Cusco, Peru 21 Dec 05
Odometer 14,463 m 23,256 km

With El Viento’s front rim trashed in Costa Rica, repaired in Panama, then bent again here in Peru, I wobbled my way into Cusco on borrowed time. Not only did my bike steer somewhat erratically and vibrate at speed, at any moment the deformed aluminum and crooked spokes could puncture my tube. It was imperative that I find a more permanent solution.

Not that I hadn’t already tried. I searched for a replacement rim in San Jose, Panama City, Quito and Lima. No one had one in stock. Emailing friends in the States yielded similar results. Every dealer said that they could order one, but it would have to come from Germany. Import duties, shipping fees and living expenses while I waited, compounded the cost. To paraphrase Arlo Guthrie--I was in a pickle with my motorcicle.
Alex (left) and Richard (center) talk to Lucho about the used rim he unearthed from his junk pile in Cusco, Peru.
I had only one contact in Cusco, a couple from Germany also traveling the world on motorcycles that I had never met: Uwe Krauss and Ramona Eichorn. They emailed that I could find them at Norton’s Rats, a bar on the Plaza de Armas owned by an American named Jeff who welcomed all bikers. When I explained to Jeff my rim’s predicament, he suggested I go ask Alex.

Alex Luna is a 31-year-old motocross enthusiast-cum-businessman with a big heart and bad knees. He owns and operates Peru Moto Tours, just a few blocks off the central plaza, where he and his able staff rent motorcycles and ATVs to those looking for a little excitement.

Once again, I explained my situation while Alex and his mechanic Richard evaluated the damage. They suggested a three-tiered approach: First, take the wheel to a rim specialist to see if it can be repaired; if not, try to find a used rim; finally--as a last resort--fly in a new unit.

Edy, Alex’s “rim specialist,” operated a tiny bicycle repair shop. He wore greasy blue coveralls and worked in the back where there was little light and only rudimentary tools. Next to BMW’s well-lit, high-tech confines, Edy’s place seemed downright primitive.

Alex assuaged my fears, “Edy is an artist. He takes his rims
very seriously.”

I acquiesced.
“I can make it better,” Edy ultimately decreed in Spanish, “but really it should be replaced.”

On to step two. Alex knew a guy named Lucho who might have a used rim lying around. Lucho did indeed have one--only one--but it looked like he unearthed it from an ancient Inca tomb.

Alex tried his best to sell me on it, “this rim is very strong because it’s very old.” I wasn’t buying it.

Afterwards, we looked in several Cusco moto shops and found only cheap Taiwanese rims that wouldn’t make it as far south as Bolivia, much less Argentina. I asked Alex if he knew anyone in Lima that he could order one from; I wanted a rim made in the U.S.A., Japan or Germany or I just wouldn’t trust it. He made the call.

Alex’s motocross racing pal and Lima Honda distributor struck pay-dirt, finding a brand new DID rim from Japan, along with a new, heavy-duty inner tube. He air-freighted them to Cusco and we picked them up the following day. After searching for a replacement in four countries and four large cities, it was hard to believe that the solution was found in the Andes of Machu Picchu.
Edy used skill and sound, rather than fancy tools and light, to reassemble my wheel and make it true. Within hours El Viento was rolling like a champ--thanks entirely to my new friends in Peru.

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