November 18th – Another gorgeous, but bitterly cold late autumn morning, and the oaks near Clayhanger were showing their autumn explosion of colour beautifully against an azure sky.
It’s been a very tough week, with very long hours again. I’m tired, and aching and mentally spent. But sights like this feel me with positivity and joy counteracting the hours I’ve spend riding in the darkness.
Winter is long, and still to come. But I think I can get through this.
March 14th – Brooks Saddles. Made and broken in the Midlands.
I love a Brooks leather saddle – made in Smethwick for a century or more from real leather, they’re a marmite thing amongst cyclists – you ether love them or hate them. I adore them; I’ve ridden on a Brooks for tens of thousands of miles and I’ve never found anything that fits my ample arse better.
However, some aspects of them are not great. the ‘Brooks creak’, where at an indeterminate point after breaking in, the thing squeaks noisily for 400 miles or so no matter what you do to relieve it; the sometimes middling build quality can be disappointing; but both of these pale compared to the real annoyance – poor quality tension pins.
The two metal objects above should be one piece. This bolt sits in a yoke from the saddle rails to the nose, the nut adjusting the tension of the whole thing. It rarely needs adjusting, but it takes the entire weight of my resplendent girth.
Until it fatigue-snaps on the way home.
They are a bugger to replace, and cost a fiver a time. To snap like this (and it’s a common, longstanding moan with Brooks customers) the component is poor quality. It would be easier to fit were it threaded to the boss. The whole thing is weak and shoddy. That’s very poor for a £60 saddle.
It left me with an uncomfortable, rattly ride home and a horrid workshop job to do.
But I still wouldn’t entrust my posterior to any other brand.
Brooks you muppets, sort it the hell out. Please.
May 6th – I got back to Brownhills at sunset, but couldn’t get anywhere to get a good view of it, sadly; but it did look nice from the canal over Clayhanger Common.
It was nice to be home; I was worn out. Some days, you don’t know which way up you are by the end of them. Your legs turn the pedals, and your body knows which way to go, but mentally, you’re knackered.
April 25th – A recovery day, mainly resting and pottering around attending to mechanical issues with the bikes. Long-term readers will remember my bizarre crank failure last spring, and at the time I suggested I’d never see it again: well, I was wrong.
This is an identical Lasco crank from my other bike. There are clear cracks growing either side of the pedal mount bore. Thankfully, I had a spare so changed it over on discovery, hopefully forestalling an unexpected failure.
I‘m not sure if this is a poor design, manufacturing failure or a sign that I should lose some weight…
February 19th – Snatched quickly whilst stopped at the lights, on the commute home 13 hours later. The ring road in Walsall is almost deserted, and it’s raining. Everything is wet, and colours blend and blur in the night. I’m tired. My eyes are sore from fatigue. But the wind was behind me, it was pleasingly warm, and to see the beauty of the wet, urban kaleidoscope was a minor but tangible joy.
February 13th – I had another stop to make on the way home – Asda. I was so bleary I got scant few of the things I was supposed to get, and if you ever want to know what a supermarket looks like after a riot, do visit Asda in Walsall late on Friday night. It was like a scene from The Day After. Complete with the walking dead – me.
I poured myself liquid down the marketplace, and the lights of the deserted Bridge snagged my attention; the night-time workers were about – posties, shopfitters, sign people – but nobody else. The light, the colour, the wet surfaces. In a moment, this place was precious.
I smiled to myself, and rode slowly, inexorably home. I remember very little of the journey, except it took me 45 minutes.
February 13th – Unlucky for some, it was not a great day for me; I was at work far too late, and I stubbornly remained long after I was any use. Tired, mentally exhausted, I came back from Darlaston in a miserable fug; I’d mislaid something and spent an hour looking, which was bothering me. There was a steady, eroding drizzle and a slow puncture was dogging my progress. Hunger was also on my shoulders.
I rode somnambulently into Caldmore for indian snacks to take home. My usual store of choice was long since closed, but another nearby was open, and I hungrily chose vegetable kebabs, samosa, spinach paneer bhajis and pakora. The sauce was bravely supplied in a plastic bag, which I popped unopened in my travel mug. I wasn’t too fuzzy to risk a saddlebag full of goop, no matter how tasty.
I was still knackered, but I felt brighter. There was food in my saddlebag, and the rain was easing. Maybe I could make it home without stopping to pump up the tyre again…