Date: Monday 4th May, 2015
Distance: 62.4km | Elevation: 557m
Destinations: New Cross – Richmond Park – New Cross
Start kms: 2,570km | Finish kms: 2,632.4km | % complete: 26.3%
As my birthday rolled around, I looked sympathetically at my 1980s Raleigh Sirocco. A year of commuting had not been kind to an already tired but always-reliable run around.
The handle bar tape sagged sadly from the bars as it continued to peel away. The paintwork was discolouring where Sharpie pens just were;t doing the job anymore. I worried for my own safety as I slammed on the brakes and finding myself stopping somewhere in the region of 15 metres later.
Overall, it was looking forlorn and, growing tired of braking with my feet against the concrete rather than with my hands, I decided it was time to breathe some new life into the trusty workhorse.
I picked up the new, improved Sirocco on the day of my birthday itself from the excellent ream at Seabass Cycles. They’d gone to town, stripping the bike back to its bare-bones and building it back up: new gears, new brakes, new cables, new chain, new bar tape, new saddle. In fact, the only thing that remained was the original frame, and even that had been made to look like new with a black paint job finished with gold accents around the lug work. The wheels had also been held onto, although I was told they’d likely have to be replaced in the next two to three months as they were on their last legs.
The very next day, I took my Dad with me on a ride to wear-in my new saddle and introduce him to the highs and lows of Londons cycling scene.
We set out early on a Bank Holiday Monday to avoid onslaughts of traffic as we headed to Richmond Par. With a couple of laps under our belts – and Dad suitably impressed with the green, deer-laden haven surreptitiously tucked inside London – we began the journey home.
By then, the traffic had picked up and I could tell it was a bit more of a nerve-wracking experience for him. He wasn’t put-out by it, just a little unused to the constant nature of it.
By the time we reached Vauxhall roundabout, I could see he was starting to get tired and the thought of contending with three lanes of traffic didn’t seem sensible. I therefore opted to get us onto the pavement and across via the pedestrian crossings.
In a moment of either lack of concentration or complacency, he found himself unable to unclip from his pedal and, panicking slightly, fell in slow motion into me and my bike.
I managed to stay standing and, once we’d made sure Dad was okay (he was – we’d hardly been moving at all), we checked the bikes.
I pressed the brakes. All good.
Checked for scratches. None.
Span the front while. Straight and narrow.
Span the back wheel.
Tried to spin the back wheel again.
It didn’t want to budge.
The weight of my Dad had buckled the wheel leaving the bike almost un-cyclable. I emphasise the word almost, as I was able to ride the final 7km back to the house with the wheel snaking precariously behind me before getting it back to Seabass for the replacement wheels a little easier than I’d anticipated.