|Saturday July 14th, 2012||Posted by Carsten under Ecuador, Technical||
A bicycle consists of many important parts. Tires, handlebar, spokes, gears, seat, chain, rims, frame, head lamps, and so on. Each of these parts is important, none of them should be removed with a clear conscience. Each can break. Many of them already broke on this journey. Some of them cause ongoing problems such as the spokes. Others pose temporary problems, for instance the front tire on the Carretera Austral, the front tube in southern Patagonia, and the in Peru we had to deaerate the brakes every now and then.
Generally speaking, brakes are a great thing. They allow you to stand motionless within seconds. They give you a feeling of security. They squeak funny when they are wet. At least, when they work properly. Sometimes, that is not the case which is quiet annoying when you roll down a mountain. Fortunately, we have two brakes installed and usually at least one of them works just fine. Mostly even both. However, we already experienced the rule-proving exception During a long, curvy downhill stretch. Fortunately, it didn’t last long.
On our bike you find hydraulic disc brakes. Our total weight does not allow for some other brake technology. Hydraulic disc brakes are great when you just bought them. Nothing drags, everything decelerates when it should and it decelerates firmly. At some point however, this great functionality is gone. Braking pads wear out, the hydraulic tubes get air, the brake discs may experience a bash and drag. These things can all be repaired, we have done it all before. We carry sufficient hydraulic oil and lots of pads for replacement.
Brake discs are a different thing. They don’t wear that much and they should easily last that year. In principle. As long as you don’t decend from the Ecuadorian Andes, where the brakes are getting incredibly hot, the braking pads are wearing down to the metal and in addition it is pouring such that the discs are cooling down almost instantaneously. Then, such a brake disc can conk out. In our case that means that is gets wobbly and warbles terribly. Rephrasing, it is down the drain.
Of course, you can buy disc brakes in Ecuador and thus also brake discs. But it requires a special layout in order to be attached to a Rohloff hub. You can’t really get Rohloff in South America, and neither the appropriate brake discs. Fortunately, we stranded at Santiago’s place in Tumbaco. As mentioned before, he owns a Casa de Cilista in Tumbaco, a suburb of Quito. And he knows a lot about bike technology and also knows all the important stores in Quito as well as their stock and many fellow cyclists.
After brainstorming for an evening about our brake disc, risky rebuilding of available discs, and even of milling a disc on our own, another guest had the life-saving idea. Santiago would probably know if there was someone riding a Rohloff bike in Quito. Indeed, there is José, owner of the only Rohloff bike in Quito (and probably in the entire country). Santiago made some calls and already the same day we received an offer from José. If we would cover his expenses for a new one, we would get his slightly used disc on the same evening. Remembering our previous experiences with customs, parcel delivery services, times, and costs, we happily agreed. The deal took place on a dark parking lot in front of a pharmacy located at a big radial road of Quito. Just as you could see in a bad movie. The next morning, it took about an hour to replace the adapter that holds the brake by another adapter that would fit the slightly smaller brake disc. And by now everything works just as we like it.
Summmarizing, we have been once more extremely lucky. And once more, we met the proper people just in time. Hence, we could move on after just one unintended rest day, almost as if nothing had happened. Under normal circumstances, we would have waited for another week. At least.