Long suffering hedgehogger’s are tediously reminded of my mechanical incompetence, faced evenwith seemingly simple tasks. In my simple world-view, the universe is a binary split between those genetically blessed with the ability to bevel and the rest of us. Based firmly in the second camp, every problem is generally hit quite hard with various percussive tools before being declared an electrical issue.
And that’s for stuff clearly already broken. The concept of preventative maintenance is merely a meaningless pantheon of interesting letters without much of a meaning. I assumed it was something to do with birth control and moved swiftly on. So while many may consider my pre-trip regime of kicking the tyres* and counting the brakes lackadaisically inadequate, it’s actually a well honed strategy of not creating a non working component from a working one by the simple application of Mad Spanners’ Al.
On reflection this may have been a mistake. An oversight certainly when you consider Cy’s lovely Rocket is more than a bit of an engineering tour-de-force with significant linkages, bolts and pivots that demand something other than giving them an occasional friendly pat. Jump forward to the end of a first day where dusty bikes were being eulogised through a beery lens, which would have been absolutely fine, were I not suddenly struck with an almost alien-abduction desire to ‘fix something’
That something was an occasionally lumpy pedal stroke impeded by a catchy rasp. Beer in hand, I confidently approached the patient patting it comfortingly on the saddle ‘nothing to worry about, just having a quick look, didn’t even bring a hammer, all shall be fine‘. But it wasn’t. Not at all. The main pivot bolt** had unwound sufficient revolutions to be uncomfortably nestling against the inner chain ring. Which had me rushing round the other side to see what the fuck the bolt at the end of that axle was playing at.
Whatever it was playing at I couldn’t ascertain with it having derelicted its duty and spun off to lie unseen in some handy ditch. Mechanically as we’ve established I’m bloody useless, but put me in front of a head scratching problem and straight away stuff starts to happen. Buying bikes from a friendly bloke in Derbyshire rather than some faceless corporation means I get an answer to my ‘right Cy broken this bit, what’s next‘ call right now, followed by good advice.
This being that a duplicate bolt from the linkage would need to tap into the empty thread leaving me with the job of finding something M14 shaped to complete the ‘can go riding tomorrow‘ jigsaw. Turning what into how is a challenge with nothing but multitools, and the hotel owner proffering a box of spares clearly hoarded since the last war. Problem solver remember? First assemble the team; what we have here is my good mate Martin who can fix anything on 30 ton combine harvesters with spanners than make me feel I’m living in Lilliput. And Augustin the lovely proprietor who had little English but a superb collection of what – on closer examination – appeared to be a collection of bathroom furniture from the 1950s.
Cue ‘A Team‘ music and another beer. Through the shared language of mechanical savagery we removed the cranks dispensing with the not-available special tool inserting instead a screwdriver and hitting it with a rock. Cranks off, bathroom spanner close enough to gain purchase on the donor bolt. That’s out, but now we’re struggling as the lovingly crafted cowled housing hosting the axle bolt means we can get any purchase to tighten the bolt.
Plan B. Jam in a multitool and measure success on exactly how much paint is removed as it graunches through 90 degrees during the tightening process. No matter, it’s on and we’re one standard bolt short of getting it done. On a Spanish Bank Holiday. Out of season. At 6pm. Tomorrow is another day, and one which the one bolt shop on the island might be open. If not it’s one of Lavatrax’s hire Marin’s which are fine and everything but have the meme of the Top Gear Beetle malevolently rumbling behind the talent***
Darran turns up with bolts and spanners of which the latter fits but the former is still maddeningly out of reach. Augustin still feels we’re missing a trick and insists on attempting to affix a shower attachment clearly nicked from the film set of ‘The Graduate‘. We wave him away, load up and head the down the mountain away from awesome riding and towards the city of the grockels where – if I’ve led a righteous life – man with bolt shall be waiting.
His shop certainly was. Open and busy immediately leading to losing Martin into the middle-aged porn of the power tool aisle. Leaving him to check out “Spanish Drillers Monthly”, Darran and I presented ourselves, and most of my bike, at the till making M14 gestures until the nice man tapped furiously into a terminal and disappeared into some vast stock room. He returned triumphant with the MTB equivalent of the Cullinan diamond and a matching washer.
I fell upon this shiny thing with the pathos of a man saved from a terrible future involving bikes mostly associated with map boards, beards and Ron Hill Tracksters. While Darran got busy with his big wrench I handed over the not very substantial sub of .76 cents to the poor assistant who couldn’t quite understand while a repressed English bloke felt the urge to give him a proper manly hug.
Twice in the first kilometre I checked the bolt was present and correct determined to ensure that any future breaks for freedom would be stalled by my keenly observed quality control. And then promptly forgot about it. Which worked well as the bike performed impeccably for the next three days without – or probably because – I did nothing other than brush the dust off it.
Packing it back up I couldn’t help noticing a couple of things. Firstly the once shiny frame now had the appearance of a ground zero event during a fragmentation grenade attack, and secondly the rear tyre was describing an orbit best thought of as a washing machine being pulled into a black hole. The first was due to the extreme rockiness of the terrain, the second to my inability to solve the equation ‘tyre rim requirement – tyre rim > 0‘.
You almost have to feel sorry for the bike. I did. On returning home it never even made it out of the bag before being dispatched to Nic @ the bike shop with a list of things I’d broken. It was – and is – utterly fab though, and I just want to ride it every day even when those days are dreary and grey and flooded.
If there’s a point to this, then it is this: every bike I own – and have every owned – seems to malfunction in strange and unheard of ways. I’m starting to think it might be me.
* there’s a story even here. Most tyres fit on most rims. Some don’t. However hard you pretend they actually do.
** for the tiny segment reading this nonsense who are not obsessed by mountain bikes, let me demystify that last statement: it’s the chunk of steel that stops the front and back heading off in different directions. Remember those films where cars are cut in half and the rear overtakes the front? Bit like that, only with less laughs and more hospital.
*** this my TV producing pal tells me is what the presenters are called. I’ve been in touch with the OED on your behalf.