Something wasn’t right.
I’d taken my bike to my local shop for a long overdue service. The mechanic had examined it carefully, methodically. I had a fair idea of what was wrong – the brake pads were worn down for a start. I’d been using my feet as brakes for a couple of weeks at least. Some of the gears were not changing smoothly.
Back in the summer I had taken it in for a service ahead of going on a short holiday in the New Forest. They told me then that the chainset (that’s all the cogs and bike chain to you and me) would need replacing soon, and this and that. Sure, I thought as I pedaled away from the shop. I’ll bring it in when I get back. Have them do it bit by bit, spread the cost so that it will be as good as new in time for me to compete in the World Championships alongside the likes of Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish in Italy that September.
You get the picture.
Did I heck. I forgot about all that sound advice, my financially savvy action plan, and just kept riding, and riding, and riding. So I finally booked it in for what I knew would be an expensive fix up job. Even the pannier rack was broken, the back of the rack sheared through as if someone had taken a saw to it. And I hadn’t noticed a thing as I loaded my panniers up and fixed them to the rack, day after day.
For the following week I used another bike, not a comfortable ride, it belongs to someone much taller than me and so the frame is bigger than my one. It was a pretty testicular experience getting on and off, I can tell you. A week later I robbed a bank on the way over to the bike shop, paid them £329 – £329! – and rode away. I had hardly got halfway home when I realised something was up. the brakes were not stiff like they should be, and the gears were still slipping. It was friday afternoon (the busiest time of the week for practising Jews like myself,) so I decided to call them after the weekend to arrange when to bring it back in for closer inspection.
Monday came and went. Tuesday. I was riding my bike, sure, but doing nothing about it. Wednesday, riding up the hill to my house in the dark with the gears clicking I resolved to act.
I rode back to the shop the following day and they fixed it. I haven’t been out on proper ride since.
Around the same time as this was going on I was talking to the people in my team at work about taking annual leave, saying that ‘it’s called annual leave for a reason … Don’t carry over too many days into the next year – which starts in April…’ It’s important to pace yourself I was saying, take your foot off the pedal from time to time. Then I looked at how many days I had left, thinking it would be 2 days at the most. I had 9 days left. For me, working part-time, that’s 3 of my working weeks.
I was pole axed. At a time when I had hardly been on my bike, I had been pedalling, pedalling, pedalling on a bike that was not road worthy.
Since that day I have woken up every morning exhausted. I have been watching tv most nights – since when do I ever do that? I have an increasing number of what I coyly describe as ‘brain malfunctions’.
I have booked several days’ leave over the next few weeks, but I look at my diary and those days just feel like pressure – as if they are saying to me that I need to be someplace and I’m not going to make it.
I many times thought peace had come,
When peace was far away;
As wrecked men deem they sight the land
At centre of the sea,
And struggle slacker, but to prove,
As hopelessly as I,
How many fictitious shores
Before the harbor lie.
Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)