Monday 28 January 2013

A Spoke in the Works


Current Location: Bangkok 
Distance travelled: 7,538 km
Broken Spokes: 3 (1st at 5,900 km, 2nd at 7,274 km, 3rd at 7,515 km)

 “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today,” Thomas Jefferson, American founding father and principal author of the Declaration of Independence. 

Well, here we are. Bangkok. It’s exactly where we tried so hard not to be. Our efforts to avoid the teeming millions have failed because we ignored the advice of Thomas Jefferson, a man who knew a thing or two.
A third spoke breaks and we know we have a problem that can't wait in the
hope that we will find a good bike shop somewhere in Cambodia.

The first sign of trouble with the front wheel of our tandem came way back in Malaysia.

We replaced a broken spoke and went to considerable efforts to find a bike mechanic who could true the wheel for us, then moved on. The second spoke went 1,374 km later.We replaced it but did nothing more.

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Being entertained by a family while we wait in Prachin Buri
for a train to take us the 100 km to Bangkok.
For nearly a week we rested up at Ayutthaya, the old Thai capital, relaxing in a comfortable  teak guesthouse and only emerging to go wat watching and stuff ourselves with food and beer. But as most touring cyclists know, once a spoke goes there is something wrong and the problem needs to be dealt with. When two go and you do nothing about it, there is a constant gnawing in the pit of the stomach. No matter how hard you try to ignore it, that feeling won’t go away.
We rested up at a lovely old guesthouse in Ayutthayah.
When we emerged it was to take in the sights, not to bother about the squeaks coming from the front wheel.
Ayutthayah boatman
 We could easily have surrendered a day in Ayutthaya to a quick train trip into Bangkok to one of the few well equipped bike shops in the country. Instead, we were just too comfortable. When it came time to resume our cycling, we set out in trepidation not knowing when the next spoke would break. Would we survive the day, would we get as far as the Cambodian border, perhaps even Phnom Penh or maybe, just maybe, all the spokes would hold up indefinitely. The first day there were a few squeaks, clicks and creaks from the front wheel. We hit some rough patches of seal and the occasional pothole but the wheel stayed intact.

The second morning, I stepped particularly hard on a pedal as we pushed off after a breakfast stop and suddenly there was that ping sound with which we are becoming familiar. I replaced the spoke on the side of the road while Judy checked the map. The next nearest town with a railway station was Prachin Buri, 25 km away. We rode off in that direction as gently as possible, hoping to avoid another breakage. By 4.30 that afternoon we were on a train bound for Bangkok and enjoying the company of two English cyclists who were making for the Thai capital after four months in S.E. Asia. Four hours later, all four of us were negotiating our way out of the city’s main railway station and trying to find somewhere to stay.

Burnoff fires after sugarcane's been harvested. Taken from
train window on way to Bangkok.
 The next morning Judy and I dropped the wheel off at a bike shop and 24 hours later it was waiting for us - rebuilt with all new spokes, the old ones taped up ready for us to carry as spares.

Coming off a Bangkk train with our respoked wheel.
Cost: TB620 or about NZ$25.
Now, having found ourselves in Bangkok after all, we can’t quite bring ourselves to leave. We’ve found some excuses to linger and who knows, maybe tomorrow we’ll catch a train out of town and resume our cycling. It will have taken us three days to get the wheel sorted.

If we’d listened to that sage advice from Thomas Jefferson, we could have done it in one and avoided that gnawing sensation in my stomach.


  1. Hi Mike and Judy,

    We arrived in Bangkok on our tandem an hour ago - 4:50pm, Monday 28th of Jan. If you are still here, we would love to meet up. Glad your wheel is fixed, we know the feeling when things are not quite right with the bike! Drop us a message if you are around at

    Safe Journey,

    Steve and Kat

  2. I still prefer to live by my motto : "Why put it off today when you can put it off tomorrow".

    Spend the time, linger in Bangkok. Don't think of it as an excuse, think of it as a reward :-)

    1. Hello Kyle, yes, I think Mark Twain came up with a variation that went something like,"why put off til tomorrow something you can put off til the day after tomorrow." I think I've learned my lesson on this occasion - when it comes to the bike, get it sorted. Messing around going to Bangkok has cost us three days - not that it was all bad. We met some nice people and drank a fair amount of Chang, Leo and Singha


Express a view here.