An overhauler

4th March. The first test of 2012. The first race in a schedule that sees me competing every weekend bar one from now until 29th April. Muscles and joints ache, my throat burns with each intake of air, i’m coughing hard with the effort of catching breath.

Sadly none of this is race induced and the 35km Sudbury CC Hilly Time Trial has not been graced with my performance. I am ill. I blame the heavy weekend 7 days ago to celebrate my impending nuptials but, whatever the cause, I have a cold and am producing inordinate amounts of snot. Experience has shown me that the only way to sort this out is to lay off the bike, in fact lay off any sort of exercise that causes the lungs to get going, and to wait for it to pass. Ignoring my body and sticking to my training plan regardless will only prolong things.

Considering the effort that i’ve been putting into my training so far this year it is frustrating to say the least. Thanks to several weeks of reasonably hard training, partly assisted by the balmy spring evenings, i’d managed to shift a few of the lb’s that appeared over the winter. The bullet had been bitten, the turbo trainer had been dusted down, 2×20 ‘threshold’ interval training had commenced (for the uninitiated this means: ride for say 20 minutes at a pace infinitesimally shy of real time-trial pace over a 20 minute race, have a few minutes to recover and then, in contrast to any ACTUAL race known to man, do it again). In short, the cross-over to race like training had begun, and the benefits had already started to be felt. To suddenly have a week and counting off the bike landed on my lap has been an unwelcome setback.

However, ever trying to find a positive, i’m trying to turn the enforced break into a positive. Rather than lie on the sofa wishing this wasn’t happening i’m looking out of the window at the rain, feeling glad this hasn’t happened during a heatwave and have been indulging in a cyclists second favourite past time after actually riding a bike. At this point it is probably sensible to give way to the sage words of Jerome K. Jerome to set the scene…

There are two ways you can get exercise out of a bicycle: you can “overhaul” it, or you can ride it. On the whole, I am not sure that a man who takes his pleasure overhauling does not have the best of the bargain. He is independent of the weather and the wind; the state of the roads troubles him not. Give him a screw-hammer, a bundle of rags, an oil-can, and something to sit down upon, and he is happy for the day. He has to put up with certain disadvantages, of course; there is no joy without alloy. He himself always looks like a tinker, and his machine always suggests the idea that, having stolen it, he has tried to
disguise it; but as he rarely gets beyond the first milestone with it, this, perhaps, does not much matter. The mistake some people make is in thinking they can get both forms of sport out of the same machine. This is impossible; no machine will stand the double strain. You must make up your mind whether you are going to be an “overhauler” or a rider. Personally, I prefer to ride, therefore I take care to have near me nothing that can
tempt me to overhaul. When anything happens to my machine I wheel it to the nearest repairing shop. If I am too far from the town or village to walk, I sit by the roadside and wait till a cart comes along. My chief danger, I always find, is from the wandering overhauler. The sight of a broken-down machine is to the overhauler as a wayside corpse to a crow; he swoops down upon it with a friendly yell of triumph. At first I used to try politeness. I would say:

“It is nothing; don’t you trouble. You ride on, and enjoy yourself, I beg it of you as a favour; please go away.”

Experience has taught me, however, that courtesy is of no use in such an extremity. Now I say:

“You go away and leave the thing alone, or I will knock your silly head off.”

And if you look determined, and have a good stout cudgel in your hand, you can generally drive him off.

It was with these words echo-ing in my mind that I began to dissassemble my ‘other’ race bike. Outside of racing with a number of your back perhaps the greatest sport a cyclist can engage in is ‘chase the squeak’. Is it the cleats on my shoes? Is it a loose pedal spindle? Is it the headset? Well, in the end, a quick strip of the bottom bracket yielded a likely suspect, a bearing that ran less than smoothly and almost certainly needs replacement. The only cause for concern was a complete inability to identify exactly what it was that needed replacement: a quick glance at Wikipedia showed that bottom bracket standards had diversified in recent years and it was essential to work out what I needed before trying to order a new part.

A conversation a few weeks ago flickered into my mind. A clubmate had mentioned the happy arrival of the weighty tome that is Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintainence at Christmas. Surely the answer would lie within. Hesitancy set in, recalling Jeromes’ final line, this was a clubmate with form for ‘overhauling’. The last thing I wanted was to end up with a bike that was more Heath Robinson than Lance Armstrong…

With cudgel in back pocket the short trip down the road was made. After dissecting our recent training rides over coffee, we offered up greasy lumps of metal to the shiny white pages until, like hungover first year medical students struggling to pick out a heart from a lung, a diagnosis was made: unlike the Shimano Hollowtech offerings on the rest of my bikes my road race bike is equipped with SRAM GXP. And no, i’d never heard of it before yesterday either…

A quick trawl of the popular on-line retailers has yielded what looks like a bargain price replacement resplendent in carbon fibre, hopefully it’ll all slot neatly into place once it arrives. Perhaps JK was wrong? Maybe I can be a rider and an overhauler?

5 thoughts on “An overhauler

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