Monday, 10 June 2013

Cycling home from work, a huge hill, an even larger bill...and some bacon sandwiches

My bike, I noticed last week, had a buckled rear wheel to go with it's non-existent rear brake and, I discovered last Thursday morning, a slow puncture. In fact, where punctures are concerned, it's been a bad few days for the old Kona. If you recall, last week I had a puncture on Sanderstead Green. Well, it was the same puncture that I'd fixed God knows how many times, first on Green, then back home (twice if I recall) and then, when I went outside last Thursday, the tyre was flat. What a disaster.

The bike needed repairing as the buckled wheel was proving difficult to ride so I pumped up the tyre, hoping it would be a slow puncture (it was) and rode to the railway station en route to Redhill.

In the bike shop (C&N Cycles in Redhill) I went through what needed to be done: rear brake, buckled rear wheel, new rear tyre and inner tube, pump up the front forks and that was that. "That'll be £85!" Well, that's not too bad, I thought, leaving the bike in the care of the shop and heading for work.

Costly repair bill
I was hoping I'd get it back the same day, but it wasn't to be (it never is). Why wasn't it ready? Well, that rear brake, that's why not. "It's completely gone. You're going to need a whole new brake," said the man in the shop. How much? Well there were three choices: £60, £80 and £90.

"What would you choose?" I asked the man.
"The £60 system, but we've got none in stock for a couple of weeks."
"Oh, what about the £80 brakes?"
"No, we don't have them in stock either."
"The £90?"
"Yes, we have them."

Well of course he had the MOST expensive ones in stock and not the others, but I had no choice. I wasn't going to miss cycling for the best part of a month so I told him to go ahead and do it, which he did, and on Friday evening I picked up the bike and rode home...after paying £180!

I figured I could have bought a newish bike for that amount of money, with traditional block brakes – you know, the ones that screech and don't stop when it's raining. But still, at least I wouldn't have a huge bill. I saw a Ridgeback hybrid for £269, it had more gears than mine and, well, I thought it was probably a better bet than the old Kona. But then I figured that getting rid of the Scrap would be the end of era and, besides, it's still a cool bike and I'm rather attached to it. It took me a couple of days to work all this out, and it still niggles a bit.

Rip-off merchants in greedy Britain
What niggles more, however, is the thought that I might have been ripped off. How was I to know that the bike needed a whole new braking system? I was under the impression that it simply needed bleeding. I knew that the rear brake worked, for example, if I pumped it, and the guy in the shop told me that it probably only needed bleeding when I mentioned it to him some months ago. But no, it needs an entire new braking system – or does it?

It seems that these days everybody's a wide boy, trying to rip somebody off just to make a few bob. But when a bike repair shop, supposedly of some repute, says you need a new rear braking system, what do you do? Say "no I don't"? Well you can only do that if you're an expert bike fixer, which I'm not, so you're left with the choice of getting it done or not and if you take the latter route, well, you end up paying for a half-finished bike as they're bound to charge for labour and, of course, everything else they've done.

What really annoys me about this is that, whenever I take my bike (or myself) into be repaired (and by me, I mean when I visit the dentist – another rip-off merchant) there's always something to be done. Sticking with the bike, if I took it in and said, "can you fix the nut on my front wheel?" you can bet that when I returned to pick it up or ask how things are going, they will say something like, "it's fine, but you're going to need a new X or a new Y because the X has gone..." or words to that effect. Nothing is ever clear cut.

Cycling home from Redhill
So I headed off home from Redhill during rush hour and didn't really fancy the A23. Instead I branched off into Frenches Road and took a quieter route to Merstham before hitting the countryside and some nasty hills.

The people in the bike shop had extended the saddle, giving the bike a whole new riding sensation. I found that I could tackle major hills with ease – or more ease than normal – and it was great. I rode through the housing estate in Merstham, which wasn't that bad; there was plenty of green space for a start and let's face it, everywhere looks good when the sun is shining. All day it had been grey and rainy, but as the afternoon wore on the sun began to shine.

I turned left into Warwick Wold Road and powered my way towards Springbottom Lane, familiar territory from earlier rides to Merstham via The Enterdent. I rode the length of Springbottom and then turned left on to White Hill Lane, a major hill, worse than most of the others we'd tackled, including Titsey, and then found myself in Chaldon, near Caterham. Fairgrounds were in full swing (it was a Friday evening) as I hit Caterham and called Andy for the quickest route to my house.

Down Banstead Road, past Auckland Road, home of our mate Dave and then across the road, into (I think?) Burntwood Lane and then left on to Whyteleafe hill. I headed towards the Whyteleafe Tavern, crossed the mini roundabout and prepared myself for Tithepit Shaw Lane, a major hill. I managed it with ease and then cycled on past Warlingham School and into Wentworth Way before turning left again on to the Limpsfield Road, very familiar territory. Sanderstead beckoned. First Waitrose appeared and then the High Street and soon I was on the Green, crossing through the churchyard and the Addington Road and into Church Way.

I reached home before 7pm before everybody else and I felt energised enough to make dinner. It was a good ride and one I must do again some day soon.

Bacon sandwiches
Saturday was not so good. I reached Warlingham Green and then got a double puncture, a carbon copy of what happened last week. But there were bacon sandwiches, courtesy of Phil, and because Andy wasn't there, we were forced to eat his too. Phil agreed to ride back, pick up his estate car and give me a lift home. Sunday, with the big fixed – I left the wheel off the bike over night just in case it went down again (it went down twice on Saturday afternoon). Prepared at 6am to make an 'abort' text, I trudged out to the garage and found the tyre as solid as a rock. Phil was there at 6.30am and we set off first to Warlingham Green to meet Andy and then headed for the Tatsfield Churchyard. In total about 30 miles of riding.

Photos to come.


  1. It is difficult to find workshops with integrity. Its a trust thing. Many start that way but greed generally takes over. I never understood why a cannondale costs $5000.00 Aus dollars here, yet the same bike in the USa is $2000.00. At the time when Aus dollar was the same as the us dollar! Its called "rip off"

  2. ...and I reckon a Cannondale here in the UK would be cheaper too. That sounds like a real rip-off! Mind you, it's rip off world over here in the UK. I've just had a right royal row with my bank and it's general incompetence, but it's all based, ultimately, on greed. Hope all's well out there in Australia. Here the sun is shining (at last), but probably not for long.