Before going into the wild

Jan. 12, 2012 (day 239) Egypt

Cairo is a key point in my journey, as it is located approximately in the middle of the distance I am going to cover. Also a new year has begun, which does not mean too much to me, but is another excuse to think about past adventures and do some summary. So, here it goes. The highlights of the seven months of cycling in 2011:

The longest daily distance was 193km during the desert ride to Palmyra. Not only long, but adventurous. I see little chance to beat that record, but if it is going to happen, it will soon. Flat deserts and asphalted roads of Egypt and Sudan might be a place to do it.

Also the shortest daily distance would be difficult to beat, as it makes little sense mounting a bike to ride less than 15km. It happened on the road between Kolochava and Komsomolsk, which actually exists only on maps. Although short, it also wins the prize of the toughest ride.

The opposite, the easiest part was going down from St. Catherine to the coast. About 120km with almost no pedalling or braking, just enjoying the views. With good surface, it looks like a perfect place for skateboarders. In order not to waste the good impression, after reaching the coast, head southwards, unlike I did.

The most smelly cyclist, or just the longest ride without a bath, it was 7 days and happened more than once. Still not much, but I promise to work on that.

As it comes to geography, the favourite country is Turkey. With diverse, beautiful landscapes, demanding but interesting terrain shape, great mountains, good roads, with rich, varied, healthy, energetic, aromatic and just delicious food, and warm, friendly and hospitable people it results to be a perfect destination. The downsides: quite pricey and littered (however, after having crossed the Middle East I consider Turkey as rather clean). Due to it's geographic location, I am almost sure I will stop there for çay many times more.

I spent much time thinking which of the adventures makes the top unforgettable experience and being hosted by Syrian family is the one. Just to be clear: I experienced generous hospitality from unknown people many times, since the beginning in Norway, and I always appreciated it. But these people were special for two reasons. First, they approached me, not the other way. Second, they hosted me very generously, despite living in poor conditions themselves.

With the top unforgettable place it was easier. The mountain ranges and the valley between them, which I crossed going from Araç to Kurşunlu, were not only beautiful, but also quite wild. Very few people, stunning views and clean, wild rivers. Great reward for picking minor and not easy roads.

However, the landscape feature I miss the most are Finnish lakes. Many times I dreamt about throwing the bike away and plunging myself into deep, cool, clean, fresh water. As I prefer running than still waters, the Polish rivers could be an alternative, especially those like Czarna Hańcza. Nevertheless, I can just dream and miss them more and more with every kilometer into Sahara. In Africa the inland water bodies are more scarce and usually not safe to swim in.

And here come the top ripoffs! In plural, because I cannot decide which one was worse. The cold, ugly room for 12JOD in Karak, or the slow ferry for 65USD from Aqaba to Nuweiba? Both of them happened in Jordan, as well as the top ripoff dodged, the most overpriced entry ticket I have ever seen, which I avoided by sneaking into Petra. Otherwise Jordan was very positively surprising country and full of friendly, helpful and generous people. Just be careful opening your wallet there, that's all.

In total, during these seven months I have visited 14 countries and cycled roughly 12000km, two-thirds of that distance being alone. Both distance- and country-wise I am now in the middle. But in Africa I would like to spend more time, and the condition of the roads is not the only reason, of course!

The last days in Cairo passed on fixing the bike. Going south from here, I needed to have it working perfectly. The next bike shop I had heard about would be few thousands kilometers away, in Nairobi. Not a dream bike shop, though.

The rest of the post will be exclusively about bike hardware and mechanics.

The main source of troubles were the wheels. Heavy duty rims, which I had expected to go on until the end of the journey, happened to be almost completely worn just in the middle of the distance. Mostly because of the top-class brake pads, which I put on, believing they could help me somehow but not knowing how exactly they would. They helped, indeed, to grind the rims down in record time. The lesson learned: put on soft brake pads while touring. None will stop baggage-laden bicycle within short distance, anyway.

Together with the rims, I decided to replace the front hub, which had shown first signs of wear some 6000km before. After cleaning and greasing it still worked well, but I decided not to save pennies on such crucial part. Avoiding the risk of mismatch, I replaced it with the same model.

So, there are the new rims and the new hub. Time to rebuild the wheels! This is the most challenging part of bike servicing, but I like it. Requiring much time and patience, this job brings satisfaction when finished. All the necessary knowledge I learned from the great wheelbuilding guide of Sheldon Brown.

In the front I dismantled entire wheel, sorting the spokes into four groups, depending of their position: (leading + trailing) × (left + right). Then just rebuilt it on the new hub and rim, preserving the group assignments.



In the back I used another technique, just transplanting all the internal part into the new rim, spoke by spoke. It is quite straightforward, much easier than complete rebuild, but does not give good opportunity to wash the parts. As a result, there is a little more difficulty in truing due to more friction between spokes and nipples.

Transplantation half done

Transplantation half done

The cassette and two chains, which I had been replacing every 2000km, were finally put to rest. The new ones are their exact copies: Deore LX cassette and XTR chains. Eight speed. The most surprising was to see that the front cranks accepted the new chain without problem. Good old Deore DX, which rode 13000km with me, and nobody knows how much before I had bought them second-hand.

I also replaced the bottom bracket. Looks like I am talented in killing that particular part, as I am riding a third one now. The last one was doomed from the very beginning. Bought in Istanbul, low class Shimano BB-TS30, which costed me as much as Deore class at home. I saw it advertised somewhere as being designed especially for bike touring. Well, perhaps for a single bike tour. 5000km and gone.

Other tasks included mostly cleaning and greasing. Also I put on a new trip computer, as the previous one – a cheap wireless from Lidl – was a perfect detector of overloaded power lines.

The bike runs as new.


11 years, 8 months ago
No to powodzenia na niemal nowym rowerze! Uważaj, bo może sam jechać! Połykaj te kilometry, ale pisz często i obficie, ile byś nie napisał - dla nas zawsze będzie za mało! Ściskamy!
11 years, 8 months ago
Od początku śledzę wyprawę i zaglądam codziennie czy są nowe wpisy. Ostatnio trzeba było długo czekać;) a w Afryce pewnie będzie jeszcze gorzej z dostępem do neta:/