Monday, July 14, 2014

More bike problems resolved

I liked it so much at Valamo moastery that I had considered staying another day at  its female counterpart Lintula. But due to more bike problems this wasn't very practical. I needed a bike mechanic and as the weekend was approaching I had to get into Joensuu on Friday.

Russian Orthodox church Joenssuu
So what was the problem? Unfortunately a very well known one: my bottom bracket was failing. I have had the exact same problem before when I was cycling through Japan. It starts very innocently with grinding noises and the pedals getting stuck once in a while. You then have to apply a bit of brute force, you'll hear something break and the bearing works again - with more grinding noises. What happens is that one of the balls in the bearing of the bottom bracket breaks, gets stuck and blocks the pedals. When you force the pedals the ball will break and the movement of the bearing will sort of grind it down - thus damaging more balls that will break soon after. You can assess the damage by trying to move the pedals sideways. With a properly working bottom bracket this isn't possible - the pedals can only move forward and backwards. But with the bearing failing the cranks can be moved sideways. The more you can move them sideways the greater is the bearing damage.

Traditional hay making Koli
Although I had checked the bottom bracket thoroughly before I had left Germany I had noticed how it was deteriorating during the trip. Cycling into Valamo had been a bad day: the pedals had gotten stuck several times in one day. This could lead to a potentially dangerous situation in traffic. Unfortunately I was now heading into sparsely populated Karelia with no bike shops for at least one week. My only chance was Jouenssu which is a rather big university town and three bike shops.

I was already lucky when I called the first bike shop, MT-Bike. One of the mechanics spoke very good English and understood my problem immediately. He was also willing to do the repair if I arrived on Friday. When I arrived Friday morning he immediately remembered me and had a look at my bike. First it looked like they didn't have the right spare part but after some calling around and searching the whole workshop a fitting spare was found. Then I was sent away for two hours because this repair didn't look quick and easy.

View from Koli
When I came back after some sightseeing and two hours I was met by a rather exhausted bike mechanic.Let me quote what he said: "In my job you need a little problem once in a while like salt in the soup. It spices up your life. But this bottom bracket has been almost too much salt." Apparently he had had tremendous problems getting the cranks off and on again - and he couldn't find a better spare crank. Deep scratch marks on the crank told me that he must have used real brute force but he had been able to change the bottom bracket and get the cranks back on - and that is all that counted. He had worked almost two hours on it and still only charged me 50 € to which I added a generous tip for this VIP express treatment - they had set aside all other work in the workshop to fix my bike first. Very much relieved I could now leave Jouensuu with a new bottom bracket. Hopefully this had now been the last bike problem on this trip.

I was now headed to Koli National Park which boasts something rare in Finland: a view! In the park there are some 367 m high "peaks" that actually offer some kind of view over Lake Pielinen and its thousands islands. There even is a free funicular up to the top and its nature centre and I freely admit that I took it including my bike - it was a hot day and a steep ascent for Finnish standards. This was a weekend and the place was bustling. Therefore I decided not to camp here but take the ferry across Lake Pielinen to Lieksa and use the time "saved" to visit Paateri. Everybody I had met had described this as a special place but for me it was a 50 km detour.

Carvings by Paateri
Paateri is where Finnish wood sculptor Eva Ryhännen had lived and worked and it is indeed a special place. I saw her house (of course all wood including the TV table), her studio full of sculptures and the main attraction: a wooden church. Everything in the church is made of wood with the most unusual thing being the altar. It is the root of Finland's biggest spruce tree that had been donated to Eva when the tree had to be felled after being hit by lightning. Paateri used to be the farm where Eva lived with her devoted husband and the setting is most beautiful and even the 25 km ride back into Lieksa was nice.

Lieksa had two attractions: the last Lidl for about a week which meant a big shopping trip and a huge open air museum. The museum was huge but a bit lifeless and after a while all the wooden houses seemed to look the same. Still I was impressed with a wooden house in a raft and several examples of old saunas.

Campfire site at Patvinsuo
I had fallen in love with Finnish National Parks (and their free and luxurious installations) and had therefore decided to go way out of my way to visit Patvinsuo NP near the Russian border. This involved long stretches on dirt roads, something I definitely wasn't looking forward to. And my worst  expectations came true when I turned off into the dirt road section: the road was loose gravel with deep corrugations instead of smooth dirt and to make things worse it had several steep ascents. It seemed that I was pushing the bike more than cycling and I was worried about breaking another spoke. The one thing that kept me going was the thought of barbecuing my Lidl "grill wursti" over the camp fire.

Moonshine swimming
And when I finally arrived at the park I was amply rewarded for my toil. This park was luxury! Lovely flat campsites under pine trees, cooking shelter and campfire places, several sandy beaches for swimming and even a beach sauna (although you have to pre book that). I immediately lit a camp fire and was soon feasting on Chilli-Cheddar grill wursti. It was already 11 pm when I set up my tent but now it was time for the highlight of the day: a moonlight skinny dip in the lake (although I didn't need the moonlight because at this time of the year it doesn't get dark all night). It was heavenly to wash off all the sweat and grime of the day and go to bed totally clean. And first thing in the morning (after using the comfortable dry toilet) was another swim in the lake. Finland can be heaven.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Christine,
I am very glad to read that you have got your bottom bracket fixed at MT Bike. It is a rather small shop, and I am very surprised that they managed to do that. With best wishes, Thomas