In which an ageing climber comes to terms with life closer to the ground.


Up the Guadiana without a freewheel

Filed under: — Mike Chapman @ 10:08 pm

Serpa – Pulo do Lobo – Serpa 40Km Av 59% Av 17.00 Km/Hr

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Praca da Rebublica – Serpa Portugal

I went out at first light to take some photographs and find breakfast. I found a Café with locals who were sat down and eating – a good sign!

The photographs

I Ordered a Carricoco (expresso with extra water) pointed at what everyone else was eating (found out later it was toast with a lot of salty butter and called toasta). As I sipped my coffee I had to admit to mentally patting myself on the back for finding a cheap bed and a good breakfast venue at a combined cost of 22.5 Euros and without the ensuite it would have been 5 Euros cheaper.

A nice blue sky and the wind had dropped; I was set up for a great day. When I got on the bike I turned the pedals and my feet spun around but the gears did not engage. The freewheel had died. I Went around the block pushing and hoping for a miracle, nothing.

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I walked back and asked for a bike shop. It happened to be opposite the house where I had stayed the night, a hole in the wall that mended mopeds and cycles, I was not hopeful of finding a Shimano 9 speed freewheel. The owner of the house I had stayed at arrived and ran me down to a bike shop in his car to the new town. We left my bike minus back wheel in the street. At the second shop the owner managed to take it to pieces and spray a lot of WD40 to no effect. The situation got worse. When we got out to the car my friend realized he had locked the keys in the car. We walked back to the house for the spare keys and walked back to the car a thirty min walk. He, we never did exchange names, then ran me down to the bus station.

The bus left for Beja, the large town, in an hour and a half. I bought a ticket and paced up and down outside when I looked at my watch five minutes had passed. At this point I realized a proactive approach was required. Fortuitously a taxi arrived; I wandered over and explained the deal without language. The wheel is broken’ take me to Beja, get the wheel mended and run me back how much? His price was 30 Euros for a forty mile drive and as I expected a tour of the bike shops. At this point he did a Michael Jackson impression placing a hand on his private parts and then laughing a lot. I found this worrying at first but then realized that he was telling me that he had been cycling when his freewheel had failed and he damaged himself on the crossbar.

The drive to Beja was fast and dangerous though I felt reassured as he never put his seat belt on, I did. We went to the shop and the owner took one look at my wheel and shook his head. The taxi drive looked unhappy. It took 15 mins and three stops to ask for directions before we arrived at a cycle shop that looked promising. A look on the internet and a couple of manuals and he found a freewheel that should do the job, half an hour later the job was done. We repeated the dangerous journey back to Serpa. I was out cycling by 2:00pm a short trip to the Guadiana and back.

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