This Is Not A Race Report

Today I was supposed to be telling you all about my glorious victory and new course record at yesterday’s ‘Early Hilly 22’ time trail. However, the A153 was shut at Wilsford level crossing for engineering works and so the race has been postponed until May. This is shame because I would definitely have won it in magnificent style, leaving the others all trailing in my wake as I disappeared off into the distance (I can write anything for this bit, no-one will ever know what would actually have happened. To be honest, I suspect it wouldn’t have been that, but you never know...)

Anyway, I am going to have to think of something else to talk about, so this is the first in a series of little snippets of things which have happened to me, or which I have seen, involving bikes but not actually during a race. As my last piece was about bodging mending bikes I shall start with the least well prepared person I have seen at a race.

It was the Scottish Cross Country Series race at Aberfoyle in either 2003 or 2004. I would say it was the one where it absolutely chucked it down all day but that wouldn’t really narrow it down. I had been given a lift to the race by my friend James in the van he had borrowed from his local bike shop.

The Fun category race was in the morning, our Elite race was in the afternoon, so we were sitting in the van hiding from the rain. About 20 minutes before the start of the fun race someone came over to us to ask if we could help, as his cassette was loose. We didn’t like to point out that we didn’t actually work for the bike shop concerned, or indeed any bike shop, and tightening a cassette isn’t a difficult thing to do so we said we would fix it for him.

We removed his skewer and attached the cassette tool and big spanner, the cassette was already as tight as it could be but his entire freewheel was very, very loose. We asked which race he was doing, and he told us he was doing the Fun race in about 15 minutes time.

OK, we need the fastest ever rebuild of a freewheel. We can do that. This being 2003, or maybe 2004, it was an old fashioned cup and cone rear hub, so the freewheel was removed, followed by the cones, axle, bearings, springs and pawls. These were all hastily degreased and cleaned as best one can while hiding under a large umbrella. The umbrella was doing it’s best to induce a Mary Poppins impression in the guy to whom the wheel belonged while he was holding it over us as we attempted to keep the water out of the freshly greased bearings.

The others were all starting to assemble on the start line so he was sent to ask them to delay the start for a few minutes, the commissaire was happy to do this but the other competitors looked less than chuffed, as well as very cold and very wet.

This picture is just for illustrative purposes, we didn't quite 
need to go as far as taking the hub out of the wheel!

We got the hub back together, it felt much better and the freewheel stayed where it was put, which was good. We put the cassette back on and the wheel back into the bike.  This being an old fashioned cup and cone hub the axle had not gone back in exactly the same place it come out of and was a couple of millimeters over to one side. Some people, including our new friend, still had V brakes in those days and so this was now rubbing on one side and was miles away on the other, and we had also upset his gears.

So we had to adjust the gears. This would have been a lot easier had part of his outer not been split and the inner wasn’t poking through. He was again dispatched to ask for another delay to the start, much to the annoyance of his fellow competitors. We recabled his rear gear system while he held the umbrella over us as best he could in the wind.

We then moved on to his brake. This was of course also in a sorry state, but luckily we had spare pads in the van so we gave him some of those and fitted them while he went to ask for just a couple more minutes, avoiding all eye contact with the field of sodden and frozen bikers standing on the grid waiting for him.

Finally his bike was deemed fit to race, we gave it back to him, he took it and ran to the start line, taking his place at the back of the pack. The commissaire shouted “GO!” Everyone else shot off into the forest while our friend put far too much power through his badly worn and corroded chain, snapped it, and was left floundering on the start line. Needless to say he wasn’t the kind of person to carry a chain tool and with the race now underway outside help was forbidden. His first ever race lasted 3 feet.

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