Saturday, 29 June 2013

Something for your Tool-Bag, Sir?

Dr Matt is at work today (Saturday), in part to find out which of these terms is the most apt self-definition, but mostly to assist with the dissemination of Work Package 4, otherwise known as a First World War digitisation project.  It must be pretty interesting, as he currently doesn't mind being inside, missing both the sun and Phil and Paul offering up such sensible strings of pearls as (on the Corsican Grand Départ breakaway), 'Well, they're just being silly with themselves, really'.

Which brings us to the first point of today's post.  How do you know if your balls are defective?  Well, the answer in most cases is simple:  if 'they are not spherical owing to war.'  They may also be 'in one or more pieces'.  Watch out, too, if they are worn, pitted or split.   Inspect regularly, and oil if necessary to avoid these embarrassments.

Such sage advice comes, as we're sure you know, from that most eminent of bedside reading, the Handbook on Military Bicycles, 1911.  Here it is:

Handbook on Military Bicycles, 1911. This artistic work created by the United Kingdom Government is in the public domain. Image: The British Library,
And here's the page with the useful information on ball-bearing maintenance.

The Handbook was issued to the many soldiers* in the First World War provided with a military bicycle.  The poor sods, must have made NCR4 look like the Regent's Park or an afternoon in LMNH.


*Or, rather, to the bicycle itself.  The handbook was to be kept in the tool-bag, and the person issued with the bike had to record the fact in the log at the rear. The bicycle could then be transferred to someone else, should the need arise... or should the worst happen.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

New Bike Shop in N19

As we all know, the worst thing about dropping your bike off for repairs is now you've got to walk home some kind of schmoe, or uh, y'know, a pedestrian. Yuck.

For the past couple months, therefore, I've been following with interest the "New Bike Shop Coming Soon" sign painted on the windows of a shopfront a mere block or so away from my home, especially since my bike needed some minor "repairs" (about which more in a minute).  Late last week, "Coming Soon" became "Now Open!" and so on Tuesday I stopped in on my way home to drop off my bike for fixing.

As I was discussing with a friend of mine the other day, bike shops can often be like guitar shops: arenas of condescension towards the neophyte, the inexpert, the incorrectly hairstyled. BikeZTube at 118 Junction Road is no such place.  It is, pretty simply, the friendliest bike shop I've ever been in.  I was greeted by the husband-wife team that runs the place (I'm assuming here).  They were, understandably, after being open only a few days, happy to see me.  I told them the things that were wrong with my bike (again, more on that below), they confirmed what I wanted done and then, Mrs BikeZTube adopted a look of seriousness/minor horror.  "You'll have to leave your bike here, though," she said, possibly bracing for outrage and anger.  It was a little after 4pm.  I laughed and told her that made sense, unless they wanted to come over to my house to do the repairs.  She said it'd be ready the next day, but I explained Thursday was soon enough since I had to be at work early and until late on Wednesday.  "Lucky you," she said.  I told them I'd been looking forward to the shop opening for a while, because I'd been waiting to get these repairs done there; Mr. BikeZTube (whose English was limited, and whose beard was impressive, and whose enthusiasm and general charm I would rate in the upper reaches) lamented that it'd been a long two months.

Anyway, my bike needed some new rear brake shoes because something had gone wrong with the old ones.  I'm surprised they didn't rub my tire into oblivion.  Also, for quite some time now, my handlebars and brake levers have been screwed up, and the bar tape has been unraveling because it was too loosely wrapped.  Basically, when I bought my beloved Kona Paddy Wagon the shop where I bought it did a crap job of putting it together; due to both my own and various friends' past experiences with this shop, I decided I wouldn't take it there. 

Today I picked up my bike from my new neighbors, all newly repaired.  I was happy to be in the shop again (they also had a dog in there today, a Scottish Terrier), and I was happy to chat to the owners again.  They took the time to explain exactly what they'd done, and also that though I hadn't asked (in fact, I'd forgotten to ask, because I wanted it done) they'd also adjusted the handlebars to a better riding position.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is good service.

BikeZTube is at 118 Junction Road, N19 5LB.  They've got a great (I hope) location, on a main commuter route.  They've got a great attitude.  They've got a tiny shop, packed with bikes (I didn't, to be honest, check out the selection, but it is at a glance a family/casual/commuter cyclist oriented place) and packed with accessories (lights, tubes, etc., standard fare).  It's nice to go to a shop to get a bike fixed and come out feeling that you've made a great find.