Thursday, December 15, 2011

Look Ma! No Brakes!

Disclaimer: The author of this blog in no way condones riding bikes that are not safe. Unless you want to. Then it’s your problem and you are as silly as I am.

A couple of weeks back I finally got my little ghetto singlespeed back from my lovely friend’s large garage where it’s been vacationing since I got chronic fatigue. Unfortunately the reason my back brake was playing up before this enforced retirement was clear when we wheeled it out into the sun. My rear brake cable had split and the  rather horrible liquid that is Dot brake fluid had leaked all over the left crown of my crappy forks, very effectively removing all traces of paint. Bugger.

Now I know that somewhere in the depths of our overstuffed garage there is a spare back brake just waiting to have its destiny fulfilled, however a couple of exploratory missions have failed to find it. Until yesterday when I finally found the bugger, but then was too lazy to fit it before going for a ride. After all, I had a perfectly good front brake and I was only going to McLeans Island – what could possibly go wrong?

I’d decided that I’d do a couple of the 15km loops on the singlespeed to see how my legs were feeling in the lead up to next Thursday (more on that later). The reason I wasn’t too worried about having only one brake at McLeans is I’m not actually fast enough to need to brake anywhere on the track. This track has been the place I’ve learnt to corner and now I can confidently ride the whole thing without so much as a zephyr of brake applied. Of course it’s nice to know I have the option when barrelling down the stop banks, but apparently what you don’t know won’t hurt you.

The first loop went fine, if a little slow, having ridden 50kms on the roadie in the scorching heat the previous day. However when I got to the end and applied my front brake to stop nothing happened. Well, something happened. My brake level travelled to my grip with no resistance whatsoever and a small fountain of brake fluid squirted out of the reservoir onto the ground. What didn’t happen was any slowing of any sort. Bugger.

So I circled around to drop my speed before applying my foot brake (that’s a foot on the ground in layman’s terms). So now I had no brakes at all. I have no idea when the pesky screw that keeps the fluid safely in its reservoir shook loose, I hadn’t touched my brakes at all on the first loop. With that in mind I decided a second loop would be fine and decided to trust my cornering skills. And I’ll tell you this. Riding around with no brakes, knowing that you have no brakes, makes you corner really really well.  I didn’t ride any slower this loop, in fact it was significantly faster now that my legs were warmed up. What I did do was sight my line clearly and commit to it fully and it was so good.
Of course now I need to sort out both brakes because I wouldn’t even consider riding my singlespeed to the shops or round McLeans in the evening or at the weekend (when there are lots of other people there) without brakes. I may be able to control what I do, but chaos ensues when others are around.

And now for the portion of today’s post where I pimp the Longest Day Ride and endeavour to convince you, my loyal readers,  to sponsor me in this madness. 

I’m sure many of you think of Arthritis as an old person’s disease, and to some degree you are right. The great majority of people who suffer from this are older. In fact if you are a cyclist and have had a serious injury involving bone or joint damage you can look forward to having it in your future. I have it already thanks to my old knee injury.

However young people, and I’m talking really young people, also suffer from this debilitating disease. When I was little, 6 or 7, we lived in Palmerston, just north of Dunedin. Our neighbours there had a son slightly younger than me, Andrew, and a baby daughter, Melanie. Of course, because Melanie had the same name as me and was a cute blond baby I was very interested in her. Unfortunately when Melanie was 2, just after we arrived, she developed chronic juvenile arthritis.  It was terrible and the memory of what she and her parents went through is still with me. I can clearly see in my mind’s eye her terribly swollen knees and elbows. I can still hear her screaming as her parents carried out the clearly painful exercises of her joints they had to do to ensure she wouldn’t lose mobility. It was really hard for a 7 year old child to understand what caused this pain, but at the time there were ads on TV explaining that arthritis is like having shards of glass in your joints. The image of a bone with sharp spears of glass sticking out of it is what I saw whenever we were at the neighbours playing and Melanie was in a bad way.

We didn’t keep in touch with this family when we moved away, but I can tell you that Melanie Sloan has made a huge success of her life and dedicates much of her time to helping others. I can tell you this because she’s received multiple awards for her courage and caring and the details are all over the interwebs.

Melanie’s story is one of the many reason’s I’m going to push my body through all sorts of pain next Thursday. No matter how bad it gets, and it will get bad, it will be nothing to what Melanie and thousands of other sufferers go through every day. And without the amazing work that Arthritis New Zealand does their quality of life would be severely diminished. So please, if you can spare as little as $5, please go to click the Donate Now button and pledge some money to me, Melanie Dunlop. Or any of the other mad buggers doing this ride. Thanks.

No comments: