Saturday, October 5, 2013

Broken fork

Boatbuilding, I discover, largely comprises waiting for epoxy to set. In the hot summer sun this is about an hour; in rainy springtime when you can't leave stuff outside, it's twenty-four hours and still a tiny bit tacky.

Accordingly I took the Duplo bike out for a ride, slightly vexed as I got up the road to remember I'd forgotten to oil the rear suspension bushes which have been squeaking for a week. Just at the top of the road there was a strap, and being incurable in the matter of picking up useless bling, I stopped and collected it.

As I set off again, I noticed a yellow jersey on a piece of carbon fibre a good fifty yards behind. Being a puerile git, like all other cyclists, I set to work pedalling briskly. My Mirrycle kept me abreast of his progress, and irritatingly I wasn't dropping him so I had to pedal harder. The gap increased to a hundred yards, two hundred, but the West Bank Road undulates, and the Duplo bike weighs 44lbs and is unco-operative on hills and the gap would close again. The legs were working hard but not as hard as the lungs, struggling to get enough oxygen in. My mouth was dry and I was gasping for breath, but obviously my pursuer, equally puerile, was also pedalling hard and gasping for breath too. The speed said there had to be a slight tailwind, and yet it wasn't fast enough. Honour! - honour was at stake. - One could not permit an upright bicycle to catch a recumbent. - The wretched fellow stayed there, a hundred yards behind, two hundred, then only a hundred again. Would he carry on up the valley as I crossed the bridge? How long could I keep this up? Could he hear my squeaking suspension? It was horrible.

Came the bridge, and over it, and back towards town round the Alexander Bluffs themselves, a steep outcrop that protects the bridge from the wind. - And dammit, there he was, following me back into town.

Now, have you ever prayed for a headwind? Neither had I until now. But a headwind, a headwind - for the laws of physics are immutable. - And yes! There it was, a strong one too, strong enough to knock my speed right down to sixteen miles an hour. Hah! If it did that to me, what would it do to him? - I kept pedalling, hard, and the speed slowly crept back up - 16.5, 17, 18, 18.7, 19.1 - and on past the Kellys, past Atamai, - where was he? - on past the Bisleys, and yes! - oh Mirrycle, my blessings on you - there he wasn't.

He'd vanished.

Nothing behind me at all. The headwind had finally done for him. Honour was saved. (But I thought I'd better not let up because the demoralisation of being caught now would have been too embarrassing.)

With nobody in the mirror I was able to return my focus to the irritating squeaking from the suspension, and the odd thing was that it wasn't coming from under my seat but from the front wheel somewhere. Yet the front wheel is not suspended. It's a rigid fork. It was most puzzling.

There's a cycle path along the state highway, and where it passes the drug dealer's house he - the drug dealer - has unkindly widened his driveway and made a botch of the slope, so if you hit it at speed you get air, as the skiers say. Your front wheel leaps off the ground. I was doing well over twenty miles an hour when I got air, and as the front wheel landed the bike twitched sharply to the side but I managed to catch it with only a slight alarum, and slowing only for the blind corner, because pursuer or no pursuer I didn't want a head-on collision with some innocent kid on his bike, I applied full power to sprint me home, and I actually hit the driveway exactly as the computer registered 53 minutes. The ride is 18.55 miles, so that was an average of 21mph, and I was pretty happy, if pretty knackered.

A pause, then to Saturday's task of mowing the lawn. And, while still sweaty, I thought I'd go back into town and get some raspberry ripple ice cream. - Cos I like raspberry ripple ice cream, that's why, I'm not an ice cream snob - anyway shut up interrupting - and as I got onto the bridge I remembered the irritating squeaking, still coming from the front wheel. And I looked forward and down. And this is what I saw.

Cause? Note the stress concentration below the welded steering pivot, and note also that a fortnight ago I fitted a drum brake which acts on the left arm of the fork. Six thousand miles and no chain wear, but twice now the frame's snapped. - The beauty of steel, as we fans of it like to say. You get plenty of warning before a catastrophe.

This was a thin-walled, light-weight, cheap child's BMX fork. Tomorrow 'twill be bicycle repair time, not boatbuilding.

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