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Bearing Repairing

Sim City 2000 rang out once again, calling the AsiaWheeling team to action. We didn’t even grab a cup of coffee, we just hopped on the cycles, bungee-ing  our poor Speed TR’s wounded front wheel onto the back seat of Scott’s  rental bike. Our first stop was this place, Top Cycle, rumored to be staffed by a knowledgeable Frenchman by the name of Willy.

It was strange to see Scott on this huge-wheeled rental cycle. The wheels seemed so big for a seat that was so low. I was troubled by this new problem with Scott’s bike so soon after our ill-fated adventures in Bangkok, but it felt good to wheel. And, man-o-man were we wheeling hard. A good hard wheel always has a way of calming me down, putting things into perspective and focus. Paired with a good cup of coffee, the cocktail is downright miraculous.

Well, the coffee was yet to come, but by that time we’d arrived at Top Cycle. We thanked our lucky stars to find them open for business. When a Caucasian fellow came out the front door, Scott asked “Are you Willy?”

“Yes,” he answered in a thick French accent. We explained our predicament, and Willy frowned down at the Speed TR’s dynamo hub. He began to unscrew the lid of the thing, murmuring in the way only a Frenchman can when wrapping his mind around a new mechanism. Very early on, he identified the bearing was indeed the problem, as our fellow yesterday had hypothesized, and seemed to think it was a reasonably standard size bearing.

“I think I can fix it, but this wheel is very complex… I also will need to go to the Chinese market and buy a bearing. Come back this evening. Maybe 4:30.”

Scott and I could barely contain our glee, and headed off in search of celebratory breakfasting, coffee, and some unexpectedly free wheeling.

What had yesterday seemed like an insurmountable problem was so quickly solved! Once again the gods of wheeling had shown us mercy.

Unfortunately, now it was a holiday Sunday, and when we stopped at a local hotel to ask directions we were told COPE and MAG were closed. Without the convenient folding capabilities of the Speed TR, catching a bus to the gardens that Motta had suggested we wheel would also be tough. I guess some good old-fashioned unplanned wheeling was the move, then.

Feeling like kings, we headed toward the Mekong and rode along it, making our way out of town. Scott’s bike featured a special passenger seat over the rear tire, which when not occupied could be used for extended rough rider calls. In honor of a good friend of ours who goes by the peculiar name, G-Money, we indulged…

We wheeled out of town and into a neighboring village perched on the banks of the Mekong, where we took advantage of Scott’s rental bike’s large front basket to purchase a gross of people’s waters. From there we took the road until it petered out into more of a dirt path, where we stopped to drink water and chart our next waypoint.

From there, we wheeled away from the river, up into the modest industrial quarter of Vientiane. We passed the giant factory where all Lao’s cigarettes are made, and for a while the entirety of the countryside stank like a humidor. Past there we called a random lichtenschtein onto farm roads, where we promptly got lost.

By this point, the roads were made mostly of packed dirt, with large inexplicable puddles forming major hazards from time to time. We decided to rely on our compass and the kindness of strangers in an attempt to cut through this stretch of agricultural land back toward the city.

Using the aforementioned aids, we headed onto ever smaller and more treacherous tangled Lao farm roads. My Speed TR did an admirable job of this totally off-road wheeling, fording large mud puddles, and climbing through uphill stretches over loose gravel and rotting farm waste.

Soon enough the road started to get bigger, and traffic started to appear in the opposite direction. We had made it. We stopped for a celebratory snack at a strange convenience store. I had a milk-box; Scott had a strawberry chocolate ice-cream. The convenience store seemed to have been erected in proximity to and in preparation for a giant real estate development that was springing up out of the rice paddies. It seemed this land would soon be agricultural no longer. As dirt turned to gravel, and gravel to road, we made our way back to that good old hamlet, Vientiane.

Willy was waiting with a smile with our wheel. “Good as new,” he explained. He expressed some interest in the dynamo hub. “It’s full of very strong magnets,” he explained, “and though it’s got a large coil inside, it is not sealed.” I asked what he meant by this, and he explained that the interior of the wheel is merely covered by an aluminum cab, with no rubber gaskets to ensure water does not get inside. Despite this, he assured us that the interior of the wheel looked very clean and tidy, except for the broken bearing. This was not too surprising, since we had just bought that wheel brand new to replace the one destroyed in Scott’s accident.

Though only one of the bearings was broken, he replaced both. When we asked why, he said that the default bearing in the wheel is a Chinese knock off. He showed us the bearings that he put in. The brand was called NSK, and they said “Japan” on the side. Most good bearings come from Japan, Germany, or Switzerland, Willy explained. Here was your bearing, he held up an almost identical looking bearing, “NBK” it said on it. “This is a Chinese copy bearing.”

Interesting… perhaps Scott’s collision with Motta in the lead-up to Pi Mai Lao had had nothing to do with the bearing failing… more experimentation would be needed…

Though we could not test it right away, once we returned to the Heuan Lao  Guesthouse we found the dynamo even still generated electricity. Top Cycle? Giant AsiaWheeling seal of approval.

That evening, we ventured out into the night and came across a popular restaurant in the north of the city, far off the beaten path we had been previously searching for food.  As we sat down, a bucket of burning coals came to seat in the center of our table.
From there, a menu was brought, from which we ordered a number of meats and vegetables to pair with each other.
Next, a grilling and stewing structure was placed upon the coals for cooking the ingredients we ordered.
As the center of the apparatus grilled meat, the juice ran down into the sides of the platter, mixing the fatty oils with the boiling greens.

We continued to add beef and pork to the dome, and enjoy the greens, which were being cooked on the sides.
Finally, after a drawn out and fantastic meal, we cleared the grill and laid back.
The day had begun in a mode of intense focus and concern, and now all was well.  We had experienced the outskirts of the city, repaired a bicycle, and discovered a local specialty.  The next day was to be yet another adventure, where we were to venture again into Thailand en route to Cambodia.


  1. Val | May 9th, 2010 | 9:55 pm

    Wow, what a meal! I have to go to Lao.

    (And glad you had that whiz of a Frenchman to figure out your bearings!)

  2. laura | May 10th, 2010 | 7:37 am

    Bon appetit! 🙂

  3. Mark/Dad | May 16th, 2010 | 11:31 am

    I like the picture of Woody paused in front of a fork in the road–a nice visual metaphor for your journeys.

  4. AsiaWheeling » Blog Archive » Bi Bim Boppin’ | January 29th, 2012 | 1:09 pm

    […] Plenty hungry, and back in our neighborhood, we parked the bikes outside the Bebop guest-house, and headed out on foot in search of a Korean BBQ pork restaurant. These grill your own meat places are a favorite with AsiaWheeling, and we’d been looking forward to them ever since our interest was peaked eating the Lao combination BBQ and hot pot. […]

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