The All Black

31. Juli 2012 § Hinterlasse einen Kommentar

My friend John from London asked, in response to an earlier blog entry, what „an All Black“ was, another name for a Brompton perhaps? No, John, it’s not a folding bike, it’s just what I privately call my Tour de Suisse touring bike that I bought a few years ago from my local dealer in Urdorf. At the time, it was really and nobly black all around.
But as bikes go nowadays, they are hardly ever of one mould. Swiss-made here just means assembled in Switzerland from sundry parts that TdS buys in from Taiwan, China, Japan etc. As time goes by and use wears them out, the components start to change colour and hue, and they reveal their multi-ethnic origins: the handlebars have turned a blackish green, the brake fixtures show their true blue that’s been lingering underneath, some other part reveals a golden tinge, but it’s only fools‘ gold, and the frame, which overall has kept its matte black colour, has suffered a few chips which blink at me me with silvery eyes.
I can’t bear the All Black a grudge because this is just its way of habituating itself to a hopefully long and individuated life.
On the other hand, my mount did give me real trouble over the last week or so. I suspect it’s the medium-term effect of that fateful crossing from Kintyre to Ireland. The All Black will not forgive me for exposing it to the salt spray on the open deck. The first thing that acted up was the cycle computer, a small device that records the distance covered, the average speed and time of travel etc. Every morning, it deigns to work for five minutes and then it just shows the clocktime for the rest of the day. Marianne ventured to ask why I was so keen on the trip statistics. Wasn’t the day worth it if I didn’t know to the metre how far I’d pedalled? She has a point there.
More severely, the gear shift developed blockages so that I could only use the small speeds for hours on end. I sometimes resorted to moving the chain by hand – with the result that I could have referrred to my fingers with the epithet All Black.
I gathered hope after I had two mechanics in Enniskillen look the patient over. After an hour’s wait, the man explained to me in his Irish brogue what he had done. I only understood that he claimed he’d taken it to the street for testing. Two days later, the problem was back in force. I thought I shouldn’t have trusted the man whole-heartedly, him being a good head shorter than me. Or maybe he didn’t sit on the saddle while testriding it?
In any case, the gear shift drew a good deal of negative energy (swearing and undirected shouting included) over the rest of the Irish part of the trip (two 90km stretches through Mullingar and Carlow toward Rosslare Harbour) and I seized the very last opportunity in Wexford, as my prospective saviour, Mr Hayes, was just about to close his shop. At first he shook his head hopelessly at my calamity. But then his inner ambition got the better of him, and he soiled his already washed hands again. Successfully, as it turned out, for after 6 minutes and 15 euros he threw me out of the shop and sent me on my blessed way.
Which how to record I found out from a young student jobbing at a dealer in Pembroke, Wales, today. Just use your iPhone, get the appropriate GPS app and Bob’s your uncle. Lo and behold, my device plotted a squiggly line on the small screen, with lots of switchbacks and corners. That would be National Cycle Route 4, which basically follows the Welsh coast and dips down from the tableland for every river that runs into the sea. Every kilometre feels like at least one mile. Is it for the better now to know how far I’ve been going?

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