The horrendous bike hunt: Kathmandu, Nepal

The beast!

So back to the bike hunt. Hugo and I spent two and a half days before coming to the conclusion that buying a touring bike in Nepal is practically impossible. As painful as the bike hunt has been, I’ve actually learnt an awful lot about bikes.

Bikes are pretty expensive in Nepal due to the high import tax, the lack of general import/export and the ongoing issue with fuel, meaning many now take to the saddle to get around. We did see one battered up old bike which was going for a whopping $180. When asked “why so much”, the owner said it was new. Hugo said “there is no way that bike is new, it has dents and scratches all over it” the owner replied “it depends on your perspective”. Classic. 

We spent four days looking around Kathmandu which was an experience in itself. My shoe decided to fall apart on my bike hunt which left me walking through the dirty streets in socks receiving odd looks from everyone I passed.

Hugo turned and said to me “you know you have issues when you’re walking through an area of extreme poverty and the locals are dressed better than you”. The hostel had forgotten my to do my laundry so I spent five days in the same dirty clothes. I need to get used to this rough living if I’m travelling with Hugo, some guys at the hostel quoted him saying “I don’t like to travel, I like to survive”. 

After finding two bikes in a shopping area just outside of Thamel, Hugo rode out to some of the poorer areas hoping to find a better selection of second hand bikes. In the mean time I went back to the original two to note down the frame size which I measured with a pen and my arms much to the amusements of locals. I asked a tailor if he would measure the points on my arms and he said “a pleasure, to measure with the metre tape is my duty”. You had to be there.

Sold! My customised bike!

The next morning we went to Teku to look at the cheapest bike we’d found. Like all of them it needed some work which was tricky considering the shop owner spoke zero English. With hand gestures, Hugo and I explained what we wanted and without further ado, a bike was formed. We put a new back wheel on, two new tyres, a new saddle and a rack. The angle of the rack was close to a vertical so we had to try and explain that it needed to be horizontal to put bags on. The guy whacked the hell out of this brand new rack to bend it in to place. Voila! It worked.

After thoroughly checking all the other bikes, we completely forgot to check the wheel spin and saddle adjustment on the one I actually purchased. We also forgot to remind the guy to tape up the sharp bits where the spokes go inside the new wheel so it doesn’t burst the inner tube. Oops!


Pretty much buggering up my saddle

Half way down the road I complained that my seat was too low and I needed to get it right. A local guy, our kinda age, approached us and tried to help, borrowing tools from a local workshop. However, he only made it worse and suggested I get it welded. We had already bashed and weakened the metal so I saw no reason why having the seat welded would bugger it up even more. So we went looking for a gas welder which turned out to be pretty hard considering the lack of gas in Nepal.


Safe professional welding at it’s best

Finally we found a guy welding down an alley and again, using only hand gestures, explained what we wanted doing. We had to guess the height needed, a bit of a risk considering it would be welded into place but it paid off in the end. Despite the bike now being rideable (I won’t use the word complete, it is far from ideal) we were unable to set off the next day due to a flat tyre which we were unable to fix having no wrench. After a day of wrench shopping, which happened to be the only day of the month bike mechanics had off (!) I came across a small bike shop in the suburbs. I got chatting to the owner Binod who gave me a spanner and invited me to his family party that evening.


Our great little crew at the hostel

I was unable to make it as I had to go to the tailor after I had asked for a new waist band. The tailor had decided to close so I went next door to the beauty parlour and asked where they were. A couple of phone calls later and a few handfuls of popcorn given to me by the ladies there, I was reunited with my favourite and only pair of trousers. It was just my luck that the new waist band was so tight I could barely get them over my arse. My luck worsened when my friend spilt a cup of sticky milk tea with rum all over my only clean clothes. The hostel forgot to change the sheets after the guy before me forcing me to sleep in a smelly bed and then not realising the pricey bottle of wine we had treated ourselves to was a cork screw, something no one had. Huff.


Me and Binod

We hoped to set off the next morning but there was something not right about my wheels so I thought I’d ask Binod to check it out. The next 12 hours were horrendous. I misplaced by phone and helmet, Hugo misplaced his camera, wallet, top and blanket all to be returned minus the wallet. This was one of the many to go missing at AloBar1000 Hostel which after three weeks there, we decided to boycott.


Our bikes all packed up

Incredibly stressed due to our late departure and itching to get going, our minds were all over the shop and we spent the day loosing things while Binod tidied up my bike the best he could. He had to go and pay a gas bill so took me out on his moped to run some errands. We had great fun zigzagging the busy streets of Kathmandu. After an awful day, we were met by more kindness by the owner of Mount Fuji Home where I had stayed a few nights previous. He offered to lend us money after the wallet was stolen and gave us a reduced rate minus the fantastic breakfast (we were leaving too early for it anyway).

I’ve had a fairly horrible couple of days but the kindness of others have lifted me up and I’m excited for the next leg of our journey to begin! Keep following for more updates. Please ‘Like’ my Facebook page here.





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