(December 30 – written by Dave)
It was nice to write the title of this blog. More specifically, it was nice to write the word “fixed” as part of the title. Before we wrote fixed we had to deal with a fairly major issue with our bicycle wheels. I’ll describe it here for the historical record. Apologies for the non bike geeks among our readers – this could be overly technical.
A couple weeks ago I decided to clean the bikes and do some general maintenance, all the basics, clean everything, check all bolts, new chains, adjust brakes, check cables and lastly, rotate the tires front to back/back to front. Rotating tires is not strictly required but a rear tire wears faster so rotation helps manage wear more evenly. Swapping tires also gives you a chance to really look over wheels and tires for hidden damage. I rotated our tires up in Oregon and again in Nevada. We have had two flat tires so far on the trip, so mostly the tires have stayed inflated the entire 5,000 miles.
So to the problem… Back in Oregon, when I deflated my rear tire, along with the normal tire/rim bead “releasing” noise, I heard a rather disturbing sound of metal cracking. This noise turned out to be my rear wheel rim splitting along the entire rim brake surface, on both sides of the rim. In other words, the rim was completely broken and not rideable. I was stunned (we have disc brakes so there was no wear on rim brake surface – for the bike geeks out there who were wondering).
Doing this work in Portland, only 4 miles from the Bike Gallery where we purchased the bikes, was fortunate. The guys at the shop looked at the rim, called the rim manufacturer and after much head scratching, everyone agreed it was probably just one of the those failures that they couldn’t explain and that the original rim was defective. On short notice, they installed a new, beefier, rim as a warranty claim and got us back on the road. A shout out here to ace mechanic and general fixer, Michael Magahay of the Bike Gallery
We talked with Michael and the other mechanics about the odds of our other 3 rims having the same issue and everyone generally agreed that it was probably a fluke and we should be fine on the other rims. We had no issues riding to Nevada (where I rotated tires again). For the next 2,000 miles, Nevada to Baja, rim issues faded from memory. We had one flat tire in this section, on a front wheel. We swapped the flat and didn’t really give the rims a second thought.
That was until my maintenance project in La Paz. As I deflated Nancy’s rear wheel I was stunned to hear the all too familiar sound of metal splitting. Yup, sure enough, her rear rim self destructed as I let the air out of the tire. We were scheduled to leave town in two weeks and we had one working bike, not two. I’ll leave it to my senior editor to add her helpful thoughts as to while I didn’t do this pro-active maintenance 4 to 6 weeks ago (Senior editor comment – as an early New Year’s resolution I am practicing that golden rule “if you don’t have anything nice to say…”). Last minute or not, it didn’t really help get her wheel fixed.
So… I spent the next day or so talking with the folks at the Bike Gallery and Velocity (the rim maker). After much discussion and web searching, everyone basically agreed that we were riding with rim/tire pairing that was basically outside of the recommended spec, though that is the way the bikes came when we purchased them. This is my summary, but these things are never cut and dry. Whatever the root cause, Velocity really stepped up sending us 3 new rims via express post to La Paz at no cost to us. Major shout out here to Velocity customer service for going miles above and beyond the call of duty.
We had our doubts about getting rims from the USA to La Paz, over the Christmas week, with Mexican customs involved, but somehow, they arrived the middle of this week. UPS introduced a couple of stress-raising delays but with what seemed like about 100 or so calls to the UPS Mexican call center we managed to remove the roadblocks and get our hands on the rims. I think the NAFTA sticker on the box may have helped – good thing NAFTA still exists, for us at least!
In the meantime, we’d lined up a highly recommended bike shop in town (Ressel Bikes). Using a combination of English, Spanish and bikelish, we got them geared up for a short notice project of swapping our rims out once the new ones arrived.
So Wednesday we took our wheels and the new rims over to Ressel. They were still keen to help and committed to having them done by the end of the day Thursday. We stopped by Thursday to find everything done just as promised. Best of all, based on my inspection, they did a really good job – tension seemed just right and all the little things you look for were done to my liking. They were super helpful about the whole project and wanted us to swing by after a short ride to give the wheels a final fine tuning.
So today we took the bikes out for a spin and then stopped at Ressel. They dropped everything and tweaked each wheel on the spot – then they added us as Facebook friends. Huge thanks to the crew at Ressel Bikes. You guys definitely get 5 stars from us! You can find them here – Ressel Bikes.
With all of the help from the Bike Gallery, Velocity and Ressel, we decided to also send an email to CoMotion, the maker of our bikes. First to let them know how well their business partners had supported them. And second to make sure that they were aware of the potential wheel/rim spec issues. Their very detailed response helped us understand how the bike specs came about and why they didn’t think that the rim/tire pairing was incorrect. There is always some grey area in these things so we’ll leave it t that.
We didn’t really expect CoMotion to give us any form of compensation – bike parts break sometimes – these things happen… We were pleasantly surprised however when they offered us a generous gift certificate at their online store for all of our troubles. Thanks guys – much appreciated. With or without the gift we still really do like our CoMotion Pangea bikes and would recommend them as great touring bikes. The main message would be to review the specs and make sure they are what you want on the bike.
So, now the bikes are done, right on schedule, and we can depart La Paz as planned (no point in getting things done too far in advance – eh?). Tuesday we’ll ride out to the ferry, then take the overnight sail to Mazatlan. We plan on a few days off in Mazatlan because, well, we can. You simply can’t come all this way and not have a look around just because you just had the last two months off, can you?
The road out of Mazatlan looks super challenging but I’ll leave that until we get there…