During our World Bank retreat at Bazeleti we were asked to introduce ourselves and say something unusual about who we are. My comment was that I am the Task Team Leader who travels with a bicycle. The following day when I was heading out our Regional Procurement Manager Devesh snapped the photo below with incriminating evidence. It does look a bit incongruous dressed to meet the Minister with the bike wheels. They were on the way to the bike mechanic for some work.
Last year I encountered a cyclist while outside Tbilisi on a road investigation. I got his contact and he told me that there was a velodrome in Tbilisi. I’ve never cycled a velodrome so went and checked it out. It was over 100 years old and consisted of concrete slabs about 1 m in width laid around a track. I decided that I would not even venture on such a surface for fear of crashing. In fact I didn’t see anyone cycling there – just some people on the infield practicing parking cars.
However, there was one goldmine: several bike mechanics and one even rented bicycles. Since I have my own bike I don’t need that, but good to know anyway.
One fellow has a dark workshop with a pile of bike parts and gear in different levels of condition. It is kind of like an Aladdin’s cave with the treasure being of interest only to a select few – at least in Tbilisi where cyclists are a rare breed due to the high probability of being road kill. With the most basic of tools, these guys are brilliant mechanics.
I use a PowerTap to record the power as I train. Earlier this year I was heading to New Zealand from Georgia so rather than take my wheel with me I had the mechanic unlace the spokes so I could just take the hub. When I returned in March I gave him the parts and he put it back together again. He was an artist with the wheel being perfectly true and the spokes tensioned properly – the latter has always escaped me when wheel building. And that is without the fancy tools like a spoke tensioning gauge. All for less than $20 – both the disassembly and assembly. My driver Ramaz said he could have got it cheaper, but I thought it was a bargain, and these guys could undoubtedly use the money.
During this trip I did some riding on the road and so at the end I had to change the tyre back to the one that I use on my stationary trainer. It has a much harder rubber compound than a normal tyre since the trainer ‘eats’ tyres quite quickly. These are really difficult to change so Ramaz did his regular routine and dropped off the wheel for the tyre change. At the same time, I had him fix the front wheel for a nipple had come loose on a spoke – a particular problem with that wheel.
I’m grateful to have such good mechanics available to help out – lets me focus my limited time on riding – or assembling/de-assembling my bike!