Tuesday was nearly a disaster. We are on holiday, cycling in Ireland on a tandem bicycle. We were on the loop ride in the south west corner of the island. The day was cloudy and we had already ridden through a downpour. The wind was strong and cold. As we came around a bend we could see the “village” of Kilhaha about three kilometres ahead, when suddenly, going up a small rise, there was no resistance in the pedals. The first thought was that we had thrown the chain, unusual in itself. More unusual, though, was the snake of chain extended on the road behind the bike. It was a most disconcerting sight.
We had prepared for most eventualities, but not this one. In the thousands of kilometres we had ridden, we had never broken a chain. We had a tool to take the broken bits off, but nothing to put it back together. We started walking toward what appeared to be a pub in the distance.
Arriving at the village, it was obvious there was no bike shop. We went into the bar and initially got a rather blank stare, following our request for someone to work on our bike, from the woman behind the bar. She turned to a wizened character, the only other occupant of the bar, nursing a Guiness in the corner.
“Filian, do ye think ye can fix it”
“Oh, aye, oh aye, I can fix it better than new” he mumbles.
His appearance didn’t evoke much confidence, but he was all we had. He took a quick look and, from his diagnosis of the situation left us feeling even less confident. He returned to his Guiness, and I took the chain apart at the repair link, but could not get it back together.
Returning to the bar, Filian was our only hope.
“I’ll just finish me drink and we’ll walk to my shop, aye I can fix it”
It starts to rain again so we decide to order a cup of tea to warm up. Filian seeing the delay orders another Guinness.
The walk to the shop is about half a kilometre, up hill. I keep looking ahead for something that looks like a repair shop but nothing fits. We got lots of history on the way, some of which we could understand though the Irish.
“It’s right here” he says, pointing at a delapitated Quonset hut which he opened after struggling with what he claimed to be a brand new lock. The door slid open and there was an electic hoist with a car on it with no wheels. Maybe we had found a mechanic!
Our optimism flagged as he started to dig around in a corner and came up with a length of dirty, rusty, bicycle chain.
“This’ll do the trick”he says.
I examine the chain for a repair link, but there doesn’t seem to be one.
” We need a repair link”
” No we don’t, those things are no good,” which prompted a story about a repair link and a motorcycle.
J and I exchanged dispairing looks, while Filian (we actually don’t know his name at this point,we’d missed it at the bar)starts digging around in an old cookie tin full of bits of hardware, nuts, and bolts, muttering to himself the whole time. He finds what he wants, not a repair link, but a nut which he uses in conjunction with the a hammer and punch to take a link out of the old chain.
“It’s not a repair link,” I say.
“I know, I know, we’ll get you going better than new.”
He seems to be getting grumpy and we are a little more than anxious as our day slips away with the opportunity to get to a proper bike shop rapidly fading.
Filian did get the chain together, squeezing the old link with vice grips till it held. Of course bike chains need to be put together in place because they are on both sides of the chain stay which makes using a hammer on it almost impossible. A concrete block, topped with a chunk of native Irish rock was set up and we were ordered to put the bike on its side, chain on rock. With great trepidation we did it, trying to keep the shiny frame away from the rocks, and he proceeded to tap the rivets flat with a long punch and a hammer (the two pound mini sledge was almost more than we could bear).
Believe it, or not, the fix worked. Oh, the gears skipped a bit because the link was actually a bit to wide, but otherwise we were down the road and finished our day.
Wednesday we altered our route into Kilrush, found a bike shop, and got a brand new chain, but that’s another story altogether.
There is a moral to this story, I’m sure. It might have to do with judging books by their covers, or multiple ways to skin cats.