“A bad cyclist always blames his wheels…”, or so the old saying goes. Except, of course, when they blame their overwork, lack of sleep, family commitments, poor diet, or that dodgy pint they had last night.*
But usually it’s the wheels.
As I rolled up the drive of my riding buddy’s house for our Wednesday night ride this week, something went “ping” before we’d even had chance to plan a route.
I looked down.
All cabling was present and correct, my chain was nestled nicely amongst the sprockets, and my hamstrings were intact. I shrugged, and pressed the pedals, to hear the tell-tale rub of tire on fork.
The “ping” was a spoke, snapped clean in two, the wheel immediately buckled. The look of delight on my friend’s face caused a knot in my stomach.
“No worries mate, I’ve got a spare.”
He skipped into his garage, whistling a happy tune, and returned with a wheel.
“There we go…let me pop that in for you mate,” he continued, in the overly helpful manner of a man who knows he’s got the upper hand. “Nice wheel that one too,” he added.
Did he back that up with a jaunty wink, or did I imagine it?
One cyclist’s broken spoke, you see, is another cyclist’s window of opportunity. A feeling of dread rose from that knot in my stomach.
It was a nice wheel in so much as it had the requisite number of functioning spokes, but it weighed approximately three metric tonnes, and possessed the aerodynamic qualities of Boris Johnson in a crosswind.
“Nice one, you’re a lifesaver…” I managed, through gritted teeth.
He, all but rubbing his hands together in comedy glee, replied: “Right…I fancy a few hills tonight mate, let’s crack on!”
We rolled away, the temporary front wheel dredging the sea bed of my morale like an anchor. I was a beaten man before we’d got ten yards down the road.
From the “P” of the ping, in fact.
The physical effect of carrying the extra weight, and the psychological effect of having that weight right there in my eye-line, as a reminder, was too much.
Rather like my stiff, lightweight, Campagnolo wheel, I buckled.
I was dropped, before fighting my way back again, only to be dropped, before yo-yo’ing back…
This went on for two painful hours.
My mate had a great time.
I may well be a bad cyclist, but with that wheel I never stood a chance.
*Yeah…that one right after the eight good ones!
(Image: via pixabay.com)