2009/03/27-28: In Lanzhou
Lanzhou is in the geographic centre of China, at the Eastern end of Gansu Province. We arrived early on Thursday the 26th, and found a comfortable hotel with internet in our room. On Friday and Saturday we inquired about visas, and investigated and bought a new camera since the old one’s optics were off after being dropped. We also bought new bike chains, maps, chocolate etc.., and found an excellent cappucino and pastry place that we returned to several times while in Lanzhou.
On Saturday evening, we were set to install the new Shimano chains ourselves, but realized we had no spare connecting pins (rivets) should we not succeed on first try. We also realized we weren’t quite as comfortable with DIY installation as we had thought.
2009/03/29: West for 68 km and truck back to Lanzhou
On Sunday morning, we checked out of the hotel and set off fully loaded to the bike shop, hoping to have chains quickly installed before setting out westward. The bike shop which had sold us the chains was closed.
No loss, because that shop had not inspired our confidence. The man in charge had had a chain tool, but seemed not to know how to use it. Some kind cyclist-lads led us to another bike shop which was open, and our new chains were quickly installed. In hindsight, a glance at the angle of the derailleur had me briefly concerned that the new chains were too short, but we were caught up in a whirlwind of internationalism, having our photos taken with young engineering students who were proud members of Lanzhou Technical University Bicycle Club. We neglected the critical test ride in favour of being sociable.
We were guided to two different post offices by Jin Rong and Xiao Feng, and had coffee together before being guided ~35 km out of town alongside the Yellow River and past the landmark Iron Bridge. They had turned back, and we had pedalled over 60 km, when Chris first shifted into his biggest chain-ring. This caused his entire drive train to seize with a completely taut chain. We quickly realized the chains we’d bought were of a length suitable for mountain bikes, which predominate here, but were not long enough for our touring bikes which have long chain-stays and a wide gear range.
Chris’s drive-train jam meant an hour of removing and replacing his outer chain-rings before he could pedal again, and we realized that to continue westward would be unwise. We backtracked to a small bus station, where the buses had no luggage holds. We hired a taxi in the form of a small pick up truck to move us back to the same Lanzhou hotel we’d checked out of that morning. We’d decided to spend Monday trouble-shooting before heading across the desert to Urumqi.
2009/03/30: In Lanzhou
Today we solved our bicycle issues. New chains of the correct length have been installed, adjustments made, and bikes test-ridden. We also applied for our visa renewal, and are due to collect our passports when the municipal office opens tomorrow morning, Tuesday, as we leave town.