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Day Twenty Five - Wuxi to Suzhou

Added on by Paul Wood.

Today I took it easy after my century yesterday. Surprisingly I was not sore after riding 100 miles, but the distance between Wuxi and Suzhou is only 60 km.

I washed the bike this morning and inspected all the parts. I saw that one of my cleats was acting up when I was clipping in and out of the pedals because I'd lost a screw the day before. I've been working those shoes pretty hard without adjusting or checking up on them. I learned my lesson, and a quick trip to Decathlon solved that problem in 10 min. now I have a few spare screws and cleats for future mishaps.

I rode out toward Turtle Island and another bike related problem occurred. I could not use my front derailleur, it was stuck in the second cog. I realized that even though I was moving the shifters up and down tension was not transferring to the derailleur. I hopped off the bike, unloaded it, flipped it upside down and worked on it a bit. Something was up with my shifter cable somewhere because after I unattached the cable from the derailleur, fiddled with it a bit and then reattached it things worked again. The bike isn't perfectly tuned but I can hit all the gears now.

A spoke was also really loose so I added some tension to it, nothing exact, just enough to keep it tight. Everything must have gone a little wonky after a cord got stuck in my drive train in Nanjing. At the time I didn't think about it but after a days riding these kinks did show up on the bike.

I've become a better bike mechanic thanks to the guys at Factory Five, Giants across China, Chain and Sprocket, and Serk. Watching the masters tune my bike a few times has taught me a few things. Mostly about what gears to start in and where to tension the cables.

I met a tour guide in Wuxi. We rode together a bit while he tried to convince me to stay in the city and see more of its sights. Wuxi itself has many scenic and historic spots that I mostly skipped over. However, I keep seeing road signs to Shanghai and I really want to get home. It's weird knowing my own bed is waiting for me just a few hours away.

I did stop in Suzhou for the night to visit with some friends. Lucas and Shaila are a newly wed couple I know from my church in Shanghai. They are putting me up in their amazing apartment in eastern Suzhou. The apartment is very new, it's got central heating, a big modern kitchen, and plenty of room around the place, but the best thing is the washing machine and dryer. I haven't had clean clothes since Qingdao, and to get clean clothes I had to hand wash them. This is a huge relief on me and the smell I must be sporting.

Wuxi and Taihu are beautiful. I've been inspired by the cities near the Yangtze River. Nanjing, Wuxi, Suzhou, they all are huge cities but thanks to the water and the recent public works projects there are many scenic areas to enjoy in each of them. Next Spring I'd like to take a few friends out of Shanghai for day trips around these cities.

Tomorrow I'm going to ride back to Taihu to enjoy some riding without all my luggage. Then I might do some touristy things around Suzhou. I'll probably get into Shanghai Tuesday or Wednesday.

Saddle Looks Bad

Added on by Paul Wood.

I'm worried about my Brooks saddle. I rode on it yesterday in the rain with my new rain pants. I guess I rubbed off the top layer of treated leather with the pants and now things look bad. I've looked up how to fix it and I'm off to find something like Proofide. Wish me luck! Update: I got some cheap no dye shoe polish, since I can't find anything else around here to use. I rubbed it on the saddle, then removed it then waited a bit, then added another coat and removed the excess again. The leather feels better and doesn't look thirsty like it did before. The saddle is still well tensioned. I'm probably overreacting about it I just don't know how best to treat leather.

Day Eighteen - Rain Day

Added on by Paul Wood.

Today was another rainy day but unlike the last rainy day I was prepared. I'm in a better habit of checking the weather now, and I've got some better gear now to help me fight the cold and wetness. I now know how to use a trash bag as a means to keep my feed relatively dry. Its not actually about the water so much as the wind that'll make your feet cold while riding. My gloves were soaked during my ride today but my hands wear warm with the gloves on and cold with the gloves off. I made good time on the road today due to what I was listening to. I tried out Audible for the first time and listened to World War Z. Listening to something while riding is great. I can't believe I didn't do this before. Music isn't cerebral enough to keep my imagination active during the ride. Audio books are. Maybe podcast in general will suffice. I'm thinking of how best to get wifi to download a few books for the rest of the trip. Downloading via 3G seems like a waste.

Mid day I found a post office and shipped off my unused gear. My camp cook-set, tarp, sunscreen and my giant rain-pants are now on their way back to Shanghai. Total cost of shipping 19 RMB again. and I'm 2.5kg lighter now.

When I got to Rizhao a little after 3pm I decided to get a hotel, unload my gear into it and ride around the city. I'm glad I did because I got to enjoy the city instead of pass through it. I should have taken a rest day in Tianjin to do the same.

The difference between older Chinese cities and newer ones is quite notable. Old cities like Qingdao have no room for bike lanes becuase the roads have been the same for at least a hundred years. I don't really know if newer is the right word, but its clear cities like Rizhao had urban planners. The roads are wide and there are nice bike lanes. The tree lined roads in Rizhao really stood out to me, but perhaps my favorite thing is the beach. Theres a huge public park that stretches along the coast with great parking and plenty of paths going to and going along the ocean.The beach is easily accessible from the city via public transport as well.

When I got to the beach an old police man tried to stop me from entering the park with my bike. After a quick conversation, I blew him off and kept riding. It was wet, no one was in the park and I didn't have much daylight left to enjoy the ocean. Making things worse to his case in my mind, another person was cycling on the path I wanted to go down as well so I asked him why did he stop me and not them! I told him I'd be right back, peddled away from him and he went back into his police hut. He didn't bother chastising me when I rode back a few minutes later, so I figure he let it slide because I'm not Chinese. He might have just been a security guard but his hut definitely said "Public Peace". Blowing off a public servent and getting away with it got me thinking. Obviously I felt bad about it, but I only wanted a nice picture of the surf. I'm sure his job is important during the summer months when this park is mobbed with beach goers and bikes would be unsafe, but I was one of a few people there!

After the police man incident I got back into the park where there was an empty Police hut. From there I rode along the beach on a path curving from the beach to the trees every so often. It was some of the most enjoyable riding I've done on on the trip.

Dinner was from KFC, something I rarely eat here in China but I was craving some fried chicken. My breakfast and lunch were quite unsatisfying as well so that justified my junk food craving. Breakfast was cold bean porridge out of a can, which taste fine but not what I wanted. Lunch was a thick soup made with tough pork meat and some liver that cost me way to much for what it was.

I cycled about 120 km today and my left knee is telling me thats to much so tomorrow might be another rest day for me. I'll see in the morning. Hotel for the night cost me 107 RMB, the extra 27 RMB from the night before makes a big difference. The only down side is that I have to climb 2 flights of stairs to get to my room, but its much cleaner and  better furnished than any of the hotel rooms I've been in yet, including Beijing and Qingdao.

rizhao beach

The road from Qingdao to Rizhao is a great road and both Huangdao and Rizhao are great cities for cyclist. Enough hills to enjoy but no so many that you can't get around well like Qingdao.

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Find more Bike Ride in Qingdao, China

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Day Sixteen - Rest Day in Qingdao

Added on by Paul Wood.

I slept in until 7:30 this morning! Wow thats late right? I guess my sleep schedule has changed a lot on the road. I wake up with the sun usually. I did some shopping today. First for new inner tubes, then for some gear.

I went to two bike shops looking for inner tubes today but no dice. It seems my wheelset is an oddity in China. I can buy them off Taobao no problem which I might need to do if I get stuck in the countryside.

At Decathlon I bought new smaller and lighter rain pants. My current rain pants are more for a hurricane than a simple storm. I found a couple pair of casual pants that I can wear around town without looking to out of place with my biking tights on. I bought some bike tubes that are too small for my tire but they might get me to the next town if bad things happen with my current tubes. I also bought another pair of cycling pants to wear since I've been wearing my current pair every day and I think another pair might be good to share the load.

Lastly I went to B&Q for Zip ties, trash bags (for covering my electronics in inside my panniers) and Microfiber towels, which I hope dry out faster than my cotton towel I currently have.

Tomorrow I'm going to adjust my gear again and remove a few things I no longer think I'll need, like the old rain pants and maybe my tarp which hasn't found a use for itself yet.

I didn't eat lunch but I had an early dinner across the street from the Qingdao Beer Museum. It was good to return to the area. I also rode around most of the Qingdao coast. None of the roads here have bike lanes and the hills are problematic. I can see why Qingdao doesn't have a much of a bike culture as Shanghai or Beijing because of the topography.

When I got back to the Hotel I discovered a major problem with my bike. Pictures of the problem and how I fixed it below. Yep it happened again.

Qingdao Coast

 

Day Fifteen - To Qingdao

Added on by Paul Wood.

I had a slow start to the morning. First off I was tired and enjoying comics in my bed. Then when I finally motivated myself to start riding I discovered I had a flat tire again. Basically I've been living with slow leaks for the last few days. I can ride but my bike doesn't sit overnight. After attempting to fix it myself I realized I was doing everything wrong. My patch kit doesn't have rubber cement which is quite helpful and I had run out of patches. So I went outside my room to discover a bike repair guy was situated across the alley from me. The repair man fixed a couple of my patches and got the tire full again. I rode down to the local Giant store to find that they did not have a tube to fit my tire. However they did give me rubber cement and a few patch kits to help me out. So I'm still riding on patched tubes. The local repair guy told me not to put much air in it so I'm riding a little slow as well. All day long I felt the difference in speed and handling. I feel like I'm riding on ice because the tire slides a little left and right under the weight of my gear when I start out. I wanted so badly to add a little more air but I knew that I'd be risking the patch giving and then I'd be stranded in the countryside.

I got out of Pingdu around 11am and headed south to Suzhou. I had a big lunch at 12 because I ate no breakfast. After an hour and thirty minutes of riding I had another flat. One of the patches that I had put on the day before and was working this morning and come loose.I quickly found another local bike mechanic and told him plainly that I am no good at patching tires even though I have all the necessary patch kits and tools. I even broke a tire iron when I took off my tire! He showed me that my problem was the ridges on the tire. My patch kit couldn't lay flat and I needed to sand them down. He pulled out a high speed sander and sanded them away. I learned not to touch the sanded area with your hand the hard way so he had to sand it a little more. He added rubber cement and waited it for it to dry, lastly he applied one of his own patches. When I tried to pay him he refused.

I'm amazing how I never have to pay for bike repairs.

After all of this trouble I realize that my equipment is to specialized for China. I'm in Qingdao and I doubt I can find the right kind of tube for my tire. I'm worried that I need to custom order everything! After reading up on things I recommend people ride on 26 inch wheels with American/Schrader valves. Basically ride a mountain bike, which is what more Chinese people tour on. You'll have no problem with finding spare parts out in the country side. I do have a cool converter now so I can use my Presta valve on an normal country side bike repair man's pump, which is quite handy. I bought it for 5 RMB on my way to Pingdu.

Another thing about my equipment. I don't think I need a tent or a sleeping bag for this kind of tour. Guest houses are everywhere and better than camping. I've only used the tent once ont eh Great Wall and the sleeping bag sparingly when I don't like the look of the sheets in a guest house.

I got to the Qingdao metro area around sundown and started riding into the down town area. I started out on the Expressway! It was an awesome ride, safest road I've been on in a while due to the wide shoulder and no one honked at me. I have no idea how I got up on the elevated road ( It was the G20) but as soon as I had a chance I got off of it. I kinda wish I had stayed on the elevated highway because Qingdao has horrible roads. It seems that everything is under construction here. And the roads that are not under construction are almost to bumpy to bare. I attempted to take a detour away from one horrible road only to end up in another construction area. I then found out, the rather fun way, that my bike handles excellently in the mud, even fully loaded. Once I got back onto the pavement The road I had attempted to skip became my only option of riding again. I gave up and just kept at it.

I finally arrived near the center of the city and decided to crash in a Motel 168 for the next two days. I'm doing my laundry by hand tonight and drying it with my newly purchased hair dryer. I've learned a lot in the last 2 days, mostly the hard way.