When I was about twelve my best friend and I went on a bicycle adventure to visit her nanna in the next town. I’m pretty sure we cycled up the disused railway track, so we weren’t in peril from inattentive drivers. It was a magnificent, Enid-Blyton-style adventure and we probably had cake and lashings of ginger beer at our destination before returning home, triumphant.
To receive a bollocking from my dad. What was I thinking, going on a journey on a bicycle in inadequate mechanical condition? Slightly baffled pre-teen me was puzzled by the revelation that bicycle maintenance was one of my chores, and also couldn’t see anything particularly wrong with the bike, apart from a slightly wonky front light, which we didn’t need as we weren’t cycling in the dark.
Parade duly pissed on, I gave up bicycle adventures.
But I pondered the lesson anew while I waited in the rain for the recovery wagon a couple of weeks ago. If I had packed a can of WD40, we would probably have been able to get going again – a point proven by my trip home from Birmingham after Christmas, when we coughed majestically to a stop in the slush and quick deployment of the Smart Straw on all the under-seat wiring saved the day. If I had packed my waterproofs, I’d at least have had a less uncomfortable wait. And if I’d done my pre-trip maintenance, like my dad told me to, it might not have happened
My excuses are legitimate. I live in a spare room of a Rather Naice House. I have already created puddles of castor oil and Kurust on the front drive after some emergency 2CV maintenance. While the outfit would fit quite nicely into the conservatory, which would be an excellent winter fettling venue, I fear my tenancy would not survive. Also it’s dark when I get home from work.
But in these #twixmas days (now rebranded Chrimbo Limbo) I am at home in daylight and can get the toolkit out.
Electrical problems are a bastard and can only be resolved by being methodical. It’s really quite soothing. Cup of tea, camping chair, can of contact cleaner, big roll of kitchen towel, vaseline. It’s also a chance to get to know the bike, which I should really have done back in July but I was too busy learning how to ride it.
Everything under the seat is dirty, wet, and some connections are a bit loose. In the interests of checking my work as I go, there’s a fair amount of starting up and revving what is, if truth be admitted, a noisy, smelly 2-stroke.
On the fourth round of test firing, next door’s front door opens and the neighbour pops her head out. She’s an older lady and spends a lot of time in her garden. I cut the engine and wait for the smoke to disperse so that I can apologise, before realising she’s giving the thumbs up.
“Well done you! Great to hear it running properly.”
We have a chat about engines, cars and 2CV gearlevers. She recommends WD40 and Jizer as the two fluids a woman can rely on and gives me a couple of shop towels from her stash.