New wheels and upgrades in BKK

We are sitting here waiting for a train out of Bangkok, so I thought I’d take the time to write a note on some of our repairs and improvements that have happened in the last week. The most significant is a new set of Andra 30 ‘bomb proof’ wheel rims.

On a day off 2 weeks ago I went to fix a small buckle in the back wheel and realised it was caused by a cracked rim.

imageThere is a LOT of load on the back wheel and it probably cracked on one of the bumps along the way. It wasn’t an immediate disaster as the crack wasn’t down the side wall and therefore wouldn’t cause the rim to collapse – it meant basically the associated spoke was doing nothing (the internet is great for all this!). So I marked the crack and we continued on checking it as we travelled. It was fine for 5 days until Bangkok and I suspect it might have been cracked for a good while before…

We needed a new back rim.

First port of call was JD tandems who sold us the bike, Ruth was extremely helpful and fast on email answering all my questions – thanks! Eventually the Andra 30 rims were the obvious choice, not cheap, but the best hardcore touring rims around from a Kiwi company.

After weighing the risk versus cost we decided to replace the front rim also and each wheel needed 48 spokes plus spares. To round things out the braking surface on the rims is tungsten carbide finished and requires special ultra hard brake pads. The pads are a fancy bright blue colour and look really slick, which is nice. The idea is the rims are so hard they will not erode during braking and will never need replacing.

imageAll the work was coordinated by Ma at BOK BOK BIKES, if you are touring through Thailand these are the guys to call. Every other bike shop didn’t know where to start with 48 spike wheels and one of them said ‘just call BOK BOK’. Ma’s brother did the wheel building at KANGAROO BIKES (near Bearing, last stop south on the sky train). They are dealers for Rholoff, Thorn, Surly, CoMotion and the workshop is stacked out with more top end tools than I’ve seen in any London shop. They were quick on email and got the work done on time so we could leave for Myanmar on schedule, including importing the rims through customs. Thanks guys!

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We also took delivery of a spare tyre, after debating whether one was needed and deciding against it in London. In the end I couldn’t sleep thinking about that, so we’ve gone safety first and got one sent over in our ‘bike care package’ from Bren in New York. It is a foldable Schwalbe Marathon Mondial. He also sent spare tandem length gear cables and end caps and other small bits n pieces.

One upgrade Bren sent which we’ve been craving is our new kickstand. It is a Pletcher type that cleverly has two legs that fold to one side. No more leaning the bike on trees, posts, fences or one of us having to stand holding it like a lemon.

Finally we got a little Irish and Welsh flag!!!

Flying the flags!

We are both exhausted as we were up late last night putting the new wheels on. In the process we popped two inner tubes… Annie effected tube replacement and puncture repair expertly. 🙂 We were also hogging the Wi-Fi ordering more spares, downloading maps, books, guides, booking accommodation, route planning… Back on the road proper tomorrow.

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Not much sight seeing in Bangkok

We have spent just over a week in Bangkok. It has been a very busy week, but we’ve not spent much time exploring the city as tourists. 

Now two months into our trip, it was necessary to spend some time planning the next stretch (Central Asia really doesn’t seem that far away now). 

Applying for visas and permits, replacing any gear and giving the bike a thorough service were also high on our list of priorities.

Bangkok is an excellent city for cyclists do all of the above, especially as there are LOADS of warm showers hosts dotted all over with good transport links to everywhere you need.

A couple of weeks ago we had noticed that our back wheel rim had cracked (it held up well for three weeks after). As we have 15000km still left to do we decided it was worth replacing both with new Andra 30 rims. For more info on how we went about ordering these parts and building the wheels in Bangkok click here.

The first 5 nights were spent with Mike (Joseph is his warm showers name) and his great friends east of the city. 

Mike has travellers turning up pretty much every day of the week (he’s also a couch surf host) and our stay crossed over with two Russian travelling musicians who had found each other online and hitch hiked the whole way from St Petersburg, and a family of four from Italy who were in their last week of a four month trip across Asia. There was plenty of space to spread out and reliable wifi. image

Their street was a real community and everyone was incredibly friendly. We cooked together every night and we both really enjoyed staying with them. 

We then headed north to spend four nights with Tim, an old friend of Annie’s who currently teaches at Harrow International school, his boyfriend Mick and their little beagle ‘Stevie Nicks’. It was a treat to have our own bed and great to spend some time with a familiar face. 

Tim had very kindly received a package for us (with our kick stand) sent from a friend in America (took 4 days with US postal service, roughly $80 with a 500 BHT custom charge the other end). If you’re having trouble finding an address to receive a package try asking your embassy. The Irish embassy confirmed they would have done this for us.  

day time walk
Tim and Mick are avid game players and shared a range of new dice and card games with us including Perudo, Yatzy, Diamonsters and speed Monopoly which is the most ruthless game either of us have ever played! (must get a pack for George)

 

Yazi scoring card!
 
Visas took a good chunk of time as did dropping off and picking up our wheel rims. We also made a trip to Outdoor Unlimited in Amrin Plaza where there is a range of outdoor and sports gear, although, in the end, we didn’t get much except a second sports bra for Annie. 

We also met up with another cycle touring couple who we contacted via the warm showers forum. We have been desperately trying to find some up to date info on the Myanmar/China border crossing at Muse – in the past it has not been possible to cross here without a special permit and guide due to regional fighting. Geart and Sytske also want to take this route and will be in Myanmar at the same time so hopefully we can team up and cross together. We’re still exploring the options but are pretty sure already that it’s possible and safe enough to cross.

We have both been reading books about Myanmar. Paddy has nearly finished Orwell’s Burmese Days and I’m deep in the midst of Letters from Burma written by Aung San Suu Khi. We’re both keen to cross the border now and will meet up with the Mum and Dad Sheen in Mandalay/Bagan which should be fun!

So, onwards north to Phitsanulok (by train) and then a four day cycle to Mae Sot border.  

No need to hold the bike when parked with the new kick stand!