Before we left, our friend Sandra provided some sage advice, “Don’t be a mule.”
Luckily, Sandra didn’t get a chance to talk to Cait and Mark before they came to Belize to visit us.
We needed to replace several items: shoes, sunglasses, socks, chains, tubes and a kickstand. Most items we weren’t able to find along the way.
Originally, I cut the Pletscher kickstands’ legs shorter. With the original rubber feet, the front wheel was a reasonable distance off of the ground when we parked our bike. Within a week, the weight of the bikes and bags pushed the kickstand legs through the rubber feet.
Sarah’s kickstand was a bit shorter than mine. This is not a problem when the ground is hard, but when the surface is softer the legs sink into the ground and the bike is not stable.
I ordered another pair of wool socks to replace some holey ones. We haven’t been able to find wool socks.
My nose pads finally broke off of the frame. The arm of Sarah’s glasses was duct taped on after her bike fell over (short kickstand legs). We could have purchased some cheap, local sunglasses. But since we had a mule, we ordered some cheap glasses (liquidation inventory). Unfortunately, Sarah’s weren’t delivered in time to make the trip, but she ended up with a new pair of glasses anyway.
At the end of the trip, Mark gave Sarah his sunglasses. Mark had mistakenly bought a pair of women’s sunglasses that did not fit him, which was lucky for Cait because she managed to lose her glasses within two hours of being on the island. So, Sarah got Mark’s girl glasses that Cait was wearing to replace her lost ones, in exchange for a pair of new glasses that didn’t make the mule train.
Availability of tubes and the condition of our current stock was what prompted me to order some replacement tubes.
There are two primary types of valves found on bicycle tires, Presta (on our bikes) and Schrader. Presta valve stems are 6mm whereas Schrader are 8mm. We haven’t found tubes with Presta valves since leaving the USA and you can’t fit an 8mm stem through an 6mm hole. I could drill out the valve holes in the rims but this would weaken them.
As far as the condition of our tubes, our tubes’ patches have patches. This really isn’t a problem. Patched tubes still work. I was more worried about a catastrophic blow out or the stem separating from the tube (which you can’t patch). Besides the four tubes currently in use on the bikes, we had two spares, for a total of six. With the number of flats we’ve fixed, I’m sure we’ve manhandled the valves a few times removing the tube from the rim and tire.
On this trip we’ve had a tube blowout that could not be patched and a valve rip out. It was feasible that at some point in the near future, we could find ourselves without a spare tube. This possibility, combined with the frequent flats on this trip, prompted me to order some more.
We opted for some thicker, thorn resistant tubes. They have a lot more rubber than regular tubes. Hopefully, they’ll cut down on our flats. I’ll report back in the future on their performance.
Nine speed chains, like those on our bikes, are not easy to find since we left the USA. Seven and eight speed chains are not a problem. Our friends delivered two new chains but I won’t replace them yet.
I’ve found that a new chain and back cassette will last anywhere from 5k miles to 12k miles (8k to 19k kilometers) depending on the conditions (dry, muddy, lubrication regime, etc.). I’ve been able to extend the life of the back cassette if the chain is replaced before it gets too stretched from wear and damages the back cassette. The chain and cassette was new about 3k miles ago. When the chain stretches too far, I’ll replace them.
My shoes were new in Las Vegas. We had them shipped to Elliot’s mom’s house back in May. It was a nice coincidence that I found a an online store liquidating a replacement shoe in my size and I could ship them to Cait and Mark in time.
We also received three delicious surprises. Cait and Mark brought us fresh bagels from NYC. Sarah arranged for me to receive a bag of Twizzlers, which I’ve been craving for months and haven’t found since leaving the USA. The Twizzlers were good but the cookies and fudge were a wonderful surprise courtesy of Cait’s parents, Jean & Scott.
Sarah has always received cookies and fudge as a Christmas gift, with the exception of this past Christmas, due to the logistics of shipping to people without an address.
Thanks again Jean & Scott! Our tastebuds, hearts and dentist are grateful for the scrumptious surprise.