Re-building our rear wheel and chasing a spoke tensiometer in Nairobi, Kenya

Yes, these type of roads were the most fun even if we were cursing sometimes.

After some intensive but very fun riding glorious Kenyan roads, our robust bike started to fail evantually.

More specifically, rear rim started cracking and failing. Rear tire also was shredded to its last threads and barely managed to survive until we have reached Nairobi.

Rear tire desintegrated completely. Only tire sealant was holding it together.

Knowing where we were riding and that we carried some 160 kg more than your regular bicycle I tend to think that the wheel has served well.
I am not sure if it’s just Kenyan phonomenon (as I have heard Tanzania is the same way), but most likely, the less developed country the rougher the roads are.

Some people we have met claim that in West Africa roads are even more extreme. Very interesting indeed. There is this coralation – normally the more crazy roads you ride, the more interesting it gets. Not only physically but also the remoteness of it allows you to avoid other tourists and general traffic with its noise and overcrowding. So West Africa sounds like a fun destination for your adventure cycling.

Back to our shredded wheel. After discovering cracking rim I have reached out to the nice people of Velocity. The hope was that they can provide us with a replacement rim and Velocity did not disappoint – Tom from Velocity was kind and very professional in helping with picking new, better suiting rim for our application.

Original rim – Velocity Dyad after some 5000 km.

Appearantly Velocity Dyad rim is not meant for a loaded tandem touring on a rough roads. Their Cliffhanger is the one to pick! I guess Tom is right as our Dually got shredded and we will see how Cliffhanger compares by the time we finish this tour.

Replacement rim – Velocity Cliffhanger

There were two notable challenges we had to overcome with this rim replacement. First, we had to ship the new rim to Nairobi. Do you know how much it cost to ship the rim from US to Nairobi? Well, its only around $500 if you do it through your regular postal service and even more via DHL. Obviously we had to look for some other solution. After some asking around one of our relatives was flying to Nairobi in three days time. We had to scramble and make sure the new rim reaches our relative in time before his flight. Here again, Tom and whole Velocity team did everything well and promptly and now we are in a possession of new and shining Cliffhanger. Actually the new rim is already laced and ready for final truing.

Note the bump on the tire. We did another 60 km with it untill reaching Nairobi.

Here comes our second challenge. This tandem and our setup is very heavy and it is 36 spoke rear wheel. When properly built this is sufficient to withstand “African” type of touring. The wheel has to be true and the spoke tension better be even. In order to acheave proper spoke tention I have tried to source spoke tensiometer. I have spent couple of days asking around and callling multiple bike shops and the best cycling minds in Nairobi trying to get one. We have even asked via 20k strong Kenya Cycling Facebook group but without any success. Most of recommended mechanics are only truing the wheels not building them, thus they do spoke truing by the feel. Definitely it’s sufficient when you are just truing your standard single bike wheel. The challenge comes when you need ultra strong and robust wheel to have a uniform spoke tension. I am sure that some of local mechanics can be up to the task but if they do it by feel then I figured I can try finishing our wheel building myself 🙂 Maybe I will be lucky to source a truing stand tomorrow and finish the repairing our rear wheel?

Hand forged wheel

Indeed I was lucky and one local bike mechanic agreed to lend me his mobile truing stand. Then I spend nearly 2 hours truing the wheel and here we are, with a new rear wheel, mounted new 3″ tire and hoping that it all will last us another 2 months. Just have to add that laterally the wheel is very true. It is not perfectly round but the deviation is relatively minor and I hope this won’t affect longevity of the wheel. We shall see.
The best part of this challenge was all the help we got – it takes a village to rebuild a bike wheel in a middle of Kenya!
A special thanks to Tom and all Velocity team for being so supportive and responsive! And to our ever expanding Kenyan family!

New rear wheel with Velocity Cliffhanger rim

I will make some updates in the future about how Cliffhanger compares to Dually on a heavy touring tandem.
Happy cycling in 2019!

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