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09.05.09 07:14 Age: 9 yrs

The quike finally hits the road!

By: Roger and Megan

A test ride of the newly re-built quike through the streets of Astana with our posse

The clincher in our decision to start our journey from Astana was the Kazakhstan National Unity holiday celebrated on May 1. It is a fesitval where all the nationalities that call Kazakhstan home get a chance to express and celebrate their culture. People come from all the corners of Kazakhstan to represent their cultures at this important event. For our excursion on May 1, Arsen and his friends had arranged that a convoy of bikes would escort us around the city to attend the multitude of events that were being held that day. However, we were limited to only 10 cyclists, as there is a law in Astana that the largest number of bikes allowed to ride in a group is 10. This is odd because in the week spent in Astana, we hadn't even yet seen 10 cyclists on the road, let alone at the same time, in one group! So you can imagine that having a convoy of 10 bikes on the road was a pretty big deal for the Astana cycling community.

Despite the main parcels of for the Quike (the frame and the tools!) only arriving the previous day, so we had been working around the clock without (much) sleep in order to have it rolling by 9 am, the designated start time for the ride. During the night we had several misadventures due to tiredness. For example, at one stage, after being given the task of attaching one large chainring to the bottom bracket assembly, Roger had somehow ended up with a crank puller (why? who knows) stuck on the crank. By 5am we had decided to call it quits and wake up again at 7 am to complete a few essential bits (steering, brakes, seats...). After getting cracking on this, it seemed that 9 am was arriving upon us way to quickly, and the first of the bike possee started rolling in.

The Astana biking crew were all very interested in seeing the Quike and helped out a bit with our last minute assembly jobs. By about 10.30 am the convoy finally headed out of the driveway out into the street. However, after the first few metres we noticed a metallic clunk every revolution of the wheel, and suspected that the sound was something hitting the disc brake rotors. So we stopped and hunted around but couldn't find anything wrong. We then tightened the bolts on the calipers and the problem still remained! Then we detached and re-attached the rear wheel, but alas, still the clinking. The quick solution was to just detach the brake caliper itself and take a better look at the problem later. So we were down to 3 brakes for the day's ride.

The next problem Roger noticed was that the steering was vague and wobbly. This reminded Megan that she'd forgotten to tighten the whole steering apparatus, so that had to be fixed at our first stop for the day.

Throughout the day, we visited half a dozen different outdoor venues (by the way, it was lovely weather on the day) where music, dancing and food of the different nationalities were on display. At one venue, after feasting on some Shaslik (meat on stick, barbecued over the coals of a tree only found in Central Asia), we were interviewed by three different TV station crews, with Bakhutjan and Arsen playing interpreters for the day. They even set up some footage of us doing a ride-by past the camera. At another venue, we found the children's celebration headquarters, with games and races in the garden. Here, we wre approached by an English-speaking girl who had recognised us from a national weekly newspaper called Info-Ces. This was a surprise to us, as we had not ever been interviewed by that newspaper, so were curious as to where they'd obtained their information!

After the festivities, we continued our ride through the city to visit some important cultural and historical landmarks throughout Astana, such as the Baiterek and the Pyramid. However, by now we were absolutely exhausted, as we'd only had 5 hours sleep in the past 72 hours, and still had more riding around to do! After a few more hours of riding around and getting sunburnt it was back to Arsen's place to finish the rest of our packing and construction so we could finally leave on our expedition. After considering how much work we still had to do, we decided that a May 2nd departure was a bit too ambitios, so moved it forward to May 3rd. We also met up with Vitaliy again, this time to copy across some important GPS waypoints of unique archaeological/anthropological sites. He also kindly helped us to get our own GPS mapping working properly. Until then, we kept having it pop up with us somewhere in the Atlantic ocean, when we were quite sure we were in Kazakhstan. After re-calibrating the maps with the correct UTM settings, things started working well and we had yet another backup for our own navigation through the steppe. Vitaliy also gave us some more names of valuable contacts, including a German ornithologist working at Korgalzhin (the first main landmark on our route from Astana).

Since we had decided to not depart the next day, we actually got some sleep on Friday night. This was fortunate, as Roger was starting to feel the onset of a headcold, which would've been excarbated by yet another all-nighter.

But when Saturday arrived, we had a long list of last minute running around to do, including lots more sorting and packing, plus updates to the website. The day went far too quickly and we were working until 2 am yet again, but still optimistic of our chances to head off by 9 am that morning....

[posted 10/9/09 by TK]