Sunday, 11 December 2011

Catalan kindness

A study in Catalan kindness

Mechanicals always suck...

Imagine you’re coming back from a five hour ride, it’s gone well with no back pain and you know there’s an olive oil fair in town that you want to go to to sort out Christmas presents for every female over fourty that you know (first press oil, soap, candles, glass jugs – these are a few of my (grandmothers’) favourite things). There’s an exceptional beer in the fridge (brewdog Tokyo since you’re asking) and the wind is behind you. The ride was fun, you met great new people and rode with equally great people you already knew. Sweet eh? You’re booking it a bit because, well Salou is a crapshoot at the weekends. You ride over a speed bump, out of the saddle and the bike makes a rather alarming CRACK. You think to yourself that you really ought to strip it down soon as something seems loose. Then you hear a tinkle, and you look back as you sit down. Noticing your SLR lying in the road you abort the sit down movement just before receiving 3 inches of carbon where you really don’t want them and pull a U turn. Things have gone from sweet to sour.

An hour later I’ve ridden fifteen k standing up, I’m in decathlon where we’ve drilled out the bolt which had snapped in the middle of the seatpost, taking the thread with it. The seatpost has straight up fused in the frame so you can’t get it out. I use carbon assembly paste but apparently you only need to put clear coat on a post up to halfway, the loer part had swollen inside the frame. And we can’t find a bolt to replace the broken one because Italians like to use really obscure thread diameters (7mm anyone?). Half of the staff in Decathlon is stripping bikes looking for said bolt. But it’s not there. Not in the fishing reels we looked over either. After 90 minutes we’ve hacksawed out the old bolt, drilled out the other end (in the seatpost and forced it down into the frame) and I still can’t find a 7. So I set off home, with my necklace holding my saddle to the toptube! Despite 3 members of staff wasting over an hour, 2 hacksaw blades, numerous bolts and a lot of sweat, I’ve not been able to pay them a thing. It seemed like there was nothing to be done, my luck was out and with tomorrow being Sunday and two more holidays this week, I was unlikely to get this fixed for a long time.

Whilst riding home, bmx style, I stop at a second bike shop, wala Tarragona. The mechanic is an ex pro track rider, we chat as he looks everywhere for the 7mm bolt he remembers seeing the other day. We find it and celebrate with high 5s – until it turns out to be a 7.5mm bolt. Fortunately, one thing pro track riders have over me (well one thing most adult males have over me) is upper body strength. Anti seize and biceps are applied to the post and it came out, success. The till gets shut down while we reboot the pc to find my cyclefit documents – a lifesaver. As I was doing this the mechanic set about stripping my mechs, cleaning my chain and sorting out the shifting on the new cassette I’d put on that day. The bike was remade and I was about to be on my way, when I realized that, typically today was the day I’d forgotten my card (in my defence I had to get up really early to meet a group ride). No worries they said and sent me off home, I left my sunglasses as a deposit. I returned and paid a grand total of twenty Euros. Less than the cost of the post.

I made new friends who I’m going to ride with soon and shared stories of life on the road. We discussed the wind, the local climbs and the reasons why anyone would put a triple on a road bike. We talked about teams, my track riding friend had hurt his knee and his team decided that was a great reason to hurt his bank balance as well, I can commiserate. We wondered what would happen to our friends on Geox and what would happen to our country in the economic crisis. Ultimately I wasn’t the highest value customer, I got about 24 man hours of attention for my twenty Euros but that’s exactly what made Saturday such a high value experience. We’re all the same as cyclists, we all love riding our bikes, even if some us have wider tyres or even silly straws on our handlebars. It’s what we share that makes the sport great, and it made me really happy to see this embraced. These guys could have turned me away, charged like a rhino or laughed at my plight but they didn’t. They saw a fellow rider in a fix and sorted me out, they went above and beyond their commercial relationship with me and became friends. Don’t get me wrong there are places in the US that would and have done this for me but there are also places that wouldn’t. This is the bank of Karma paying out, and I’m going to make sure I put in some more deposits next time I see another rider punctured by the roadside or struggling in the wind. You should do the same, we might be in crisis here but our karma account is definitely in the black.

-yep typed it with my thumbs: they're what makes us better than apes

Location:Calle de Ramón y Cajal,Tarragona,Spain