Sunday, July 24, 2011

Day 29: July 24, 2011

I'm embarrassed to say that I made a rookie mistake, but got away with it, purely through luck. We had ridden about 3 km out of Akureyri this morning, the start of a planned 90+ km ride, when my bike's rear tire started hissing. It was the first flat tire of the trip. I pulled the bikes to the side of the road and took out a spare tube, annoyed at the inconvenience, but not too worried. It would only take a few minutes for me to replace the tube.

But when I inspected the tire to find out what had punctured it, I saw that the tread was worn down perilously thin. I could replace the tube, but I was certain to get another flat soon. The front tire's tread was still in good shape, but the rear tire, which holds much of my weight and two heavy panniers, was finished. And here's the rookie mistake: I had considered bringing a spare tire on this trip, but decided not to, because it's bulky, and because I thought the new heavy duty tires I put on the bikes just before coming to Iceland would last the trip. In a pinch, you can put a dollar bill between the worn out section of the tire and the tube, but the damage was extensive enough that I would need to line practically the full tire. And that's really just a stop-gap measure, not something I wanted to rely on for the rest of the trip. Especially not in the sparsely populated west fjords. I should have anticipated this possibility, especially given Iceland's many gravel roads, and brought along a spare tire.

And here's where I got lucky. The flat occurred while I was still inside the city limits of Akureyri, Iceland's second largest city, and one of only a handful of places I would pass through on this trip with a bike shop. I walked the bikes back to town, Sho and Saya happily skipping alongside, and searched for a shop. Since it was Sunday, I thought I would have to wait until tomorrow to find one that was open. But the owners of the guest house I had stayed in (Hotel Ibudir), came to the rescue. Magnies Sigurbjornsson drove me to a bike store that had a sales rep, but no mechanic on duty. Magnies and I found a new tire and put it on ourselves in the mechanic's shop. I also bought a spare, just in case.

It was too late to start the long ride, so I took an unplanned rest day in Akureyri. This gave Sho a chance to work on his soccer skills in a nearby field. Sho, Saya and I also lounged in a bookstore, reading books and doing sudoku puzzles. We had a Skype call with my wife, who is taking a bus from Reykjavik to meet us tomorrow. We told her to stay on the bus one more stop than planned, since we fell behind our planned schedule by a day.

At first, I was annoyed by this headache, but the more I thought about it, the luckier I felt.

Here are some pics:

Sho and Saya with Magnies Sigurbjornsson:

Hanging out with some locals:

Worn tire tread:

- An Iceland Bike Adventure post

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