Minor maintenance

Brown Bike's odometer and speedometer have stopped working, although the cadence function is fine. I suspect a busted wire, but when I compare the two sensors and spot a tide-mark on the chain stay, I realise the wheel sensor has slipped backwards. Easily fixed.

He recently developed a habit of dropping his chain. Only when evil winds force me to drop into the granny ring, but that's when I really don't want it. A quick tweak with a Phillips screwdriver seems to cure the problem, but I suppose I won't know until the wind picks up again.

I had a fright the other day, granny-pedalling against the wind around the inside of a roundabout. We were doing a reasonable speed until we emerged from the shelter of some bushes. It was like cycling into a brick wall: it stopped me dead. Worryingly, there was a car behind me. Fortunately, he also stopped dead — I don't know whether deliberately or as a fellow sufferer from wind, if you see what I mean.

When I test the speedo and gears around the village, my right knee moans at me. This pain started when I needed crutches to walk, and I recall that I lowered the saddle a couple of centimetres both to help me get on and off, and for the hobby-horse style of startups that one-legged pedalling requires. The hip still doesn't cooperate fully but I'm now using the bike as a proper utility machine: when I want to go somewhere I simply hop on the bike. I need to put the saddle right before the knee goes south.

So I restore the saddle to its proper height, leap on the bike, and — Ta Da! — no knee pain.

I don't actually leap on the bike, of course. The usual method is to stand on the left at a kerb and swing the right leg over. If there is no kerb but also no traffic, I stand on the the right with my left foot on the road, right foot pushing the pedal down, and swing the left leg up while we start moving.

I don't understand this. I need to stand on the left for a static mount, but on the right for a flying start. The hip complains if I try either from the wrong side. Ah well, if it works, don't fix it. I haven't yet tried a flying stop, which involves swinging a leg over while still in motion, gracefully halting exactly when both feet hit the ground.

Testing the new wonderful saddle position (yes, it really is wonderful, it feels exactly right), I bump into a chatty elderly neighbour. Not a literal bump, of course. He tells me that in the thirties, he and his father used to tandem from Bournemouth to Bicester, visiting relatives. 160 miles, he says, and they did it in eight hours; out on a Saturday, back on the Sunday. I'm impressed: 20mph isn't slouching. I don't know how much faster tandems are than solos, but I'd be delighted to maintain that speed. No bypasses in those days, he says, straight through all the towns, villages and hamlets, but very few cars, of course. His father was a solicitor, but few professional people could afford cars in those days.

At home, I can't resist punching the town names into bikehike.co.uk, which reckons it was only 105.99 miles. Call it 106 miles, but not 160 miles. Perhaps my neighbour mis-remembered the distance. Or the years have exaggerated the accomplishment. As they should, of course.

The drizzle starts but I want to try everything out. Jacket, gloves and hat on, and off we go. We get stuck at 29 kph. The speedo must be faulty; my legs can't pump any harder. Further round the loop, we hit 34 kph. That's more than 20 mph. I wonder if the wind is now behind me, but I swear there isn't any wind. I can't keep this up for long, and we slacken off. The knee isn't totally happy, but Brown Bike is.

When I'm 95, I'll boast to some comparative youngster, "I once cycled at 34 mph all round the village. That was breaking the speed limit, you know! Kilometres? What are they? I did a lot of them per hour, that's all I know."

6 comments on “Minor maintenance”

  1. Patrick wrote:

    ... left foot on the road, right foot pushing the pedal down, and swing the left leg up while we start moving.

    If it's any consolation I can't do this—the flying start. I know how to do one but I'd wobble dangerously all over the place. Furthermore I never cycle as fast as 20 mph on the flat. Mind you, I don't have Brown Bike. Where's his sister by the way?

    I think you should challenge your neighbour next time (about the 160 miles). You could do it diplomatically and say: "Gosh, yes, your Bournemouth to Bicester ride was indeed a long long way. I looked it up. 106 miles!"

  2. Chris wrote:

    160 in 8 is highly unlikely. 106 in 8 is still very good going.

  3. Alan wrote:

    Ruby Bike is sitting prettily in my dining room, with tyres softening, patiently waiting her turn. Now the weather has cheered up and I've started cycling purely for fun, she'll be out soon.

    My neighbour is a great guy, but does tend to go on a bit. Next time I see him, he'll probably repeat the tandem story. We'll see if it changes.

  4. Garry wrote:

    Your friend's memory probably suffers from the syndrome referred to as..

    The older I get, the better I was!!

  5. Kern wrote:

    Not only will you boast about your speed around the village, Alan, you will even be able to prove it. After all, didn't you post the video a few weeks back? It ended with you waving in front of the camera (upside down as I recall) saying, "I told you so".

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