Now, Marcia already wrote something about shopping, and for technical stuff it is a challenge as well. So many things that are common in the western world are less common in the overland zone. Even, or should I say especially, concerning bikes it is sometimes a challenge. The early mountain bikes were constructed with common available (and rugged) parts but evolution of the mountain bike meant that more and more parts were optimized and strayed away from “standardisation”. But of course during this process much technological progress was made, and commerce certainly played a role in this too. A clear example being the wheel sizes that evolved from 26″ to 27.5″(or 650B) to 29″. All these sizes are available in the western world, but less so in the overland zone. But besides wheel size there is the choice of standard bend spokes or straight pull spokes. And then there are “system” wheels, the ones you buy completely off the shelf: an example is the Mavic Crossmax. And -of course- there is the question to be tubeless or not.
When we left The Netherlands, I took some stuff and tools with me, and guessed that what I did not take with me, would not be too much effort to obtain. How wrong was I. For example, tubeless wheels are not accepted or very exotic or just unheard of.
So, I decided to go back too Tbilisi, the place where most of the bike shops are. I also asked a local, Dito, who I met a few weeks earlier if he knew of a good cycling shop, and he gave suggestions and even had some time to meet up. I went to a bike mechanic to ask if he could repair the slight wobble in my front wheel. That was not a easy question. Since two spoke nipples were damaged on the outside, these had to be removed from the inside, and the DT (squorx) nipples happen to have a positive torx head on the inside of the rim. This tool was not available. But I must say the bike shop had an impressive wall full of Park Tools. Not too bad! The rim tape had to be removed as well and sadly that stuff was not directly available too. It had to be ordered. hmm. Not quite successful.
I went to another bike shop and because of the previous troubles I changed my question: instead of “can you repair my wheel” I asked: “do you have tubeless rim tape?” And the answer was no. This guy was friendly enough too and pointed me to yet another bike shop. 15 km north through hot and dense Georgian traffic. I was not keen on driving north again.
I changed my tactics again: It was time for a field repair. I would do it myself. I already had a torx bolt but it was too short to make a tool out of it. If I could find a M5x30 bolt with torx head I would be able to make my own tool. So off I went to the hardware store on the right side of town, but they did not have it. I have to be honest here, because in The Netherlands it would be equally difficult to find a metric bolt with torx head.
Still unsuccessful, I slowly wandered through the hardware store, thinking about it and looking at all the tools. Suddenly I noticed a 4mm deep socket. That could very well be used to hold the short bolt that I had.
The next day I started making the tool. Grinding off part of the thread so that it could be pressed into the 4mm socket cavity. Luckily the inventory of the van contains one electric machine a Dremel. I already used it quite a few times, so it was not a bad decision to take with me.
After pressing/hammering the bolt into the socket, I had to reduce the head diameter as well. Again it was a matter of grinding.
Besides the squorx tool, I made a “wrench” to hold the flattened spokes. That is necessary since I use straight spokes, making that tool was easy.
With all the tools made, I was almost ready to repair the wheel.
But first I had to come up with some sort of guide to align the rim. You might have seen a wheel alignment stand in a bike shop, and that was what I was aiming for too. I looked at what I had available to make an alignment. I think the result was quite nice.
So now for the repair. After removing the rim tape I noticed right away that the wheel had been used in corrosive conditions at one time. I could tell because there was some white aluminium oxide powder inside the rim cavity on the nipples. As soon As I tried to loosen a nipple, the nipple broke off. Damn. With some pliers, the standard spoke tool and patience I managed to remove it and replace the faulty nipple with a spare one. This happened a few times but finally I was able to true the wheel again.
With the tools made it was easy to do. I re-used what was left of the original rim tape. It still covered all the holes except the one for the valve. Some electrical tape was used to close this gap. So this was a cheap repair and good for the environment.
Since I was at it, I decided the wheel bearing could use some grease as well. here too, the field repair solution is simply to carefully remove the seals, clean, if needed, the balls and apply new grease. push the seals back in place and remove excess grease. Easy to do. Of course, if the bearings have play you should remove them all together.
And finally to get a tubeless tire back on, field repair style: first mount the tire with a normal inner tube. Pump it up and make sure that the tire beads onto the rim correctly. Usually it “pops” into the rim. Deflate and carefully un-bead one side only of the tire to remove the inner tire. Insert the tubeless valve without core. Add sealant in the tire and lay the wheel flat on the floor with the beaded side down. Now add as much air as you can (a compressor is nice) and fiddle a bit with the loose side of the tire until it seals enough to inflate. Inflate until it “pops” again. Disconnect and insert valve core, pump it up again, and shake the wheel to spread the sealant.
Marcia concluded that it was a good thing that my trip to the bike shops in Tbilisi was unsuccessful: it created the chance to be creative. And actually she’s right.