Author Topic: Bryan Chapman Memorial 2011  (Read 3265 times)


  • Quiet please
Bryan Chapman Memorial 2011
« on: May 17, 2011, 09:43:16 pm »
short version:

bike broke [these things happen]
got it fixed [thanks a million, lad at Texaco garage]
rode the ride, get wet, tired and exhausted - and wondered 'why on earth do I find myself here' [normal scenario]
met some good people, shared time with some good people [which is invariably the case]
finished 10mins before BRM cutoff 9.50pm, [did I really expect anything else?]
fell over and crashed out [as you do]
drove home [stoped for motorway coffee]

and the long version:

I decided to focus down a bit to one small specific detail of my ride
[and apologies, i've just read it back. it's long and utterly self-indulgent!]

Making progress into Rhayader, I felt a strange sensation going on.
"Blimey, the wheels are collapsing"
Looking down, and watching wheel rotation....
"No, they're both alright, they should be fine. But what on earth was that?"
Turning the pedals again, It feels like the road has turned to jelly and the rear wheel wants to turn out into the road!
"What the blazes is going on here?"

It was time to stop, the alternatives to do anything else were few. A closer look revealed that one of the chain stays had detached itself from the bottom bracket and the other one is 75% detached. Oh dear. Tis all over for you old chap.

Albeit a bit annoying and frustrating, acceptance of being DNF was pretty quick coming at this point. A broken frame is a broken frame afterall - pretty terminal in terms of continuing. A person is going nowhere fast with two detached chain stays.

Dave Khan rolls up soon afterwards,
"Everything alright?"
"No. Frame's broken. looks like I'm going home!"
"Oh dear".

Maybe this was time to take stock of my unaddressed loyalty to clapped out old bike frames, either for the purposes of chopping up and making recumbents or just riding them as they are. But I do rather like them.

Although disgruntled, I also felt strangely grateful at the same time. Very grateful indeed. Grateful that it didn't happen descending Pen-y-Pass in the middle of the night or flying down the Cross Foxes, or stranded in some remote region in Wales in the tipping rain, or that it wasn't mid-winter....the list goes on. So although disappointed that I was out of weekends activities and about to head home, I was so grateful for a lot that was in my favour - I had all day,  it was 10am on a good May morning, 1 km outside of a town - that's a pretty good time to have a frame failure.

So having been passed by many riders walking into Rhayader I got into town, sat down and started to comtemplate things [which basically just means engaging in self-torture].

Do I want to go home?
Do I want to ride on?
But I can't, my bike's broken.
I'll have to go home then, no other option.
But I don't want to go home.
I want to ride this ride.

As the tension from this dichotomy started to increase I began to come up with ideas as a way out:

1. I wonder if they're a council refuge dump in Rhayader. Dumps have always been a good source of bikes in the past.
2. Somewhere in this town there's a 1970s 25" frame lying unused for 20 yrs in somebody's garage. Maybe I could borrow some tools from somewhere to swap everything over. Cost me a few hours, but still. I just need to find which garage it's in!
3. House clearances, skips - again another source of junk bikes in the past. Maybe I could ask around.

I sat there in Rhayader feeling really frustrated about something I really wanted, that I knew was out there, but couldn't lay my hands on it [not an unsual feeling, that one].

In the end I resorted to the first obvious port in a storm, and asked a lady if there was a bike shop in town. There was apparantly, just down the road next to the pub. Considering I've ridden past this bike shop every year for the past five years on the Ellenith I maybe should have known it was there! It's exculsively a mountain bike shop though, but It was worth checking out just in case. Maybe he had some old bikes lying around. So I wandered down, pushing my sorry old steed, and walked in...

'Got any old 25" road frame from the 1970's kicking around the back yard that you don't want, mate?
'Err, no, sorry, nothing like that, I'm afraid'.
'Right no, guess a mountain bike shop doesn't have many road frames lying around does it'.
"No, if I had one, you'd be more than happy to take it home with you"

I took him outside and showed what had happened. The other chain stay was now virtually detached at this point.

Bending over the bike, he said, "ummm......that's the end of that then, sorry really can't help you there"
"Yes, that's pretty much it, guess I'll just have to get the train, could you direct me to the train station please?"
"We haven't got a train station in Rhayader, the nearest one is 12 miles away"
'WHAT! You haven't got a train station here? [the lad Beeching briefly passed through consciousness]. Jeeezzeeeeeeeee!

So standing there together for a few seconds silence, I continue...

Don't suppose you've got a MIG welder here either have you, or some Oxy bottles?
"No, sorry, we don't do that kind of work here'.
"Ok". Well, just thought I'd come in and ask, you know, lady said there was a bike shop down here, and it's always worth trying"

Just about to turn round and leave, clutching at desperate straws, which probably began to sound like self-pity, I asked him,

"Know of any skips, dumps, house clearances going on at the moment where there might be old bikes knocking about that I could use?
Shaking his head now, "No, sorry"
Then, probably as a result of sensing a degree of despair in my questioning, he suggested,

"The only other possibility is the backsmith about a mile up the road, but I doubt he'll he there on Saturday."
Hey yeah! Good idea, I'm not bothered what it looks like, but if he can bodge that up, then at least I can get out of town. Whereabout's is he?
"Somewhere in that direction, [he pointed] about a mile away"

So I made my way in the general direction of the Blacksmith, not knowing where he was exactly or if he'd be there. I passed the crossroads where cyclists were still passing and became forever conscious that time was passing. They were all moving and I was most definitely not. 

I asked a young girl if she knew where the Backsmith was located. She gave me more specific directions, but it was at least a mile away. Oh well, that's a fair old distance to walk. Whatever it takes. Now I could feel that time would probably slip away for good.

Walking up the road, nursing the realization that I was done for as regards continuing, I passed a Texaco garage which had a large workshop attached to it.
[Ah, garage, with workshop, that means welders in the vacinity.]

Looking inside I started to scan the area for objects that looked like gas cylinders. Any kind of gas would do, just anything. Gas=repair possibility - gas for a MIG which shields the arc or gas that is lit and becomes a flame. Either will do. Then sure enough, over there I spotted one very tall bottle of something or other.  'Ah, that has to be gas for a MIG.' I saw that, looked back at the lad fixing the van [he hadn't seen me at this point standing there], put the two together and thought, 'There's my man'.

I could have encountered a miserable, "Go away, I'm busy, I haven't got the time, don't work on bikes, I can't be arsed" kind of bloke....But what I found was something quite the reverse.

"Excuse me mate, I'd heard there's a Blacksmith just out of town, know where he is? I'm on this long ride, and my frame's just broken and was wondering if he could just bodge it up with either a bit of braze or weld the frame back together, so I can get to the station. I can't believe you've got no station here, have you?"

He smiled at my outrage of no convenient train just for me at when I need it, and bent over and took a look,

"You bothered what it looks like?"
"Hell no, couldn't give a rats arse what it looks like, I'd be happy if he, or anybody else for that matter, could just braze some 6 inch nails on there to hold it for a while"
"Oh, right. It's steel like, is it?"
"Oh yeah, it's steel alright, it should weld because it's not lightweight gauge tubing like 531 or anything more modern, it's the thicker 501 variety"
"I could try welding that if you like?"
"Really? Yeah, that would be great if you could. Like I say, I don't give a toss what it looks like, it just has to hold for a while."

So he stopped what he as doing with the van and came over to attend to my plight.

I took the back wheel off, turned the bike upside down [haven't done that since I Was a kid] and we took a closer look. Main problem was the granny wheel was obscuring access to the break on the outside and this was not good, as it made up just under 50% of the total surface area of the join. It was important the stays were welded right the way round to stand any chance of holding.

We looked at that problem, and I said with obvious irony "Don't suppose you've got a crank puller in your tool box have you?"
"No sorry"
"Right. Didn't think a mechanic working on cars would be pulling many chainsets off a bike during the day"
"No, that's right"
[I remembered the bike shop...they'll have a crank puller I thought.....maybe I could take it back, get the crank removed, then come back here to get it welded.]
"Hang on", he said,
So he went away, rummaged around in a cupboard for a bit, came back with a tin box, opened it up and showed me the contents,

"anything in there any good for you"?

I peered in and sure enough, inside this box of bits was a crank puller for a sqaure tappered crank! Can you believe that? How many garages have a crank puller for a square tappered crank lying around?

"That's exactly what we need mate, that's a crank puller for this type of chain set, now all we need is a 16mm spanner to get it off and we can get access to where we need to be"'

And so after a bit of discussion, and me directing him about how I wanted it welded, the job was done. While he got to work, I snapped a couple of photos for posterity [very quickly as I was more interested in what he was doing], on my very cheap mobile.

When he was done, we gave the frame a bit of a bash with the hammer, it it seemed soild enough.

"Cool, that's really great, right how much do I owe you then mate? You've really helped me out here, really appreciate what you've done"
"Is a tenner alright"
"That's worth at least twenty to me, I can get to the station now, helped me out no end, thanks very much".
"You might even get further than the station, that should hold a while now"

So that was that, I gathered up my stuff, made sure I had my phone and wallet, and said my farewells, free wheeled off the forecourt, rotated the cranks, stamped on the pedals a few times and drifted back to the crossroads in the middle of town where there was a noticeable absense of riders now. Guess everybody will have passed through long ago. I'd probably lost about 2 hrs from the time it broke to where I was now.

But the bike seemed fine. Certainly for 200yds anyway. So now things were cool. Chances are I could pedal to the station without the need to mess about with a taxi. I was independent again, which was a nice feeling. As I stood over the bike at the crossroads thinking about all the other riders somewhere up the road, I began to widen my perspective a bit.

'If this bike can ride for 200yds, it will probably ride all twelve miles to that station. If this bike can get me to the station, it will get me back to Chepstow [100km]. If it gets me to Chepstow, it will probably get me all the way to Menai bridge and back [500km]. [There is of course no logic to this way of thinking whatsoever, but it felt encouraging at the time! ]. Left is for Chepstow, right is for Menai.

I knew from my little emperical knowledge of welding that, although butts joints like this can be a strong as an unwelded length of metal, if the metal you're welding is old and rusty on the inside, all the welds in the world won't make a strong join. It's always going to be vulnerable particularly with a lot of stress and vibration going through it as is the case with the BB area of a bike. And they did look a bit suspect when they broke off. The bike's old, knackered and had its day. All things arise and they pass.

But I also knew that these stays have been fatiguing for sometime. An awful lot of miles has been put through them before they got to this point. Surely they would tolerate another 500km, wouldn't they, surely?

I stood and considered the options. 'What to do, what to do, what to do?

F*** it, that's it, I'm going. And turned right.

Basically, at the end of the day, it was a gamble, and I got lucky.

Got back with no sleep and 10mins to spare on the BRM time.

Made it :-)