Snap, Crackle and Pop

Snap crackle and pop. That’s the sound my rear wheel was making the last couple days. Despite the diligent maintenance I performed on my equipment during my little break, I missed a couple things, and one big thing.

Hubs are the parts of the wheel that the spokes fit into, and house the axel. The rear hub also contains the drive mechanism for transferring the power from the sprocket to the rear wheel. So hubs are pretty important. That is why I bought top of the line, $300 Phil Wood hubs. These are the best that money can buy. They will last a lifetime, I was told. Even bike mechanics were impressed when I took my bike in. “Oh, you have Phil Wood hubs, they’re good.”

I was so convinced these hubs were infallible that it never occurred to me that they may in fact be defective. 5000 miles is not a lot on a  touring bike, so I assumed my hubs were fine. I mean, they are Phil Wood, after all. But when I inspected them in the comfort of my Miami Beach condo, I noticed some strange wear, and in Honduras, there was some unusual sticking of the rear wheel. But I assumed the wear was normal. This was a Phil Wood hub, nothing could be wrong with it.

Well, it turns out there are springs and pawls and a ratchet mechanism in the rear hub, and these were all torn to pieces. When I took the hub apart, the spring fell out in two pieces along with various other bits of metal. I could not believe my eyes. My top of the line hub was a piece of crap.

Has this happened to anyone else? Have you ever been so convinced of something that, when presented with contrary evidence, you literally could not believe your eyes? if I had not been brainwashed into believing Phil Wood hubs were indestructable, I would have taken the wheel to my local bike mechanic to get an expert opinion. But the thought never crossed my mind. I was deceived by my preconceptions.

I wonder if the Jews in Nazi Germany thought this. I suspect many people could not have imagined a plan like the Final Solution, intended to exterminate every Jew in Europe. It is inconceivable. So they obeyed the Nazis and, in the end, suffered for it. Even with rumors of mass exterminations many people still surrendered and went obediently to the death camps. If they had believed anythig was possible perhaps more would have resisted. As someone said, we are prisoners of our beliefs. Any thoughts on that?

Anyway, after much cursing, I made a call back home and my bike supplier said the hub should still be under warranty so they will replace it. But meanwhile I am stuck sans bicycle for a couple weeks. I guess I will have to figure out the Japanese train or bus system.

Meanwhile, here are a few pics. This is the view of Tokyo from Ira my brother-in-law’s office window. Not bad. (by the way, what is the plural of brother-in-law, is it brother-in-laws, or brothers-in-law?)

Some shots from the road. I liked the color of this bridge. It contrasts nicely with all the green vegetation on the surrounding hills.

I rode through dozens of tunnels. Some as long as a kilometer in length. Very noisy but well lit. Here’s a shot of one.

In Koshu City at the end of a long day (65 km uphill with 1200 m elevation gain–it took me 8 hours) I was wandering around looking for a hotel. A guy came out of a restaurant and with his wife and kids, helped me find a place for the night. It was a ryokan, a Japanese style inn. Here is a shot of the futon and main room.

Wearing shoes indoors is a real taboo in Japan. You must remove your shoes and put on slippers. I can accept that. But in my room, there was a separate set of slippers just for wearing to the bathroom. Am I supposed to remove my regular slippers and put on other ones just to take a pee? I don’t think so. Don’t believe me? Here is a shot of the “toilet slippers”.

Meanwhile, I returned to the restaurant where the owner’s wife and kids came out to practice their English. They gave me a free meal, plus some gifts  like a CD and some towels. They were very generous people. His name is Jun Sakamoto. Here is a photo of his wife Teruko and their kids Maika (10) and George (7).

The Japanese seem to be obsessed with hygiene. Here is a shot of the toilet controls in my hotel room. You can get your bottom sprayed with varying degrees of water pressure. Actually it gets you cleaner than using paper. It feels a bit weird at first but I am getting used to it.

7 thoughts on “Snap, Crackle and Pop

  1. Bernard Gaulier April 23, 2008 / 11:47 pm

    Kevin, still an avid reader of your blog, can’t wait to read about your adventures in Asia. Good luck with everything.
    uh… how did we get from a broken bicycle rear hub to Nazi Germany? Japan getting to you? so well organized, clean, proper, that it feels oppressive?
    And while you’re at it, did you check the front hub?
    Great pictures as usual, keep them coming.
    Another thing I’ve been wondering: do you plan on going to the summer Olympic games while you’re in China?

  2. Kevin Koski April 24, 2008 / 4:42 am

    Bernard, thanks for the comment. Now that I read the post again I am not sure how Nazi Germany got there. I wrote that late at night after several glasses of sake!

    I did not check the front hub. The problem was in the drive mechanism which is only in the rear. The bearings seem OK.

    I am not going to the Olympics. I will be in western China at that time. I decided to skip Beijing as well. It is going to be crazy there before the games start. Not good cycling.

  3. Debbie Black April 24, 2008 / 6:38 am

    Hi Kev –

    Sorry to hear about your obliterated hub — and just when you were finally back on the road! Japan’s transportation system is quite efficient, so if you have to be “stuck” for awhile you can still cover a lot of ground!

    I see someone else was wondering how you got from bike hub to Nazi Germany. Didn’t see that one coming! Thought maybe I missed a segue, but what I actually missed was the sake!

    Ah yes! The toilet slippers. They are for real, and whatever you do, don’t forget to take them off after your trip to the WC, and walk across a tatami mat with them on. Bad form!

    I recall many Japanese people that went out of their way to help me when I was in Osaka (like the family you met in the restaurant), and others that would go out of their way to ignore me. Like taxi drivers, particualry at night when I really needed a ride.

    I was wondering about your sister’s kids. How do they like living in Japan? Are they going to an English language school(s) or a Japanese school(s)? Are they picking up the language? Young kids in particular often adapt quite easily, but I know the older they are the harder it can be.

    Keep the photos coming — I’m enjoying my virtual return.


  4. Kevin Koski April 24, 2008 / 11:22 am

    Hey Deb,

    Well I did not even bother with the toilet slippers. I just don’t get it. I’m not into taking my shoes off everytime I go inside. If the Japanese could see me they would probably be shocked.

    Yes, besides the helpful people I met some extremely unhelpful ones.Just like anywhere I guess.

    My nieces and nephews adapted well to Japan. They are in an International Catholic school where instruction is in English. But they do have Japanese language classes so they have picked up quite a bit. You can see and read a lot more about the adventures of my sister and her family in Japan on her blog

  5. Ben Kilpela April 24, 2008 / 2:21 pm

    Hey Kev, you’ve got to do more of your thinking without the saki. After all, you’ve just reached the absurd conclusion that you are a prisoner to the belief that you and we are all prisoners to our beliefs. Much like saying, to consider just one such example, “It is true that human beings cannot know truth.” Uh… say whuh? The controversial Goldhagen Thesis is that the vast majority of German citizens of the Nazi era were eliminationist anti-semites (say that five times fast), so there was actually no need to hide anything from anyone or to disbelieve oneself. You could easily read a thousand web articles, pro and con, on that thesis tonight. Enjoyed the photos.


  6. Capt. Don Kilpela Sr. April 24, 2008 / 4:01 pm

    Thanks, Kev, for giving me a motivation to continue my own blog on the M/T MacVie. How, you ask? Well, our captain was born and lived in the city of Auschwitz but at the age of about 10, he was gathered up with his mother by the Nazis and put into a work camp where he spent the entire war. It is a gripping story with an interesting ending so check out the blog in about a month–we are heading home and won’t have access or timer to write for a while.

    Meantime, have a great trip and keep us as informed of your whereabouts as possible.

  7. DAD April 25, 2008 / 1:15 am


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