Because I’ve got several deadlines coming up, as well as NaNoWriMo, I am spending a lot of time at my desk. I’ve had a few days off work, to concentrate on writing, and haven’t been getting out much. Our house is a little on the tepid side, and it has been quite cold sitting here scribbling or tapping away. Today’s weather was glorious sunshine, and I thought I’d spend half an hour cleaning Fingal and getting Shackleton all wintrified with his new rack and lights etc. As you do on a sunny day when you want to be riding but can’t spare the time.
Fingal has been standing in as commuter since my knee went a bit dodgy and Shackleton ate his Carradice Trax, leaving him incapable of carrying luggage. Both Shackleton and Fingal are quite bitey (like the TARDIS), which I’ve always put down to them being commuter bikes and needing to defend themselves against reprobates. Fingal tends to bite people — Shackleton tends to bite his own kit.
But no. As is the way of bikes, as soon as you do any maintenance, you discover a whole host of things that need sorting.
Shackleton seems to have taken a bath in salt at some point. I don’t know when, or how, or where it came from, but in the time he has been snuggling against the other bikes he has become afflicted with rust. The new 135mm double-fixed rear hub I spent months looking for has bearings that feel like they are made of sand and grit, despite having a grand total of 200km on it. The offside rear brake arm has completely seized. The bottom bracket is clunking and, to top it all off, the self-extractor for the Truvativ crank has mysteriously vanished, so I can’t even take the transmission apart to see what size bottom bracket I need.
At one point I might have thought I needed a new bike. I certainly wouldn’t have known what was causing all the grinding and I’d probably have panicked. But these days I know what I’m doing with bikes and so I can make a neat little list of what needs to happen to sort it out.
- Have bath to wash off assorted bicycle gunk;
- Ignore brake as the rear brake is just a handy place for keeping spare brake blocks anyway (it’s a fixed gear);
- Order new M12 self-extracting crank bolt (about 10 quid);
- Take rear wheel and old hub to shop, ask them to change cartridge bearings (I don’t have flat spanners that can do the job). This will fix my wheel and give me a spare hub, yay;
- Buy new chain to replace rusty one;
- Get cranks off, remove bottom bracket, check size, buy and fit new bottom bracket;
- Find somewhere that will shot-blast and repaint my Pompino for a decent price.
All of this is relatively easy, bar the last one. I got Fingal resprayed by Argos Cycles about 10 years ago and they did a splendid job but it wasn’t cheap. Well worth it, I just can’t afford it right now.
So it’s not the end of the world, just a pain in the backside. Which is about how I used to feel about punctures — these I no longer consider as repairs. They’re just a hazard of riding a bike a lot.
What was supposed to be a half an hour in the sunshine turned into 3 hours of cursing as I tried to fix as much as I could to figure out what needed replacing. And I didn’t get Fingal washed, so he’ll be especially bitey this week.
There’s a saying that cycling doesn’t get any easier, you just get faster. Well bike maintenance is sort of similar: you should always support your local bike shop because no matter how good you are at maintenance, you will always come up against something for which you haven’t the tools, haven’t the parts or haven’t the time to sort out yourself.
It’s always the same at this time of year. The snows come, drivers behave like a pack of lemmings infected with the Rage virus, and I do the sensible thing and leave my car at home. I get to work by bike.
Yes. That is the usual response. As it happens, I feel safer on the bike. It’s smaller — at the end of the day I can throw myself off the bike onto the verge and drag it with me if I have to. I can get off and walk. More to the point, I can manhandle it around in a way I can’t do with my front-wheel drive Ford Mondeo estate, which, in these conditions, behaves like a river kayak on a sea crossing. Once it goes it goes and there’s no stopping it.
Winter cycling has its own precautions, of course. There’s triple insulation required and I even wear a lid for commuting because I’m more likely than normal to come a cropper involving a sharp fall sideways onto a kerb at low speed, the only incident for which a cycle helmet is really designed; and, more importantly, because it keeps my woolly hat on my head.
The other thing, of course, is visibility. While I refuse to dress in shades of radioactive custard, I do like the shiny. Spielberg Close Encounters Award several years running, don’t you know.
This year Fingal is rocking two CatEye LD610s, two LD170s and a Blackburn Mars 4, while I complement the ensemble with a pair of Fibre Flares on my backpack and some green rope light, just for the lulz. Up front we have a four lamp cluster comprising two Lumicycle heads offering around 50watts of in-your-face halide splendour and a couple of EL400s, because you can never go wrong with an Opticube. With a set-up like that, there’s no point in hi-viz, although I do have some reflective bands at wrists and ankles for the confusion effect (and signalling).
I took this picture on my way home tonight, outside Real Foods on Broughton Street, one of my favourite Edinburgh shops. I love the surreal colours of the evergreen on the shopfront, the Christmas decorations and Fingal’s frankly bonkers lighting.
If anybody knocks me down and says “Sorry Mate, I Didn’t See You” I may have to punch him on the nose.
I’m working from home today as I have a bout of gastroenteritis. Or food poisoning. Or gut flu. Whatever it is seems to be content to prowl around making me feel just a tad less than my usual splendid self, its presence plain but not debilitating, as long as I don’t eat anything. If I eat anything resembling proper food it’s a different matter altogether. So I don’t feel unwell enough not to work, but I don’t feel well enough to go into the office, especially as I’d have to cycle because the car is in for servicing.
In response to a livejournal post on BikePirates I put up some pics of my bikes, and, I have to say, that has cheered me up no end. Share my joy with a touch of bike pr0n for a Friday morning.
The fast one (Peregrine the Pinarello):
The loaded one (Fingal, Orbit Fast Tour):
The fixed one (Shackleton, last of the 135mm Il Pompinos):
The other fixed one (Blackbird, a rescued and rebuilt Raleigh Sun Solo circa 1983):
The sometimes grubby one (Max, a Specialized Hard Rock from before they got ugly, with his friend, Bob):
And if that didn’t make you feel better about the world in general then it’s either because you’re envious of my stable (perfectly understandable) or you prefer lolcats of a Friday.
If that didn’t work then there ish no pleeshing you.