11 February 2009

It's Bicycle Repair Man!

I'd nearly made it to the Library this morning when I was stopped by a damsel in distress. She was a young lady (younger than me, anyway) with the improbable combination of a Brompton and a Christiania (right, a Danish-made ice-cream salesman's bike, except that where the Mivvies usually go, you put your child, or dog). Her Christiania's chain had come off; could I help?

I was into Bicycle Repair Man mode instantly. It took me a few minutes - the back-pedal brake meant you could only pedal forwards, restricting your options; plus the chain was metric, and my fingers are imperial - but I managed to ease the chain back on to the rear sprocket.

As an encore I helped her fold up her Brompton. No, I don't know why she was carrying one of those, but at least she wasn't carrying her seven-year-old instead: I know how Bromptons work much better than I do seven-year-olds.

This roadside repair episode worked out more successfully than last time I was hailed from the pavement. On that occasion, it was the author Will Self, by Battersea Park. (I'm actually rather a fan; Great Apes is one of my favourites.) He was scything away at the atmosphere with his pump, which wouldn't fit the valve on his flat tyre, trying to attract help.

I stopped and gave him a quick crash course in Presta and Schraeder fittings, perhaps in more detail than he had in mind. I had the wrong fitting too, but luckily the next cyclist along had the right sort of pump. We fixed up Mr Self's bike and off he went to Television Centre.

He didn't use any words like 'susurrating' or 'ratiocination' in our brief exchange, but I suppose that's the professional-private dichotomy thing. Like famous TV comedians who don't tell jokes when you meet them in Specsavers. Or bankers who don't steal your wallet when you get chatting to them in a pub.

Anyway, the delightful and friendly young lady I helped this morning was rather more grateful and impressed than I deserved. But it was a pleasant little encounter to have on the way to work on a sunny morning. We both went off cheerily, and she even posed for this blog (right). What nice people cyclists are. Well, most of us, anyway. Me, obviously. And her. And you.

My impromptu mechanics meant I got to work looking dishevelled and grubby. Which was lucky, as nobody noticed any difference.


  1. Hooray once again for Bicycle Repairman! Incidentally, according to the link you gave, Christiania Bikes is Danish rather than Dutch. (Christiania is the name of a former hippie neighbourhood there).

  2. Doh! I meant Danish. My fingers unfortunately have an automatically generated response after typing D in any biking context to continue ...U-T-C-H.

    Similarly, I can't type the word 'protest' without it coming out as 'protext' - the name of some PCW word processing software which I typed out about 20 million times when writing an instruction manual.

    I'll correct the entry.

  3. I can only hope that, should disaster befall me whilst on my bike in our fair capital, I too should chance upon one as valiant as you! I feel there should be an ode or similar to Bicycle Repair Man - perhaps we can start a fan-club for you instead. Do you wear tights & a cape?!

  4. Tights and a cape? That's a secret between me and my Biking Partner...

  5. I of course have your old Brompton. And I still can't fold it. Well, not in under ten minutes.

  6. Christiania and Brompton. It is the prefect combination for getting child to school and then self to work.