Done. Rode. Shakedown complete. Banging. Absolute fucking wicked to be on my baby again.
“No Part Left Behind!”
My old local. Many afternoons there post-climb, or with Emile, Jo, and others. So much coffee drunk in this sitting, Emile said I was shouting at anything with wheels. “Trolley man! Why one upside-down on top of trolley? Gravity change?” Also, there was a bike across the street with a pineapple on the handlebars. We decided like a bell but full of lemon juice that would squirt the rider in the eyes. “Oooo! Self Sabotage!“ Also, many boxer engines going braaap, just for me. Also, Old woman all dressed in white, white hair, driving an Italian Red, Fiat 500 Abarth, peeling off from the corner. Five coffees. Is too many?
The bridge is an endless, low serpent stepping across the marshland. I took Onyx’ bike and rode back to Scienceworks, to the long bluestone wall on the side of the Yarra. I haven’t climbed bluestone in ten years. Fingers and body remember but cannot. I walk from one end to the other and back, more than 100 metres of hard climbing in both directions, feeling the rock with fingertips and toes. I remember when I first started climbing the railway bridges in Balaclava, East St. Kilda, it took me months to be able to string together one traverse, months more to reverse it, months again to do the other side of the road. This is the same, but harder.
Climbing walls to get at science. Climbing walls around the back when there’s a locked gate up the front side. Climbing walls “like, it’s literally a metaphor, lol.” In the end, I find the first several moves. Still more than 100 metres to go.
This is when Strada Bianche became the classic it always was. Everything I love when I ride: cold, wet, snow, rain, mud and gravel, cobblestones, hours of enduring suffering, becoming one with the earth and weather, winter and spring. And watching women’s racing excel in the last couple of years.
Two years of riding on Shimano PD-M540 pedals and the axles are destroyed. I seem to wear out bike parts like a grinder. And after my entire clipless pedal life being on Shimano, I decided to swap to crankbrothers. Which means I need to re-cleat my shoes. And need new shoes. My bike. Such a vacuum for money. But who cares? Let’s all enjoy the sublime engineering of a yet to be unboxed pair of Candy 3 pedals.
My glorious Fulcrum Racing 5 CX wheels needed the front wheel’s cones tightened. Break out cone spanners and all the usual mess for a hub-gutting. But, no! All I need is a 2.5mm hex key to spin the pre-load ring tighter. Could probably be done without even removing the wheel. Out-farking-standing.
There was this moment, about 90 minutes in, when I’d unwound the bar tape, stripped out the old cables, trashed the old brakes, had a pile of new bits to install facing a gutted bike, and I thought to myself, “You know what you’re doing, right? ’Cos you can’t reverse out of this mess if you don’t, eh.”
“Nah, nah, nah, mate, she’ll be right.”
“Are you saying that for my benefit, or yours?”
”Also Frances, buy some fucking wire cutters, for fuck’s sake. You know how pliers butcher the shit out of cables.”
Lucky for me it turns out I more or less do, and it more or less did. If I don’t experience catastrophic improperly installed brake failure in the next few weeks, I reckon I’m good.
These are by far the easiest cantilever brakes to set the pads up on, and set the spring tension, and cable length, I swear, all that wasted time with shite cantis when I could have been using these. Enough time left after setup even to commit to drivetrain cleaning and swapping out the chain. Nice new Ultegra links to match Avid Shorty Ultimate braking mayhem. Finally I have cantis that I can skid the rear tyre on without doing a slight endo to de-weight the rear. Plus I swapped left and right levers, cos like driving on the left in the Empire’s former colonies, so too do we mash the rear brake by grabbing a handful with our left. I tried to be all proper German slash EU and swap to Rear is Right, but a lifetime of ingrained braking habits refused to change, and there’s nothing more confidence destroying than hammering a sketchy trail having to consciously think of which hand to squeeze.
Yay! Brakes! Yay! Still new wheels! Yay! awesome tyres! I took it for a shakedown ride this morning, plus fiddled with my saddle position. Well tasty. Gonna be putting some miles down on this in the coming weeks.
A late-afternoon, evening well mechanic-ed. And frankly, bike now has one well-sexy arse.
Once again, after some two hours of riding into Brandenburg, on country roads, cobblestone lanes, gravel farm tracks and single-track trails, just south of the new (and still unopened) airport, I reach the end of the road.
Magic end of road had a little hook through a copse, under a fallen tree, on the narrowest of barely-used paths, through a short spur of forest, spitting me out on the cleanest of new access roads around barbed wire airport fencing. Two more hours of gravel, cobblestone, track, trail, path, road, canalways, towns, fields, forests, to close the loop back in Kreuzberg.
“But were there Nazis, Frances?”
“Yes, Other Frances, there are always Nazis in Brandenburg. These ones rode crappy, old East German scooters with coal scuttle helmets through Zeuthen, and looked secretly ashamed and sad.”