In a world increasingly preoccupied with throwaway materialistic things; where people are constantly busy earning money to pay for those things, or so their children can have those things;
This is the story of my dreams of travelling the world by bicycle. Because it's there. And because I dont want to die without experiencing the truly important things in life .

A sense of wonder and a sense of adventure.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Hand Made in Appleby.

I pretty much forgot that Xmas was fast approaching and having only enough time to get myself a present I had to advise Adi that it might be best in the interests of saving time that she rush out and get herself something.

Just in the nick of time we managed to wrap them up and put them on the mantel piece. Talk about stress! I don’t think that Adi would have wrapped hers unless I insisted. After all you’ve got to do things correctly don’t you? As for sending cards to friends and others… sorry couldn’t get that motivated about it. I know that will be me removed from your next year’s Xmas card list but I’ll just have to take that like a man.

I had only enough time to send one card and that was to my mother. A bit silly really because she has forgotten much of the last 92years including me. My sister tells me that she is a favourite among the rest home staff. I fear this is only because she sleeps most of the time and when not in deep slumber she steers into space with a smile on her face. I always used to be a smiley, uncomplaining baby and I expect I will also exhibit the same traits when I’m in a rest home.  I will get a rest home report saying that” Niel is a very well-mannered and conscientious member of the residents”. And they will be happy to keep me on as I pay well and cause no disturbances.

Adi and I cycled to a Xmas Eve movie, The Hobbit of course. Adi just can’t get enough of dwarfs and orcs. I somehow think that the whole thing could be somewhat improved with the addition of a legion or two of warrior elf maidens. I don’t particularly mind whose side their on as long as they fight hard and ruthlessly.

Come Christmas day I felt that I still had time to make myself another present or two so after opening our presents and entertaining Karen and Terry for morning tea in the summer room I set too constructing a couple of carbon neutral bike racks in the back garden. I suppose they’re not quite carbon neutral as I used an electric skil saw to make them and they can’t really I suppose be described as organic as they are treated in enough chromium , arsenic and copper to kill fungus for the next 2000years. But they are jolly good at holding my bike up!
And Bits Left Over For a Single!

What did Father Xmas get me for Christmas you all ask??? He got me, besides the pest proof bike rack kit, a Campagnolo brake set!!!! (With cable kit). I have no intention at this stage of putting it on the Mercian as I already have an XTR v brake set which I love and has stopped me from going over the edge in many exotic countries.(Santa what were you thinking??) But when it finally dies I will have a Campag cyclocross brake set to replace it with. And until that time (probably around 2025) it can live in the workshop with all the other spare parts that bear the magic inscription ‘Made in Italy’ and are of no real use at the moment.

And once Adi had got the wrapping off her present… low and behold it was a bag. But not any bag in my book. No it was a Vespa luggage bag which was bought by Santa to obviously encourage Adi and I to set out on another Vespa / Mercian adventure. Adi feels certain that although Santa didn’t tell her specifically where we are expected to Vespa / cycle, it must be across Canada next year and I’m not about to disagree.

So once all that excitement was over the day was almost dusted. Just enough time to whip over to the neighbours orchard to nick some berries for the Pavlova and down another rum and coke.

It was supposed to rain this week but those are promises that refuse to come to fruition at the moment and so once again I will have to tweak the neighbouring orchards irrigation system so that it delivers us a bit of the clear stuff as well.

Cant thank Santa for that one.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Bidding for Good Stuff.

Working p/time in a bike shop and being a bit of a retro man has its disadvantages. The main problem being this, although the new season’s stock excites the rest of the staff and customers it rarely makes my pulse quicken.  Whereas some of my workmates have trouble taking home any of their pay my wages are safely deposited for Adi to spend on mundane things like our weekly groceries.

And things aren’t likely to get any better in the future as the sort of stuff I’m interested in is only likely to come into the shop occasionally as a result of a repair job or when a customer wants to show me his latest heritage project. These bikes are never for sale at a reasonable price or likely to be used for anything other than a quick spin along the cycleway on a sunny afternoon.

Things were looking grim until I discovered TradeMe the second hand internet site. Now my prayers have been answered.  Tinkering about on bikes for close to forty years gives me an advantage when looking at old stuff. I can peruse other people’s bike junk at will and get a bit of excitement when bidding on things. I can now acquire some of the top quality components that eluded me when I was growing up. Back then I foolishly wasted my money on stuffed toys for potential girlfriends instead of investing wisely on handmade race frames and cycling kit. I still managed back then to buy quite a bit of bike stuff (a lot of which I still have) but I could have done so much better if I hadn’t been distracted in other ways.

The final gem in this whole thing is that this once top gear is usually as cheap as chips because today’s punters are focused on the latest offering from China in carbon fibre. I can snatch up a handmade lightweight steel frame or Italian brake set for the price of an evening out. I’ve missed the odd thing due more to my poor bidding technique or lack of attention than any concerted opposition. But I have now mastered this and feel pretty confident generally in winning my prize. I certainly have a better strike rate than I ever had with the high maintenance girls at college and Uni.

With a bit of forward thinking I should be able to continue to stock the workshop to such an extent that when I want to complete a repair or start a new cycle project, I will have all the retro parts on hand. This leads me to my current project of re building Adi a touring GT Zum to replace the one she had nicked in Vietnam recently. Her new bike is now complete and has been road tested. However she lost with her old bike a set of retro touring wheels that I had put on the bike because they were more reliable and tougher than the sport wheels she usually runs day to day. I had a pair of campag record hubs and a pair of Shimano 600 hubs waiting but no 36hole Mtb rims to use.

Low and behold, what should surface on TradeMe?

Only three brand new 1990’s campag mtb rims and a matching pair of new and still wrapped FIR mtb rims!! All for chicken feed!  Mavic rims are still available but are difficult to get here and are expensive. I simply need to buy a couple boxes of DT spokes and hey presto 2 pairs of new /old wheels. You can never have too many wheel sets for your Mercian.

O that’s right, one set is for Adi but I’m sure I can borrow them if the need arises.