Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Mechanical disasters

In previous blog entries I have written at length about the plight of our family car. What I have not yet mentioned is the string of other mechanical failures which have accompanied it in the space of a few weeks.

Some time ago, I broke a second spoke on my hybrid bike. As it's not a bike I use vety much, I have left the repair for "another day" since it happened. Over the Christmas break I finally got around to dropping the wheel in to the bike shop to get it fixed. Note to self: I really must learn how to fit a new spoke!

And so it was, with the hybrid firmly out of action and our car in the garage that I cycled home from work last Friday, full of hope for the weekend ahead.

And then, about four miles from home, I got a puncture.

An encumbrance for sure but not really a big deal because I have "Slime" in both tyres and so I quickly flipped the bike over, pumped and span the tyre to seal the leak and then got back on my merry way. About a quarter of a mile from home, as I was musing what great stuff "Slime" is, I heard a distinct hissing from beneath and felt the unmistakable bumping of a repunctured tyre. Once again I flipped the bike and once again I pumped. This time however the tyre gave up the ghost pronto with an almighty PSSSSHHH and a liberal spray of bright green slime. Even in the dim light from the pub carpark over the road I could see the large split in the tyre side-wall and so, with such a short distance left to travel, I walked and pushed the bike home.

Now I knew all along that Friday would have to be a "rush in, eat and rush out again" kind of evening as I was on the rota to help out at our church youth group. So as I pushed I hatched a plan. I decided to whip the lights off my Dahon and fit them to my one remaining mode of cycle transport - my 90's beater fixed gear MTB. And so feeling like an indefatigable hero, that's exactly what I did.

All was going well until about a mile into my ride to church. I enjoy riding the fixie but don't do it nearly as much as I'd like to. So I kind of get out of the habit of doing certain things. Things like remembering not to try and coast. Especially when standing on the pedals and heaving up a hill.

Long story short, I did just that and got thrown into a mega wobble which pitched me from the bike. I did manage to stay on my feet, but not before knocking both of my lights off, dropping the bike and clanging various parts of my anatomy on it in the process. Ouch.

So there I was, in the middle of a (mercifully quiet) road, in pitch darkness trying to find all of the components of my lights. I did manage to as well, but the clip had snapped off the rear light and the front one only worked when held together by hand. I actually stood there and burst out laughing. After all of the mechanical disasters of recent weeks I felt like something out of a bad comedy sketch! Once (relative) sanity returned, I jammed the rear light between the bungee mesh in my rucksack, and limped along holding the front one together until reaching the better lit sections of road through town.

On my way home later that night, I was much, much more careful about riding the fixie. The bike itself is a tough old thing and remained unscathed but battered body parts are a good teacher for the fixed-gear rider, it would seem.

Bright and early on Saturday I started putting things right. I rang around and ordered a new tyre for the Dahon, to be collected once the car was back in order. I also popped to town on the bus and picked up the newly be-spoked rear wheel for my hybrid. Fitting this was the work of a moment when I got home and so, when a quick trip to the shops was required later on I took the hybrid out for a shakedown. I was significantly dismayed to find that the awful grinding squeak, which is what first made me look at the back end and find the broken spoke, was still there. Mechanical woe after mechanical woe!

What I found after a thorough look and a bit of a Google is that the rear freewheel was completely shot. There is a load of play which feels as though the bearings have gone and an article online where someone cured the same symptoms with a new freewheel. At less than ten quid for a new Shimano one on Ebay it should (hopefully) be a cheap fix!

At the time of writing, we now have the car back, I have collected and installed a new Michelin City tyre on the Dahon and a new freewheel is on order for the hybrid. It is possible, just possible, that by the weekend, my stable if bikes will be fully functional. But based on recent experience I won't hold my breath.

On the plus side it's all good spannering experience!

N.B. Pictures will follow when I can get on the laptop. They are easier to upload and format there than on my iPhone!


  1. Glad to hear you were still able to laugh. When we gave challenging times, it's not often the case.
    I have Schwalbe Marathon plus tyres on both my bikes. I know they don't prevent every puncture but I think I've only ever had one and that was in the side wall.
    Brenda in the Boro

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