The Man who fell to asphalt

Ventoux-bound Stenning takes a tumble and continues his search for a Peugeot 504

 They’re off! They’re on the floor and in the path of a large commercial vehicle… This was the nightmare scenario confronting me early Friday afternoon. 

We’d been out for a couple of hours, chasing through the lanes (although I wouldn’t recommend drafting behind a muck spreader) and cantering up the climbs. I was savouring the thought of a nice hot shower and Izzie was crying out for a nice wash and wax (the lanes resemble Paris-Roubaix this time of year).Entering the main roundabout before home, inexplicably the transmission locked solid. Mind racing, I battled to disengage a foot as I felt us tumble in slow motion to the glass spattered asphalt.

Compounding things further, I found myself in the path of a large van. Mercifully the grim reaper had booked annual leave and to the driver’s credit, seeing my swan-song she stopped to offer help.

Having thanked her and scurried to the safety of the underpass, a cursory glance revealed Izzie’s transmission had turned cannibal, shearing through two spokes. I’d checked the track nuts, chain tension and all the sensible stuff before leaving the house and the sprocket teeth weren’t worn. Having run a much loved road bike conversion through my teens I was mindful of snatch from the horizontal drop-outs but never encountered anything quite so dramatic.

Back at StenningTowers, closer inspection revealed Izzie’s wheel considerably weakened and needing six replacement spokes, so it’s back to variable gears until I can get the spares and some quality time on the jig. Which presents the opportunity for a makeover mind...I’ll drop the guards to allow 700X35s, a new 16 tooth sprocket and maybe take this opportunity to pop on a carbon front end. 

Increased confidence can lead oneself into a false sense of security so I’ve dug out the Ventoux simulator DVD, exchanging the soothing background music in favour of the raucous three-chord warbling of Johnny Thunders and Hanoi Rocks (Sensibly whilst everyone else is out) as I grind away on the turbo trainer.

The DVD is fine but only works with variable gears so my MTB based crosser/all rounder has been obliging with it’s 11-19 straight through block and  Hutchinson 1.125 slicks. However, from the front room, there’s always the comfort of knowing you can stop for a few minutes, nip out to the kitchen for more fluids etc which is a luxury the mountain won’t afford me. So discipline and long climbs on the crosser are key here.

I have contacted the Peugeot owner’s club to see if I can find anyone there willing to oblige with a 504. In a different context a couple of years back, someone offered me a 1982 example with an automatic transmission but I’m a little unsure of spares availability and slightly suspicious of anything other than manual transmission.

Before any old school mechanics/coachbuilders start posting comments en mass, I know later petrol models could blow gaskets and tin worm could cheerfully munch through panels (especially in coastal regions) but this was symptomatic of 70’s cars- Lancia anyone?

Andy my intended companion has made email contact and seemed quite concerned I would cajole him into shunning variable gears. Nonsense, I have no such prejudice. It’s often said that we should use the resources around us and I have concluded that small children make ideal resistance training tools and shall be doing a lot more miles with him on his trailer bike- perhaps his love of freewheeling, usually a bit disappointing is an asset in this context!

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