The end of an all-too-short era

Things haven’t felt right for a while.

There’s something wrong with the back end of my bike, and it’s taken me days to put my finger on it. It feels somehow ‘floppy’. Sometimes when I’m riding along I feel almost as if I’m bouncing up and down on a full-suspension mountain bike. When I go round corners the bike no longer feels as tight and sure as it used to. I regularly think ‘oh no – puncture!’, and then realize I’m wrong, and it’s just this unspecified floppiness.

And all this movement is deadening the effort I put in. My legs have lost their spring and strength, and I feel as if I’m struggling to push a heavy old bike with flat tyres up a muddy hill, into a headwind.

And yes, before you ask, I have pumped up my tyres recently. I’ve also rebuilt my back wheel. I’ve tightened my chain, and checked the chainline’s straight. The bearings in the hub, bottom bracket and pedals all appear to be intact. I’ve examined the cranks for hairline cracks and the rim for signs of impending doom. My cleats are in good shape. The chainring bolts are all still there.

I began to wonder whether the problem was with me, and my body, and the way I’m set up on the bike. Maybe I’d somehow twisted my legs into a funny position that meant they were no longer suited to cycling (…I hypothesized glumly). I somehow felt as if I was sitting lower or further back on the saddle, so I’ve been putting it up, millimetre by millimetre, and today finally decided to begin the laborious and frustrating process of adjusting the angle. (It can take a day or two of constant fiddling, riding, fiddling, riding, fiddling, riding to get my saddle in exactly the right position, and I’ll often tolerate it at slightly at the wrong angle, rather than submit myself to this tedium and risk making it worse.)

And then I spotted it. A crack in my seat tube.

I nearly cried when I saw it. And I welled up all over again when Nhatt in Fitzrovia Bicycles told me I’d probably only get another week out of Evelyn, if I’m lucky. We haven’t been together all that long, and he was only ever meant to be a stop-gap, but I ended up falling far more in love with him than I ever was with the Condor.

So now, on top of everything else, I need to find a new bloody bike.

12 Responses to “The end of an all-too-short era”

  1. marchapple Says:

    RIP Evelyn ….. we thank you and we’ll miss you !

  2. noodle Says:

    That sucks. It’s a nice looking frame. I guess its more effort than its worth to try and repair it?

    You’ve got me worried now too. My back end feels soft and rubbery (the bike..) I find myself looking down at my rear tyre often to check it hasn’t gone flat. Some points in the day I bounce about like mad and sometimes I feel like I’m being pulled backwards. I’ve been putting it down to not eating enough, but I’m going to check my frame over properly since it’s taken a beating recently. Are these definite symptoms of a crack?

    (You write very well, by the way. And I’ve seen you on the road but never say hello because you have a stern face on and I think its because you’re seeing me go the wrong way up rathbone place. I also think everyone puts on a stern face when they’re cycling though.)

    • thatmessengerchick Says:

      No, these aren’t definite symptoms of a crack – at least, not a crack in the frame. In my (limited) experience it could be all sorts of things, including a cracked crank or axle or a badly tensioned wheel, and also including glitches in the way your body works, or the way the bike’s set up for you.

      But I’m not a mechanic. I’d recommend speaking to someone who is.

      And yes, the stern face is just an accident. Stop me and say hello next time you see me. I am very lazy, and consequently love being stopped. (Unless you rugby-tackle me when I’m legging it down Regent Street. Then I appreciate it less.)

  3. Katie Birkwood Says:

    Oh no! How beastly. Poor you and poor Evelyn. (Apropos not that at all, may be in London Sunday early afternoon – you about then?)

  4. Cudzoziemiec Says:

    Oh dear. It looks such a small crack and it has such a huge effect. Is that definitely not repairable – it doesn’t look too big and it is a steel frame (isn’t it?). To put it in context – I recently heard of someone who experienced similar symptoms part-way through a Welsh audax and found his drive-side chainstay was 3/4 rusted through. It was just hanging on by a tiny scrap of metal. He managed to get it welded up at a backstreet garage (which involved finding a crankpuller to remove the chainset in order to get at the spot – amazingly, this car garage had a crank puller!). And he still finished the audax in time! So perhaps you could get Evelyn welded up, though of course it is a biggerer, more importanterer tube – but then that makes it easier to weld, doesn’t it?

    On the bright side, just think what the fact that you can crack a tube of metal alloy says about the power in your legs!

  5. Mike Says:

    Sniff. It was the top tube not the seat tube, but that’s how my last bike departed me. Suddenly went very wobbly and creaky in the middle of Hampstead Road. Luckily I stopped. http://www.chthonic.f9.co.uk/photos/crackedtube.jpg

    It was being held together by the Reynolds 531 sticker :)

  6. Mike Says:

    [pressed send too soon]

    On the upside… NEW BIKE!

  7. zero Says:

    Nah, zip tie’ll do ya.

  8. welshcyclist Says:

    Hard luck!

  9. davo Says:

    that sucks, i bust my knee at the weekend and made it worse by riding yesterday. have to face facts i’ll be off for a few days.

    how about this (dunno what frame size you are though)

    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Joe-Waugh-Reynolds-653-retro-classic-/170672275313?pt=UK_Bikes_GL&hash=item27bcdc3f71#ht_500wt_1156

  10. Susie Says:

    Awful, awful tale of woe.. :-(

    I would send you one of mine, but they’d be too big and too inferior for your needs.

    Is this time for organising a suitable long distance, all terrain, all weather globetrotter sort of a bike?

    Hoping you sort something out soon.

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