time of writing it looks like I'll have to backtrack to Shigatse anyway, and possibly to Lhasa, to hunt down a replacement rear rim that will fit all the criteria. If I can't find one the easiest thing will probably be to have one sent into Lhasa by courier. This will mean at least a week's delay, but the only other alternative that I can see is to take a bus over the border to Kathmandu (where I know the bike shops have foreign bike parts) and back again. And this option would also take a week and there's no guarantee I'd be able to get back into Tibet again as an individual traveler crossing over from Nepal.

It's all horribly complicated. Fingers crossed I'll find something that will work here in Tibet...otherwise, maybe I could hike as originally planned over the Himalayas?


Posted on October 4, 2006 4:41 PM


OMG mate! Did you bring your roller blades? Seriously though, check your email. We had a good meeting today. I think it will help later on, something that I hope cheers you up a bit.

Posted by: tagami [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 6, 2006 5:34 AM