Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Monday 7th March : the horse is lame

So, we're stuck in Mendoza with a broken bike!

We had a good morning cycling up and over the final ridge and a fantastic (if very hazy) view on the descent to the plain and Mendoza. About 25km out of the city the freewheel on the bike finally gave up. It started misbehaving a few weeks into the trip, and the pedals would go around when you pushed the bike forward. It failed 'fixed' rather than 'free' fortunately, so we could pedal, but not freewheel. We've always wanted to try a fixed wheel tandem, but never thought that Dobbin would fit that category! Unlike a true fixed wheel bike we could still change gear (just), and the bike wouldn't give you a little kick to remind you to keep pedaling - the excess chain would wind itself around the cassette instead. We fortunately had found a non documented, decent, non motorway route into the city as the cycling was interesting enough as it was! This eventually led to a very good quality new cycle path leading right into the city (following a disused railway line embankment) but unfortunately the town has the UK affliction of forgetting to signpost where you will get to should you follow said cycle path! (Germany on the other hand was great, even labeling cities hundreds of km away and across borders!)

The freehub is not a serviceable part (although it can be replaced), and we had hoped that it would last until we got back to the UK where we were thinking of replacing the entire hub. The chances of finding a replacement 48 spoke tandem hub in south America is very slim, and time wise, there is no point in trying to ship a hub here.

On the way into town we saw many people out on road bikes, and we wondered whether it was a public holiday here. The tourist information centre confirmed that today and tomorrow are public holidays and that all the bike shops would be closed on both days. We wanted to take the wheel apart to assess the damage before visiting a bike shop, so we got places in a hostel with a large garden (and swimming pool) around the back. A closer examination of the wheel indicated that the problem with the hub was not as simple as we first thought, and that there was significant resistance to the wheel turning at all! The axel is off centre on the drag brake side, and the central part of the drag brake appears to have split and turned oval! Unfortunately we can't confirm the problem, or assess the damage to the hub as we didn't bring the correct tool with us - we have removed the cassette, but can't disassemble the hub. There are many bike rental places here (including the hostel), but none seem to have any bike maintenance tools. So we are stuck in Mendoza with a broken bike for a couple of days. Fortunately this is the centre of the Argentinian wine region, so there is plenty to do.  We're hoping that the bike is fixable though and we can continue our cycling adventure.


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