IN WHICH WE TRY – AND MOSTLY FAIL – TO AVOID MAKING A POOR TASTE, EASTER-THEMED JOKE AROUND REBUILDING MY BIKE, GET BACK OUT ON THE CANAL TOWPATH AGAIN FOR A DECENT RUN, AND DISCOVER HOW DANGEROUS DRINKING CAN BE FOR YOUR HEALTH…
A year doesn’t go by without a trip to the hospital with Dad. It’s partly because he’s prone to injury, but also, I suspect, because he likes the nurses. And it’s a little break from home. Sorry Mum. I know you read my blog. Anyway, whilst the excellent medical services attended to his needs (checking up on a recently-resolved abscess), I noticed this on the wall. It caught my eye. Proof, finally, that big pharma is having us on. It’s right there. You can’t miss it!
And so, to that poor taste joke I mentioned; well, truth be told, I’ve sort-of lost the urge now. It essentially revolved around the fact that I went down to see my mate Terry (after several attempts from both parties to get together) on Good Friday, with all the various bits of the bike for reassembly. Well, it turned out that I didn’t in fact have all the bits – something I had already had a premonition about.
Just to recap, for the newcomers here who don’t avidly follow this blog and all the subtle minutiae of my life: well into our third lockdown, I had the urge to take on a project. This usually involves painting something. We had already done the more mundane sort: hall, sitting room, bathroom. Now it was something a little more personal and challenging. I decided to strip my Orbea Avant road bike and give it a brand new livery.
The stripping and painting all happened quite quickly. It’s great when you have a mate who owns a garage and spray booth. We mixed up a few things from a few tins, and ended up with something approximating metallic British Racing Green (which has a fascinating back story, and when you read about, you realise it should have been called Irish Racing Green. And because we love you here at the unironedman, and know you all to be a bunch of lazy so-and-sos, I have looked up the link for you. Here it is.)
The new decals were applied, and the top coat of lacquer to finish it all off. All I had to do was put it all back together again. But that was a task that required an experienced hand and a trained eye, and there’s none better than Terry for that job. It’s not just that he knows all about bikes, but we can sit safely in his garden, in the sun, and put the bike back together and yak about all manner of things, including why, for example, the most important member of Led Zeppelin was John Bonham. That sort of thing.
I was a little stiff-legged too, so I was happy to be engaged in an activity that essentially involved watching Terry do cunning things with my bike while I handed him parts. This was because I had been up at 6am that morning and managed a 20k run with Gary along the canal towpath from Maynooth.
It was the longest run since my enforced layoff (no plans for a rematch as of yet with the Cocker Spaniel; their agent is refusing our calls…) but it passed without incident. It was a cool enough morning, but always good company with Gary, who has become something of a local celeb since the launch of the Royal Canal Greenway. Follow his exploits here.
As the sun tracked across the sky (and indeed, where else would you find the sun these days?), the bike slowly took shape. I’d love to see bike technology in a hundred years. Or even fifty. It’s tempting to think the current iteration is the peak of development. I’m sure it’s not. But the bike as a piece of tech hasn’t changed fundamentally for some time. Here’s one debate (it’s a podcast) from the people at Bike Radar. And here’s a potted history of the bike and its biomechanics. Once you get past the Draisine/Velocipede and add pedals in the 1860’s (thank you, France), you are really just tinkering. Okay, the tinkering here certainly makes cycling much easier these days, but we would not have known that at the time. Consider, for example, attempting the Tour de France on a steel-framed bike with one gear? If you want to climb mountains, you are welcome to dismount your steed and flip your wheel around for the ‘other’ gear. And you can thank the French again for the ‘derailleur’ which came in around the 1930s.
So I quietly marvelled and supped tea as each piece was added to the frame to build a bike. Each piece doing a job, and no more. No excess. No added bits. No fluff. Unless you count bottle cages and bar tape 😉
I’m delighted with it. I took it for a spin up the park yesterday, and it feels great. I mean, technically, it’s the same bike, just a different colour. But in fairness, it’s the first strip-down it’s had since I bought it, and we did fit new cables (inners and outers) for the brakes and gears. The headset and bottom bracket got a good clean, and the chain was sparkling. I even dismantled the rear derailleur and cleaned the jockey wheels. This is when I found out that the two identical wheels on the Shimano 105 set are not, as it turns out, identical 😉
I overdid it on the decals. Two ‘Orbeas’ probably would have been enough, but damn, it’s hard to stop sticking them things on when you have a sheet of them. What isn’t there now is the name (H40 Avant) but that’s okay. Even from the shop, as new, it was a bit of a bastardisation. They sold it me as a 105, but that model comes with Tiagra, so they agreed to up the spec and fit the 105 gears. So it’s halfway between a H40 and a H30. And no, they don’t make a H35!
The bar tape is a nod towards the earlier comment about the evolution of bike design. Given that we can’t alter the shape of the rider, and are still essentially taking muscle power from the legs to turn a crank which imparts forward motion thanks to the chain and wheels, we’ve reached a point now where most road bikes look the same. I appreciate there are some interesting carbon frames out there, at the higher end of the market, not least for time-trials and track. Nor am I referring to MTBs, though they too seem to have peaked in terms of design.
I just mean the common-or-garden road bike that you can find in any decent bike shop at around the 1,000 euro mark. Giant, Trek, Cube, Fuji, Orbea… there are hundreds of makers from around the world. Most of these models will use aluminium for the frame, and possibly carbon for the forks. But they will all look quite similar. The companies will tinker with the frames and colours to ‘freshen things up’ each season, and indeed, the changes in the Orbea Avant are a prime example of this trend over the last four or five years.
But the fundamentals won’t change too much.
Which is why, dear friends, one of the ways to make a tiny statement to the world is to fit some funky bar tape. This one flirts dangerously with the Velominati Rules. (You would need a really smart lawyer in court. In my defence, it’s technically okay, in that it is predominantly black, and the gold matches the decals. But I suspect it breaches the spirit in many ways. But that’s the hill I shall climb to the top of and die on.)
The bike now looks so clean, I will avoid extra clutter. The pump I used to carry on the frame can now go in the back pocket (that’s at least one good mark in my favour with The Rules) and ditto the bike computer that used to live on the bars. That can go too.
And as for the gag… well, it doesn’t really work, but such as it is: on Good Friday, we began the great rebuild, but reached an impasse when we got to the cabling, as the bike shop had given us cables that were too short. And I couldn’t swap them out ’til Saturday, when we finished off the job. And on Sunday, the bike rose again!
So yeah, it’s not really that good, as gags go, and as punishment for my impudence, I was repaid in kind on Sunday evening when we had our parents over for Sunday dinner. They are in good form and have had both jabs at this stage. To celebrate, I bought a couple of bottles of red wine. The label caught my eye: 1967. And as anyone born in that year will tell you, it was undoubtedly the best year in the world to be born. I will not be taking any questions on this matter at this time.
I was cooking a beef roast with all the trimmings, and in my haste to move the plates to the table, I knocked one of the bottles, uncorked, off the worktop. As it began its slow Triple Salchow downwards, my life flashed before me, and I could clearly see and even hear the impact and shattering of a full bottle of wine on the tiled floor and envision the chaos of so much liquid and glass, not least when you have two very inquisitive greyhounds, and I was wearing only socks. With great insight, I placed my foot under the impact zone, and the bottle caught me neatly on the top of the second toe of my left foot, which is now a funny purple colour. And rather sore.
But I saved the wine, and that’s what counts.
I think we’re even.
In other news, Spring is doing its best to remind us puny humans that life goes on, and that there will be better times ahead.
Above, for example, are Greater Stitchworts from our local park. They bloom each year in the same place. They bring joy to my heart, and I never tire of seeing them, and taking a sneaky little photo.
And of course, there are the dogs. Or the Goon Squad, as I like to call them. Always on the bed, or eating, or farting. And sometimes they combine all three things, which can put you off your toast in the morning. But they are always lovely and certainly more cuddly than a stitchwort.