Monday, February 05, 2007

It's All About the Bike


I have cycled in Peru seven times. Three times were on my foldable Bike Friday. I had done ten day out and back rides over the mountains and left my bike case at my base hotel. One time my wife, Susan Notorangelo and I rode point to point across Peru with our Bike Fridays and our bike cases converted into a 40 pound trailer to carry our gear. This was the ideal way to fly into a remote airport, then cycle for a week, and then pack everything up and fly home from another remote airport.

My other bike tours in Peru were on old mountain bikes I scavenged from flea markets or had around the house. I would ride them point to point across the country and then give them away to some kid at the end of my tour. Since these bikes were treated as somewhat disposable I didn’t want to put a lot of money into fixing them up. My rule was to only spend $100 on new tires, chains and cables. This is the type of bike I was using on this tour into the most remote areas of the jungle I had traveled on any of my tours so far.

I needed a bike that could withstand the abuse of loaded touring and be maintenance free. Much of my route would include miles of rough roads across isolated areas. I had to be able to repair my bike with a pocket full of tools or whatever I could find along the road. I had been rebuilding my 27 year old mountain bike with other used but more reliable parts. Just a few more pieces and I would have my Amazon Touring Bike ready to go. This was one of the first bikes of that type imported into the United States in 1980. It had been my faithful commuter bike for at least 3,000 trips to the post office over the years. This trip to the Amazon Rain Forest would be our last ride together. When I reached the end of my tour I was going to leave my bike with some teenage boys I know in Peru.

To make my bike as new and roadworthy as possible I took it to the motorcycle painter for a $40 paint job. When the painter sandblasted the frame, he found a small crack in the seat tube. Probably rust from the salty Wisconsin winters. It could have been cracked for ten years and I would not have known. I didn’t want to spend anymore money on welding repairs. To fix it, I coated a slightly oversized piece of aluminum seat post with epoxy and pounded it down the seat tube far enough overlap the crack. When the epoxy oozed from the broken tube and dried I knew it had a strong joint.

All the rest of the parts were vintages replacements. The only new parts were the tires, rear cog and the chain. I only had seven gears in the back and one small 38 tooth chainring up front. I was more concerned with going up the Andes Mountains than going down. I made some new yellow PAC Tour decals to go with the new red paint job. This old bike actually looked pretty sharp and I still liked the way it rode.

I was carrying all my gear in the canvas saddlebags I got in Holland last summer. I was packing pretty light. Just a button shirt, nylon pants, fleece jacket, windbreaker, hat and gloves. I wore lightweight hiking shoes and wool socks. I had cycling shorts under my baggy hiking shorts. All my clothes could be rinsed in the shower or river and would dry quickly. I carried a tape recorder in my shirt pocket and a notebook and camera in my saddlebags. With my dark sun tan and baggy clothes I almost looked like a local Indian when I wasn’t on the bike. When I was riding I wore a yellow and black helmet which told everyone I was a gringo tourist. Since I planned to sleep in hotels I didn’t bring a tent. I did carry a small sleeping bag and a ground pad in case the beds weren’t the best.

I was looking forward to getting started on my tour. I never know what to expect on these adventures. The only thing familar was my old mountain bike from 1980. I am glad I could ride it one more time on a memorable tour.

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