You know those days when it all catches up with you?
I haven’t really paid much attention to my bike (or kit, or body) for a while, and today was the day it all came to a head. And isn’t it amazing how a couple of minor niggles can permeate your whole riding experience?
Minor Niggle 1: worn-out cleats. This has happened far too quickly – I only replaced them a couple of months ago. Perhaps I should stop walking around in the Sidis at weekends (I wouldn’t say they’re my most comfortable shoes, but they’re certainly my least uncomfortable) and get some proper walking boots. But anyway. Not being able to clip in easily really affects how you push off. I can’t just launch myself onto the bike and then clip the right foot in as I go – because it might well slide right off the pedal, and mean that I topple over, or just bruise my ankle bone (again). So I have to stand and clip in before I start, and even this sometimes takes several attempts. And I can’t stand up on the pedals whilst pushing off from a junction – because I have to have my weight on the saddle, in case clipping the left foot in doesn’t go to plan and I end up missing the pedal and thwacking down onto the top tube – and looking foolish, which is the worst bit. And I’m nervous about going too fast, in case one of my feet suddenly flies out of the pedal and it all goes wrong. And subconsciously trying to keep my weight off the pedals has given me saddlesore and much stiffer arms than usual.
Minor Niggle 2: worn-out front brake pads. This happens from time to time, and usually lasts a week or two, while I repeatedly remind myself that it really will only take five minutes and a fiver to sort, and do a lot more leg-braking than usual. And this is so much harder when your cleats are worn out, and your feet are liable to come unstuck from the pedals if you pull too hard. Oh dear.
Minor Niggle 3: squashy tyres. Erm, yes. I know. I could just pump them up, couldn’t I? Well I did. Eventually. And had one of those ‘oh my god, I don’t hate cycling after all!’ moments.
Minor Niggle 4: back wheel on its way out. It’s been bothering me for a while. It’s slightly out of true (seems to have developed a corner) and needs re-dishing. I couldn’t get hold of an 18-tooth sprocket when I changed my chain, so the chainline ended up slightly crooked. And it’s been on the bike since I had it, which is well over two years now, so god knows how many thousands of miles it’s done.
And perhaps if the back wheel wasn’t already making various funny noises, I’d have noticed more quickly that the back brake (which hasn’t worked for months, and which I really should just take off) had suddenly started rubbing against the rim. But I didn’t. At least not until I’d done an EC3-SW1 run on it, and finally decided to investigate the latest funny noise.
So is it any wonder that, late this afternoon, all the way out on the Harrow Road, in that tunnelly bit where it goes under Westway, something funny happened to my back wheel, and when I got off to investigate (thinking ‘oh bugger, bugger, puncture, bugger’) there was a loud PING as the rim cracked, and then a massive echoing BOOOOOM! as the inner tube exploded.
So that was it for the day.
I picked up the bike and walked to my W2 drop, Andy sent a motorbike to pick up the EC2 I had on board, and I called Lawrence to see if he had any back wheels lying around, and ask whether he’d be willing to stay open while I trekked five miles across town to reach him. Luckily he did, and he was.
And over an hour later (do I really walk that slowly? maybe it was further than five miles), I stumbled onto Leather Lane, just as the post-work hordes were opening their beers, and Lawrence strode up, hugged me and took the bike off my aching shoulder in one smooth motion, summoned Jack with a new back wheel, sent Liam to make me a coffee, and left me nothing to do but watch as the instrument of torture that had worn a groove in my shoulder for the past hour was turned back into a magic carpet. What did we ever do without Fullcity?
And then someone bought me chips. It was a pretty good day, all in all.