January 31, 2014 by melcogger
We are far from cycling experts, I (Mel) did not even own a bicycle and I had my first ride since childhood a few months ago. We had a vision – either buy bicycles and show up in Asia, buy bicycles IN Asia, OR BUILD THEM. The latter seemed absurd, especially since neither of us were handy with tools, bikes, or anything relating to cycling. The only experience we had was Jonty’s previous tour to the Drakensburg, but our friend Zander dealt with all bicycle related affairs.
After many visits to cycling stores and almost purchasing a bottom range bicycle, we thought, what are we doing? Whatever bicycles we an afford, we will only have to strip them down and adapt it to be a touring bike. We then had a long ponder over a chocolate croissant at the Argentinian bakery, and decided that we would throw ourselves into the deep end by building the bicycles. Little did Jonty know that by deciding this, he would be thrown into the deep end by himself. I could not build a bike. Certainly not. I decided that our friend Zander would take my place in the bike building department. You see, we had an IOU wedding present from Zander – he promised to help us fix anything in our house throughout our marriage, and I was convinced that fixing bicycles fell within that category. Of course, being the great friend he is, he obliged. I could sit back, relax and “supervise” while the boys did all the work.
We also cornered our one and only friend that knew anything about bicycles – Byron – a smart engineer who is good with tools and all things bicycle related to help us build our bikes from scratch. His knowledge and great engineering mind was invaluable to our preparation.
We headed off to Linden Cycles. We must have looked like complete fools, trying to explain that we “need that thingy that goes on to that part of the bike… what do you call that?”. We must have driven our trusty assistant Willem up the wall. There were times when I would just huff and say “well, we can just google it I guess”. But by the end of our struggle with cycling jargon, and many back and forth trips, we were regulars, and even received a 10% discount on all our goods.
Jonty and Zander stripped our bicycles, leaving only the frame. We then powder coated them and ordered custom made wheels which are designed to carry overweight people – not that we are overweight – we may have picked up a few pounds from marriage and articles, but touring bicycles carry a lot of weight. We ordered racks and panniers online, touring handle bars, lights, new seats, and pretty much everything else except the frame.
Byron then had to get his hands dirty. He brought all his tools and slowly but surely, re-assembled Jonty’s bike with the new parts we had bought. Jonty’s task was to watch Byron and learn his skills and apply those new skills to my bike. Jonty spent plenty of time fiddling with parts on my bike and by the end, it looked and rode a lot like a bicycle. We both got our bikes serviced just to be safe.
Then of course, we had to begin training. This consisted of what we called “substantial days” – cycling around to different coffee shops and eating. But these casual rides needed to be intensified. So we began cycling 40km, then 50km, and finally 63 km. We thought we would make it further than 63km, but to be quite honest, why get all sweaty now when we can do that in Asia?
On our last cycle, we decided that it was time to train with fully loaded panniers. We weighed up the possibility of getting robbed of the contents of our panniers – bike spares, tools, etc and decided that it would be safer to fill our panniers with law books and board exam notes instead – an extra 15kg’s each. This of course made no sense, because if anyone in their right mind decided to rob us while cycling, they would not ask us for the contents of our panniers… they would relieve us of our entire bicycles, thus rending all the cycling equipment stashed safely at home completely useless. Nonetheless, we went off cycling with 15kgs of books each with the peace of mind that if anyone stole our bikes, they would be able to pass board exams and continue to be great lawyers while not be able to change any parts to the bicycle. Ha! Team Cogger wins!
Finally, it was time to say goodbye. After many farewells and last suppers, we had one big farewell with all our friends. Until we arrive in the promised land (aka the Philippines), we will leave you with our farewell song composed by our buddies – the Berndts (our best married couple friends)