Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Reprieve from the knacker’s yard

I’ve developed an affection for my bicycle, not enough to treat it well, you understand, but we’ve had our share of adventures together since I arrived in the UK.

Even though I only bought it expecting it to last a year, it was thus still pretty peeving when the chain kept jumping right off whenever I cycled up (or, occasionally, down) a hill.

The first bike shop I took it to said the gear teeth were wearing out all over, that it wasn’t worth fixing, but if I chose to it’d be sixty to seventy quid.


After another bad chain-jumping experience (the rear mud-guard and shopping basket have been falling off too) I ditched it in a college bike shed and went looking at second hand bikes.

The most fun of my bikeless period was being caught in a snow flurry (it seemed like a storm to me, but the Canadians and Swiss here said it was hardly worth mentioning) while making the 30 minute walk to the law faculty. The novelty of arriving in an ice-encrusted overcoat, or watching snow settle in strangers’ honey-and-caramel hair (I will never understand the lightweight clothes and beanie-less heads of English girls in winter) has not entirely worn off.

I also had some adventures borrowing the downstairs neighbour’s bike to go return some library books and go for one of my slightly-less-intimidating-now-thanks conversations with my supervisor (aka “god”). I’d not been warned about the bungee cord dangling from the luggage rack, which swiftly entangled itself in the gears, getting me as greasy-fingered fixing it as I would have been refitting the chain on my old rattler.

Still, once off an moving, an amazing bike. Sporty, silent, deadly – a shark on two tyres. It could also only have belonged to the downstairs neighbour. I’ve never seen her dress in anything but black, white and silver. The bike, weirdly enough, was black, white and silver.

Collecting the keys from her was another story entirely, involving a plaintive note to would-be bike thieves, which I’ll save for another time.

Anyway, I was finally spared taking my lamed old beast out behind the bikeshed and doing the honourable thing by placing a bullet between the handlebars.

All I can say is, hurrah for an honest bike mechanic and a second opinion. I have now had the pedals’ gear-wheel replaced with a second hand part. This has fixed the chain-jumping problem, though the gears are still a bit dicey. This ten-pound fix has given the trusty old steed an extended lease of life, and the bike guy said he’d give me a trade-in on a new second-hand bike if I wanted to think about that later.

Meantime, it’s so good to have an old friend back, and to be on the road again.

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