Posted in January 2013

What Now?

January 31st, 2013


Today is the last day that all donations up to $1000 are matched by an anonymous donor, so if you haven’t donated yet, get on that.

I’ve been getting a lot of the same questions over and over, so I decided a blog post was in order. The questions center around, “You’ll be in India soon. What then?” I mean, it’s a good question.


The really short answer is, “Well, you’ll have to read my blog to find out!”


The less short answer is that while I have a rough outline, few things are set in stone. I don’t use quotes often, but this one, I feel, is appropriate here: “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.”

Basically, I’ve never been to India before, and India has had few guests like me before. Between the two of us, we’re sure something good will come of the situation. We just won’t be sure how exactly to make the most of it until it happens. So what is set in stone? Me being proactive. You can bet I didn’t put in all this work just to get there and sit on my ass all day.


To answer some more specific questions:


Will you still blog while abroad?

Yes. I’m going to try for once a week.


What exactly will you be doing?

My goal of fixing a bike a day still stands. This will be an average, meaning if I take a week to get settled then for some future week I’ll do at least two a day.

India is unique in that there is no bicycle shop hosting me. Instead, my host works with bicycle shops. So he will introduce me to them and I will ask if I can volunteer for them. It could be they know more than me, it could be I know more than them. Likely, we will have things to teach each other. I plan to teach about professional-quality bicycle repair. I also want to teach the shops to teach their customers (or potential customers) about the economic impact bicycles can have, and how they can help break people from the bonds of poverty. I think that the potential economic impact bicycles can have is vastly underestimated and underused — the ultimate goal is to remedy that as much as possible.

Ideally, I’ll be able to train at least one mechanic from the ground up and help him open his own shop. It’s a long shot, but there’s nothing wrong with thinking big.

Those things being said, I don’t pretend like it’s going to be easy, and I don’t pretend to know everything. I’m smart and I know how to fix bikes, but I’m also humble. One of the biggest and easiest mistakes to make would be to not listen and adapt to the needs of the people. I have good ideas, but good ideas only lead the way to good answers — they aren’t the answers themselves.


What parts of India will you visit?

I fly into New Delhi. My contact is in a suburb southwest of there called Gurgaon. I plan to stay with him for about two weeks, while figuring out where exactly my efforts will be most impactful, and finding a more permanent housing situation there.

If I work there for a month and someone from another city says, “Hey, come over here for a bit,” I probably will. Like I said, I plan to be flexible.

While I plan on working for the majority of the time, I also want to take at least one weekend and explore a little bit. This could mean walking around town or it could mean taking the train (on my own money) to Bangalore.


How is housing going to work?

For the first two weeks or so I will stay with my host in Gurgaon. While staying with him and finding work I will be apartment and hotel hunting. I plan to find a permanent home in either an apartment or a hotel at about $300/month (Rs 15000). And yes, there are “hotels” at that price — the India travel guide I got from the library lists a few “hotels” that cost $2/night (Rs 100).


How long is the flight, and where exactly do you fly to/from?

I travel for 22 hours total — a 14 hour flight to Amsterdam, a one hour layover, and then twelve hours to New Dehli, India. Minus time change.


What else are you bringing?

I’m bringing as many tools as I can afford and fit in my suitcase, a bicycle helmet, my accordion, copies of my favorite accordion songs, a computer for blogging, a notebook for journaling and writing insightful things (bicycle repair tricks, recipes I learn, songs I’m taught), and clothes.

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(and other things you might forget)

January 29th, 2013


I went through my packing list for the thousandth time this week and thought I had it all down pat. Then I started, you know, reading.


A lot of the things we take for granted in the US, I’m going to have to live without. For starters, it’s apparently a good idea to bring a flashlight. When was the last time you brought one of those to a hotel? But yea, apparently in India, it’s common for hotels (of the kind I will be staying in, anyways — the $10/night kind) to turn the power off at night to save energy. Or money. Probably the latter.

I was already planning on bringing a mosquito net, but wanted to make note of an article mentioning the author once had to use thirty feet of string to put his up in his room. So, enter roll of string.

Living in the US, my cell phone is my only alarm clock. I know few people who do it differently. And if you forget your cell phone, the hotel usually has an alarm clock. And if it’s not set for daylight savings, they have a wake-up call service. Right?


Not in India.


Towels for the shower.

Sandals for the shower.

And all the food I eat has to be hot. But apparently most hotels will deliver food to your room for a small tip — Rs 20, or about $0.40. So that’s good.


Six days!

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Logistics, Logistics

January 24th, 2013


I leave for India in eleven days!

— and arrive there in thirteen days. To make it even more confusing, I only travel for twenty-two hours. Yes, only… twenty-two hours. I leave on Monday, February 4th, at 7:25 PM, and arrive 22 hours later in New Dehli on Monday, February 6th, at 3:20 AM. That information is all correct. Put it in your bucket and think about it.

Anyways, that’s just the start the logistics. Jetlag. Clothes. Tools. Recreation. Currency. Medicine.

…okay, it’s not that bad.


I’ve never had jetlag before, so there’s really not too much I can do in anticipation. Also, I feel like most jetlag is a problem because most trips only last a few days or a week — I should be over my jetlag by at least part way through my trip, right? So, I’m not too worried about it, but I will probably start staying up later and later… fortnuately, it’s easier to go later than it is to go earlier. I kind of get to pick, since New Dehli is 11u1/2 hours ahead.

Clothes. Basically I’m going to pack everything else first, and then include what clothes I can. I’m not too worried here, most of my summer clothes are dispensible, and it’s summer all the time in India, so I don’t have to bring a fancy winter coat or anything. As well, the US isn’t the only country with clothing stores, so whatever I can’t fit, I can buy. Mostly though, I just don’t think I’ll need that much.

Tools. I just got a bike shop in the mail. Now I have to fit it into my suitcase. Fun times (note: this includes a 15″ adjustable wrench).

Recreation. I’m bringing my accordion, but most of the music I own is in lesson books from the 1960s — hard to come by nowadays. I’m going to make copies of my favorite songs and bring those, instead of my books. After all, books are the most precious thing we own… let’s not bring them on vacation with us. I’m of course bringing a laptop as well — how else could I update my readers? And yes, a US-to-India plug adapter is in the mail.

Currency. I was about to go exchange currency at Travelex when I found out it’s illegal for non-Indian citizens to bring Indian Rupees (INR) across the border. Since I have a ride from the airport, I won’t have to pay the exchange rate at the arrival terminal in India, but I will have to get currency while I’m there somehow. Also, the exchange rate on my credit card is only about 3%, so I’m okay with that. It’s not Discover (which is free), but at least buying 3% less stuff is pretty easy. And anyways, Travelex charges 15%.

Medicine. Did I mention I get to be on anti-malarials the whole time I’m there? I got to choose between doxycycline and mefloquine. Mefloquine’s brand name is Lariam, and if you’ve heard the stories, you already know I chose doxycycline. Aside from that I figure I’ll just need some antibiotic and some band-aids… fixing bikes is tough business.


So — with one suitcase, one backpack, and an accordion case, think I can do it? So do I.

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Spotlight: Box Your Bike

January 4th, 2013


Previous Week, 12/19: Winterize!

Next Week: Brake Adjusts


New video: 90 seconds on how to box your bike for shipping!



“Dirty Laundry” by Bitter:Sweet is not mine, but it *IS* a great song.

Note: While this is intended to be educational, I couldn’t possibly cover *all* the variables or details involved in the process of packing a bike. As such, I can’t be held responsible for any damage that occurs as a result of this video. Consider it simply a strong outline of the process.

I am, of course, happy to answer questions!


The “Spotlight” series of posts and video features the organizations I’m volunteering for, the places I’ll be visiting, and my skills as a mechanic — all in the context of how bicycles make a difference in the world, and how this project will help. Next week: How to box your bike.

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