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Thursday, 5 July 2012

The Day The Shit Hit The Rim


I suspect that at one point during this blog the hackneyed expression "Too much information!" will flash through your mind like a perv in a park. Don't do it; it's not worth thinking in clichés. But if that's my fault then I think it's important that as well as bragging about all the good stuff that happens to me I'm honest when things don't quite work out. And yesterday was one the shittiest days possible.

For a while I hadn't been looking forward to Wednesday. It was a longer ride than normal, out of Bursa - a strange and massive, traffic-stuffed city - with several mountains to climb and, if the previous days had been any indication, a hurricane in my face. As it turned out, with a cool-aired, half-six start, nothing but a gentle breeze, an overcast sky keeping the sun off for the uphill bits, and mountains that seemed to melt away, I was an hour and a half ahead of schedule with only eight kilometres to Bozüyük, my destination. Life was perfect. All was well.

Yes, all was well with the world...

But then it wasn't well. I got a puncture. OK, that's a pain in the arse but no worse than that. I flipped the bike over, got out one of my spare inner tubes - one I'd previously fixed - and test-inflated it. And that's when I realised that I'd previously put it back in the bag with the intention of fixing it and then I'd never actually got around to it, lazy sod. Not to worry, I had a second, brand new inner tube. I took off the tyre and reinstalled it with the new inner tube. I inflated the tube and, once again, all was rosy.

Except it wasn't. What is the one thing you must absolutely do whenever you change a tube? That's right, you check that whatever caused the initial puncture isn't still inside the tyre. Because, of course, it might puncture the second tube.

It punctured the second tube.  Had I checked it? No, I hadn't. Was the thing still inside the tyre? Of course it was. One kilometre down the road I had another flat tyre, but now I had no spare inner tubes. Brilliant! What a dick. But that was the least of my worries because that's when I noticed it: The crack. In my back wheel rim, the wheel that takes all the weight. A spoke was spontaneously removing itself and destroying my wheel in the process. I'm riding on 700Cs, a non-standard size outside of western Europe. Replacing or repairing the wheel in Turkey could take forever, or at least long enough to seriously disrupt my entire ride. To finish this year in time for the exams I might even have to miss out Cyprus, and UniCycle49 sounds crap.

I still had to get us to town. Now, of course, the overcast sky had gone. I pushed the hobbled chopper the seven kilometres to Bozüyük in the now mid-afternoon, blazing July sunshine.  And I burnt my stupid face off.

On the edge of town, with a similarly-coloured complexion to that of Mr Strong, I found an old bike repair man. He couldn't do much about the non-standard, cracked rim but he trued up the wheel so that the knackered spoke wasn't deforming it and we repaired the puncture. At least the bike was rideable now, for the final 500 metres to the only hotel in town.

The edge-of-town old cycle repair man

So with a broken rim, a crispy face, an evening of puncture repair ahead, a solution to find to the mystery of how to replace 700C wheels in a country that doesn't generally sell them, and the prospect of a three-year trip in tatters, my mood wasn't great. I thought I would cheer myself up by doing something crazy, like going to the toilet. Maybe I'd do a little wee or something. Y'know, fellas, sometimes, as you're in the bathroom and heading bowlwards, it's a discrete time to let out a little gas, relieve some pressure. And there's nothing wrong with that. As long as it is gas.

Mmm. Mine wasn't. Despite avoiding Turkish tap water and not having had a kebab for a couple of days, my insides were, unknown to me, molten and, yes, inside my cycling shorts, I cacked myself. There you go. Feel what you like: disgust, sympathy, sexual arousal, whatever, it's out there now. In retrospect, perhaps it had been very wise not to look forward to Wednesday.

You might be wondering why I'm telling you this. Part of it stems from a similar incident in Majorca, aged 18, when, with another dodgy stomach, something equally tragic happened on a mountainside while walking with my brother and he has loved to bring it up at parties whenever possible while I frantically deny it. So instead, to exorcise the demons before they emerge, I'll tell everyone now and get it out of the way. Don't go thinking I'm a serial cacker - twice in a lifetime isn't bad. I think. Now that I've confessed, I realise that there was no one present during this second incident and it need never have got out at all. Unlike the...ah, you know.

Anyway, it's alright now. The cycling shorts are thoroughly washed. Today, I managed to crawl the forty kilometres to Eskisehir and find the one bike shop with 700C rims. While waiting for Ibrahim to rebuild my wheel, I was also entertained by Ümit, the next door barber, despite an initial misunderstanding on my part (Me: "Ah, so you're from Africa then." Him: "No, here." Me: "Oh, I thought you said Berber.") He taught me a few words of Turkish and we had an instant football connection because the unfortunately named Turkish star, Tugay, had played for my team, Blackburn Rovers a few years back. My trip was saved.

Ibrahim, gladiator of the wheel

Ümit, a barber, definitely not a Berber

And I've managed to go the whole day without soiling myself. So far. Things are looking up.

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