Cracketerra Aluminal – breaking my aluminum frame!

February 14th, 2010

Just before we were growing fins and flippers to adapt to the daily wet ride in the rain on Day 6 (from Coyhaique) we turned East in Villa Santa Lucia to get over to Futualeufu and finally to the much drier Argentinean side of the mountains. This was a typical road for the Carreterra Austral, one-lane gravel with washboard and some potholes, one just has to go slow here. In some spots I need to push the bike, as it’s too steep for me to ride here.

Pushing my recumbent uphill on a steep section towards Futualeufu (Photo courtesy of Wolfgang Butz)

Then after 50km or so, as I ride slowly uphill, I all of a sudden feel a weird, soft swinging sensation, almost as if going through specially designed washboard waves or the onset of a flat rear tire? All of a sudden, I feel like sinking lower and the bike stops cold. I have trouble preventing tipping over sideways. I stand up and look at the bike. No flat tire. What’s going on? Then I see the damage: My frame broke at the rear fork! Here are some photos:

Crack in rear fork of aluminum frame

Crack in rear fork of aluminum frame - photo 2

Crack in rear fork of aluminum frame - photo 3

Must have been material fatigue after some 40,000 km during the second go-around on the Panamerican Highway! While I’m not happy about this, I am happy that it didn’t occur at high speeds going downhill…

A friendly Chilean motorist took me the remaining 25 km to Futualeufu, where I knew I could stay the night and then tried to figure out how to continue by bus to Esquel, the nearest town of reasonable size. I took a bus that same evening to Esquel, crossing the border into Argentina, finally seeing the sun for the first time in 6 days, which felt indescribably good (similar to how I felt about my first hot meal after coming down from Denali).

Unfortunately there is only one serious bike mechanic in Esquel and he determined that he couldn’t fix this aluminum frame break. So I took a bus to Bariloche, where I found a very good mechanic. Now I’m waiting for the replacement frame part to get shipped from the Dutch manufacturer Challengebikes. Let’s hope this won’t take too long…

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