Nothing unusual about my saddle being nicked, except for the fact that it left me with a predicament regarding how to get home. My improvised technique became the unusual bit as I rode for about a mile ‘a la Contador’, standing up on the pedals as if I were about to attack Andy Schleck on the slopes of the Tourmalet.
The reality, of course, was rather different. Far from being in a race-winning position in the Pyrenees, I was actually weaving my way through bus lanes towards London Bridge. And there, my legs gave way, and I gave up. I took a train for the rest of my journey home, gazing sadly at my denatured bike: not so much Sleepless in Seattle, as Seatless in South East London.
I’d left my bike chained up outside Liverpool Street station in the city of London, as I was taking a train to Stansted, and then a plane to Cork, returning the same day, and taking the train back to London. It was only when I got close to Liverpool Street that I somehow knew my luck had run out.
Deep in my waters, I sensed that my bike would no longer be quite, how can I put it, complete, on my return. And so it proved. As I approached the bike, I spotted it a mile off. The seatpost had been stolen too, allowing the unnatural opening of the frame to stare mutely upwards at the towering edifices of the city’s skyscrapers, like the mouth of a goldfish coming up for air.
Anyway, getting my bike back up and running was an imperative. It’s my everyday means of transport. Off I went, first thing the following morning, to get a saddle (I am, as I have previously documented, rather wedded to Brooks leather constructions).
Picking a new, somewhat pricey slice of tempered cow’s skin stretched over a metal frame on springs, and inwardly sighing at the amount of hours of buttock-to-saddle pummelling that would now be required to get anything close to the levels of comfort I had previously taken for granted, I suddenly remembered I needed a seatpost. And that’s when it all went wrong, as it frequently does with me and bikes.
You see, I consistently underestimate the cycling industry’s ability to over-complicate, frustrate and annoy. Having never before bought a seatpost, I made the heinous mistake of assuming that THEY WERE ALL THE SAME SIZE.
I picked one up, on whose packaging was scribbled something about being 300mm. But at no point did it declare anything useful, like: “This probably won’t fit your stupid bike, because we make everything slightly different and incompatible, and we expect you to know the difference.”
All of which is a long-winded way of saying that the bloody thing was too fat for my frame.
I only found out later that day when I got it home and tried to wedge it in. That prompted me to rain down profanities on the entire world of cycling, and ride my injured bike, once again ‘a la Contador’, down to my mate Mark’s bike shop at the end of the road, where I should have gone in the first place.
“You’re an idiot,” Mark told me, not for the first time, when I explained my problem. He then showed me a tool he uses to calibrate tube width, which has an almost infinite number of variables. Not just the one standard size, then. Obviously.
Ascertaining that mine was a 27.5 or something boringly precise sounding, he rummaged around in his drawers full of bits of dead bikes and produced a violently ugly second-hand seatpost. A bright white one. For my dark blue bike.
Normally, the response would be, “Nah, I’ll get a black one, thanks.” But these were not normal times.
“I’ll take it,” I said, without hesitation. “Thanks Mark.”
“But it’ll look a bit…”
“I’ll take it.”
So I rode back, this time with my arse planted on a brand new brown saddle, supported by a white seatpost on a blue bike, flicking imaginary V-signs at all the imaginary cycling purists who would have been horrified at the sight of my Frankenstein creation.
But the broader point of my outrageous colour-clash is this: sod cycling and its snobbery; sod its over-complication, its jargon and its self-importance; sod the fact that I always get everything wrong; oh, and sod the sods who nicked my saddle, which started everything unravelling in the first place.