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Bicycle repairs - Jim and his second youth


After 11 years it was time for some serious bicycle repairs. Not that I have not maintained my bicycle but after 11 years and over 100.000 km it was really time for some serious business.

Jim after the major bicycle repairs
Jim after the major bicycle repairs and new coating
in Mohd Faizals Dreamwerkz Cycles shop in Penang

I have forgotten how many brake pads, cables, sprockets and chains, leave alone tires and tubes I have changed over the years. Other parts of the bike have been replaced less frequent, racks, shifters, levers, rims, spokes or pedals. Heck, I have even changed my handlebars as they broke when I cycled in China (2010).

Jim at my moms house in Woudenberg Jim in 7th Heaven Cafe and Hostel, Yangshuo
Left: Jim at my moms house in 1999
Right: Jim in 7th Heaven Cafe and Hostel, Yangshuo, 2008

This time the problem was more significant. In 2009 already I felt there were problems in the fork. It was possible to adjust it until May 2011, when I cycled around Yangshuo, China. On a dirt road I felt my fork wobbling.

Having had that feeling before I knew how dangerous this could be. It could break totally off, yes, there was that much friction. The bicycle repairman in Yangshuo was confident he could solve it but he failed, no way to get any movement in the stem, because that was what was the problem.

Broken handlebar in Yangshuo Broken derailler
Left: Broken handlebars, Yangshuo 2010
Right: Broken gear system on the rear wheel, Istanbul, 2001

Back in Malaysia, I decided to try my luck at Dreamwerkz Cycles, where I know the owner, Mohd Faizal from his work in a different shop some years ago.

There were several questions for this kind of bicycle repairs... could he fix the stem? But more important, was the bicycle still worth to renovate or should I go for a new bike? The paint of Jim was falling off and at some places rust had come through. Jim was old, and besides being old, he had done his job: 100.000 km.

What is left of the stem, 2011
What is left of the stem, 2011

Wouldn't it be better to get a new one? According to Faizal that was not necessary. Why not send it to a factory for new coating and add a new stem? After that, according to Faizal, Jim would easily do another 10 years.

The new handmade stem

The new handmade stem

As it is hard to say goodbye to an old friend, I decided to get in with Faizal. Jim went to a factory for a new coating. The main problem would be to get the old and as it turned out, broken stem out. And than it needed to be replaced.

Jim in the bicycle shop in Betong, you can see the paint coming off, 2007
Jim in the bicycle shop in Betong, you can see the paint coming off, 2007

Faizal told me the size of the stem was not available in Malaysia, it could take weeks to get a new one imported. He could however made a new one, handmade in a local weld shop. "Go for it!", I told him.

It took a couple of days. When the frame came back from the factory I could hardly believe what I saw, black and shiny, it looked beautiful! But this was only the easy part. The stem was still not out of the fork. That would cost Faizal some more work.

Jim in Bangkok, 2010
Jim in Bangkok, 2010

But after another couple of days I got the call. Jim was ready for another 10 years and 100.000 more km's.

On the fly Faizal had changed a few minor additional things: cables, brake pads, rear wheel had new spokes and because he had the bike now in pieces he had cleaned everything too.

Jim was ready after a few minor adjustments and trust me, of all the bicycle repairs I have done over the years nothing could have prepared me for this, Jim was back, he was riding smooth as silk. On the main road the last year I had seldom be able to cycle faster than 23-24 km an hour, now I was flying without any problems to 28-30km/h.

Jim is almost ready
Faizal working on my bicycle, it would still take a few days before it was ready

Bicycle repairs are essential and could be expensive

Any serious cyclist knows you have to maintain your bicycle. Tires, sprockets and chains need at the bare minimum replaced every 6000-7000 km (depending of course on the quality). Maintaining your bicycle is an essential part of the journey and, in my humble opinion, you should never compromise because you never know when things break and you will see it breaks when there's no replacement available.

The crank had to be replaced in Surakarta (Solo), Indonesia, April 2010
The crank had to be replaced in Surakarta (Solo), Indonesia, April 2010.
I was lucky enough to get the replacement.

For long distance cycling and cycling in countries with limited supply, use the best quality you can get. It last longer, gives you space in case of problem to find solutions. After all, you really do not want to maintain your bicycle every 500km or so.

My philosophy for my bicycle is... that I always FIRST take care of my bike, keep it clean, keep it in good condition. On the road I will always have it in the hotel room or somewhere secure inside the hotel. Over the years I learned that the better you take care of your bicycle, the less bicycle repairs you have. I was lucky, I found Mohd Faizals' shop in Penang (see my cycling in Malaysia page for details) who did an extraordinary job with my bike in June 2011. But still things go wrong. That's part of the journey.

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