A trip to the LFW (local friendly welder)

Our kit gets loads of abuse over the summer, so it innevitably needs the odd bit of TLC. The nice thing about the BOB trailers we use for the self-supported tours is that they’re made from chromo, which makes them repairable ‘in the field.’ We’re got a bunch of different Yaks (our herd), and the one in need of attention was a ‘first generation’ model; we’ve had it for years and it’s done us proud.Noticing that the base was starting to come away from the main frame, we headed down to our local friendly welder. The fringes of all Indian settlements are lined with rows of darkended, dingy auto-works where jeeps lie in open surgery, and bald tyres are patched up for another year or two. Scruffy and grungy, this underbelly is not the India of tourist brochures. But it’s a chance to see a whole other side of a city where you’d never normally have reason to go.Welder at workWe stopped at one, thick with smoke from both the welding machine and the incense wafting out of the workshop shrine. After a quick once over, Ramesh was soon scrabbling around on the floor for a few strips of scrap metal to reinforce the base. A small crowd of nosy neighbouring shopkeepers had gathered, offering advice. Donning a pair of vaguely dark sunglasses, sparks flew and the trailer was bodged back together in no time. The cost? About 50p. And while Indian welding certainly can’t match the neat TIG welding of the original, it looked like it would do the job.Back to new, kind of…Off to the paint shop then.Ashok AutoworksOur helpful onlookers pointed us down the road to Ashok Motor Workshop, one of the many rickshaw specialists in Manali. The idea of a simple touch up to protect the exposed frame from rusting was soon replaced with a complete respray; after all, we have a company image to think about… As with most things in India, it was a ‘while you wait service.’ Sweet milky tea was called for from the chai-wallah hut round the corner; an elderly man appeared with a wire carrier, and the piping hot chai was served in grubby old glasses.Immaculate workshopFirst the old decals were painstakingly scratched off, then the airbrush was filled with paint – Rickshaw Black, appropriately enough. It was propped up along a piece of rusting scaffolding, surrounded by posters of Hindi deities. No mask, along a dusty, polluted road: that’s India for you. Half an hour later and £2 down, we had our shiny, glossy BOB back in action.It had been an intereting experience seeing the inner workings of a rickshaw repairers. With only one coat to her name, we don’y expect it to last long.Glossy BobBut I guess it will just give us the excuse to go back next year for more…

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Please check out our main website for details on our bike trips to the Indian Himalayas.

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