Goodwill to all men? I should say so
There is a long history of honour and goodwill among cyclists, along with, admittedly, plenty of tales of underhand behaviour and the sort of subterfuge Dick Dastardly would be proud of. And we certainly won’t crank on about the D word here.
In fact sometimes cycling has such a bad press that it’s easy to forget the admirable acts of selflessness that take place on a daily basis among complete cycling strangers. Cyclists stopping to help others fix punctures, offering directions, allowing others to ride in their draft, lending the change for a coffee. Small gestures that make the whole pursuit so much more than simply turning pedals in order to go a bit faster .
And every now and then an act of goodwill comes along from a fellow cyclist that leaves you eternally, jaw-droppingly grateful.
I had noticed the crack in the chainstay of my titanium bike months ago but seeing as I had bought it used and had already been riding it for years I couldn’t remember if it had always been there. Call it denial if you like, but while part of me kept meaning to get it checked out, another, more persuasive part of my flawed reasoning suggested that if I had ridden this long with a crack in the frame then it must have been there all along and must have been mended with some kind of glue. It was just that I had forgotten about it.
It wasn’t as if the crack had prevented me doing anything - a gran fondo in St Tropez and a trip to Majorca being among the more exotic of many miles ridden since I noticed it. I had put my recent inability to accurately index my gears down to the need for new cables rather than the fact that the frame was flexing.
Looking back, it could have been St Tropez that caused it in the first place. There was one descent on a road so rough it shook me to the very marrow. That could have been the culprit.
To cut a long story short, the inevitable happened on the Saturday before Christmas when I bunny-hopped across the kerb separating the cyclepath from the road to go past the bin lorry parked across the cyclepath and heard a crack which was shortly followed by great difficulty in turning the pedals.
The chainstay had snapped, and the resultant pull of the chain on the cassette had offset the wheel so the tyre was rubbing on the frame. I limped home, wrecking a tyre in the process, and tried to come to terms with the fact that my Seven was in intensive care without much chance of recovery.
So I did what any self-respecting clueless individual does these days and Instagrammed the damage, asking if it was terminal. Among the expressions of sympathy and inevitable “ouch” and “aw” comments, Mark Groves of Groves Cycles offered to have a go at fixing it, and when you’re in a situation such as mine, you can’t really ask for more.
I felt like Eugène Christophe, who broke his fork descending the Tourmalet on the 1913 Tour de France. Unlike me, however, race officials forced him to undertake his own repair according to race regulations. It took him three hours and he was still penalised ten minutes for allowing a seven-year-old boy to pump his bellows.
Not only did Mark fix it, within two days and before Christmas, but he fixed it so well that the weld isn’t even immediately noticeable. I would even go as far as to say the bike is almost as good as new, and it rides like a dream.
It’s a bit of a geriatric anyway, being one of the first Seven frames ever produced by Rob Van Der Mark following his parting from Merlin, and this repair has been as good as a hip replacement. I reckon he’s added a good few years’ life onto the old girl.
Better still, Mark has reinforced my long-held belief that cyclists are an all-round decent bunch, always there to lend a hand if they can, or even a bit of encouragement.
They don’t call us Comrades of the Road, for nothing. One big happy bike riding family. Faith in other human beings (who ride bikes) quite thoroughly restored.
And that marks the end of this year and the last column of 2015. Tonight I shall endeavour to see the new year in without much fuss in order to enjoy a morning of riding in some rare and glorious sunshine. May you all have a very happy New Year.
This column first appeared on www.thetimes.co.uk/onyourbike on December 31 2015