Buenos Aires

In Argentina, bike, Buenos Aires, Sud America on April 20, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Just arrived in Argentina, flight left Auckland at 5pm Monday afternoon and touched down in buenos aires at 4pm Monday afternoon, watched three films on board: the invention of lying – could have been better/funnier, ricky gervais isn’t romantic lead material; the blind side – based on a true story American football drama for which sandra bullock won her best actress award, only works  if you like american football really; and finally whip it drew barrymore’s nicely done, low key take on womans roller derby, like a less bloody female version of slapstick, the bearded zen/surfer Coach is a particularly nice performance. Also should be noted I started watching coraline, but had to grab some sleep about twenty mins in, from what I could see it was looking good, but it was not going to come close to the fantastic mr fox.

Suns come out as I sit on a bench by a skate park, listening to the grumble of skate wheels over concrete. I slept for eleven hours, as I tried to stay up as late as possible and get my body into south american time.
Built up the bike that evening, had a few problems, the rear brake lever screw cable adjuster has been bent somehow in transit, might have something to do with the bars coming away from where I’d cable tied them to the fork, And then this afternoon on my first ride, noticed some rubbing of the front wheel on the side of the fork and also one of the axle ends on the front hub had started to unscrew itself. Stopped adjusted wheel in fork, noticed axle end, took wheel out tightened both ends with my Multi tool Allen key, couldn’t tighten it down, went to loosen it only one would come free, the other stayed resolutely tight. Didn’t have another Allen key to work with! Front wheel in one hand, frame in other no way to put them together. Fucked!!!

I walk along looking for someplace that might have an Allen key. Pass a mechanics. Pop in I don’t speak Spanish they don’t speak English. I manage to borrow a ratchet with a 6mm Allen key attachment, I manage to tighthen the axle end down, and get one nut out, but then the other one holds fast. No amount of twisting or cursing will get it loose. I manage to communicate that I need a bigger pair of pliers than the needlenose ones that come on my Multi tool. I get handled some mull grips. I grasp the loosened then tigthened axle end in the mull grips and turn like buggery on the Allen key on the otherside. The axle end comes away in the mull grip the threads all curling away from the metal. I’ve fucked my phil hubs and will have to find a bikeshop to buy a front wheel. Fuck!!!
I sit back on my heels and curse my lack of mechanical ability and know how. The mechanics look at me as I hold up the now seperate axle end and hub and shake their heads as i explain in English what’s happened. I try and twist the axle end back on but no go.

One guy whose been sat watching from the beginning offers a hand. We screw the Allen key bolt back in and as we do this, it tightens up the axle end that had come away from the bolt. Semi result. Maybe I haven’t completely fucked my hubs. One of the reasons I bought the Phils is because they are bombproof, unless of course you’re a mechanical philistine like me. He takes the mull grips and attaches them to the axle end on the other side, gesturing for me to try with the Allen key,  nervously I do and I push, I push harder, and it turns.
Thanks Christ for that, as I wasn’t looking forward to the walk back to the hostel, as I quickly re attach the front wheel into the dropout and thank whoever bought me to this place, the guy bends down with the mull grips and holds the axle ends as I give it another quick twist to tighten it just that little bit more. I dont want it too tight as I’ll have to take it out at some point in time in the future to leave the country.
I thank them gracias, give then a thumbs up and head over to a park (parque de centenario) which looks impressive on the map but in person has the same dilapidated, down at heel feel about it that is my first overriding impression of buenos aires.
I’ve felt slightly apprehensive about riding around buenos aires and in between nodding off on the bus and taxi journey in, I was making sure to look out of the window and watch how the traffic moved, to see how difficult or not it would be to navigate by bike. On the first ride it’s not that bad at all, the grid system means you’ve got a lot of one way streets crisscrossing a main thoroughfare of like 2-4 lanes wide, and right now my main difficulty is getting across the lanes to turn either left or right, as I’m never quite sure whether the road coming up is going to be one way or not.
Traffic is heavy, but buenos aires should be a biking city, pretty flat, distance across doesn’t seem that bad (please note these are my first impressions I can change said impressions at anytime in the future when more information is gathered) and everyone rides scooters and motorbikes anyways what is stopping them. Traffic does tend tend to move a bit more without indicating over here, think it’s from their motorbike/scooter upbringings, drivers will see a gap and try and hit it, as long as your aware of this it’s pretty easy to see whose going where and why, plus I’m looking for that gap before them and where they are sometimes nervous about making the gap, I know I can and so just jump through it.
Kerbs here are high like a foot, maybe higher, just straight up from the once cobbled roads – looks like they’ve just tarmacked over a load of cobbled streets which aesthetically isn’t the nicest but having been jostled around on them for a while I can understand why it was done. But what’s also bad for cyclists is that they’ve just carved these drainage ditches along the edges of roads and then across roads as well, they are about 2-4 inches wide an a good 3-4 inches deep, think of them as tramlines without the trams. Pretty easy to avoid, but dangerous nevertheless.
Today started out grey, with patches of blue sky hinting of a good day sometime later. It is sometime later and the suns out and it’s hot here, mid to late 20s I’d say, traffic is out in force, long lines of it, which you can carve a line through or just roll along between stationary lanes, just chilling chilling.
The signage here like in Australia and japan and to a certain extent new Zealand isn’t the best in the world, not every road is sign posted, though those that are do have numbers letting you know whether you are going up or down numerically, which is good. But if there isn’t a road sign up I have no idea where I’m going and this first day has been spent mostly riding past my turning as there hasn’t been a sign saying which road is which. And with the grid system and up and down one way streets it makes it a bit haphazard in the trying to discover new things department as you either have to go round the block to come back and check out what it was you saw or, pull over right then and there.
I’m writing up a load of these thoughts on benches in the parque de febrero, by the lago de palermo, this place seems to be a refuge for lovers to hold and kiss each other on the many benches, rollerbladers doing laps of the exterior loop, with power walkers and joggers and the odd cyclist, doing a lap or two.
Bikes here from what I can tell fall into the transport catergory, solid mountain bikes, cruisers with coaster brakes, delivery bikes. Haven’t seen anything fancy or fixed just yet. And this town would be great to ride fixed, flat, wide roads, high kerbs to bump if your freestyle inclined. Nice cycling to be had as long as your comfortable in traffic…
Also last but not least, I’m not sure what it is about me and why I thought when I got out of japan that the looking/staring/perusing would stop, but is hasn’t. I’m still getting all sorts of looks from all sorts of people. And I’m still flummoxed by it, will just have to start putting it down to my magnificent personal aura of attractability…

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