Batticaloa – A Bicycle Magician on the East Coast of Sri Lanka
We arrived in the east coast town of Batticaloa yesterday afternoon, following a 9 hour train ride from Colombo. We’d set aside one full day in town to ride our bikes around and make sure that everything works before embarking on long cycling days. Partly just being prudent, partly because when we got our bikes back from gate-checking them between Buffalo and JFK (small jet, small overhead bins), they were a bit roughed up. My plastic chain guard was snapped and a fender was bent out of shape.
A quick ride proved that the luggage goons at JFK had done more serious damage. My chain slipped off shortly after we started riding. We had a quick look at the chainring and saw that it was bent. Like, visibly bent. Badly bent. Definitely can’t ride on it for hundreds of kilometers bent.
Fortunately, we had just passed a bicycle shop. The owner told us that his mechanic, who at that moment was sitting on the floor and building a wheel, had 30 years experience, and that, “Because you are guests in our country I will not charge you one cent!” When on the road I do routine maintenance myself, but I wasn’t sure how to address this problem. I assumed we’d have to take off the crankset (don’t have the wrench for that) and pound the chainring flat with a hammer (don’t have a hammer). It turned out to be simpler than that. Without taking the crankset off, the mechanic flipped the bike over and began to rotate the chainring, using the hammer like a guide on a truing stand. A few judicious smacks with the hammer and about 3 minutes later, the ring was as good as new. We lucked out – the guy really knew his stuff.
Despite my best efforts, neither the mechanic nor the owner agreed to accept any money for the job well done. So I took a couple of photos instead.
With the chainring trued, we took a few hours to ride around town, through herds of cows, crowds of smiling school children, and along a beautiful lagoon.
Tomorrow we set out early, heading south along the coast. It will be our first day of actual touring since mid-December in Thailand!