Day 15. Part 2. Why go to London when you've got Croydon! (Sunday 12th October)

October 12th, 2014

..... Suddenly and without warning a massive crack came from the back wheel, I sank about 1inch and the bike broke sharply as the rear wheel dug itself into the bike frame. I lurched forward smashing my chest into the handle bars but managed to stay on and steer the bike away from oncoming traffic, something my back wheel was trying to oppose. Winded, I stood at the side of the road trying to figure out what had happened. It was pitch black so ended up dragging the bike a mile or so up the road to a well lit supermarket carpark. While walking I was trying to figure out what might have happened. If it was tire rim I could easily fix that so I could limp the last 28 miles to Barcelona. In the carpark I took the back wheel off and my heart sank. The axle unit came apart in two, it is actually meant to come apart into two but unfortuneately not without unscrewing the bolts first. This was terminal. The rear axle had split clean in two, the stress and weight had finally taken its toll. I had been wondering through the hardests parts of this challenge what would break first, me or the bike, and now I knew.

Broken wheel

If this was a normal bike with a normal rear axle I could go to a bike shop and quickly get it fixed, on this bike, the axle acts not only as something to make the wheel go around but also as a brake and an intricate gear change. A simple fix was out of the question here and not possible anyway as it would take time to get the part, even if I did, I would need a specialist with these gears to fix it.

Even though I knew it was terminal I kept thinking "maybe if I pushed the bike and cycled slowlydown hills where I could" but had to keep talking myself out of it.  Eventually I accepted reality and decided that there was just one last bodge to be done. The axle was hollow and so I was able to stick a metal screw in it to hold the two parts in line. I could ride the bike a little if need be, but as it would just be the frame clamping the wheel together, cycling too much would likely permanently damage and possibly split the frame. But I could now at least use it like a wheel barrow, an expensive one at that, to get my stuff around. Amazingly though, not a single broken spoke, typical!

I walked back into town and found a train station. I'd missed the last train but found I could take the bike on a train tomorrow for the 1 hour trip to Barcelona... as long as it was after 10am.  Looking at the train map I discovered that maybe I had been lucky if you can see it that way. This was the only town on my route through Spain with a train station and it was right on the end of the suburban line to Barcelona. Any further away or closer to Barcelona would have meant miles of walking. It is in fact what Croydon is to London, a commuter town. As it had gone 11pm, I settled on a bit of damp grass next to the river and collapsed. I laid there feeling what it was, abject failure. To add insult to injury, in the accident I must have hit my gps hard as it's now frozen on the millage that I'd done today.


Exactly 100 miles, and amazingly my odometer was 1000 miles! an omen? I'm concerned I've lost all my route data which will be gutting as I did want to produce a map of my journey. But at over 1000 miles cycled to be this close, just 28 miles to my 2nd target and fail is absolutely gutting. I mean would you be happy if you put lots of effort to go on holiday to London but ended up in Croydon!

But at the momnet I'm stuck in "Croydon" in the dark with a broken bike!

Day 16. Manresa, the new word for failure. (Monday 13th October)

October 13th, 2014

There's nothing more depressing than walking down a hill with a broken bike, hills are meant to be sped down. While taking a morning walk through Manresa to waste a little time before the train, an old old man hobbled over with his walking stick and said, "hey, what's wrong with you, has your bike run out of gasoline!" Such was my upset over not making the final few miles it took me all of my effort not to shove his walking stick down his festering paella stuffing mouth hole. I had to laugh and smile at the loco viejo tonto. But I decided at this point that my new word for failure would be Manresa!


I sat staring at the bike on the train, thinking how I was going to get it back to the UK. On the train the bike became some sort of tourist attraction with people quite rudely waving their hands at me or pushing me to move out of the way so they could take a picture, they didn't even have the manners to even ask.

Bike on a train

I got off the train at the Arc de Triomf (yes they do spell it that way!) and then as an ironic gesture had my picture taken with the bike next to it. I sat in the shade of a palm tree and tried to figure out my next move. l had wanted to spend a couple of days cycling around town, but now I had a 40kg millstone around my neck which I could do little with. I had also planned on taking suburban trains back to Paris and then the Eurostar but this was only possible if I could cycle between small towns to connect with local trains as both Spain and France don't allow bikes on long distance trains. So that focused my options.

Arc de triomf

I had to hire a car, take the bike to bits, shove it in the back and get the ferry from Santander to Portsmouth.  There were only two ferries a week and the only available space was in 2 days time. So that was it... I had to walk 10 miles to the airport to pick up the car as none were available in town and I couldn't realistically safely leave all of my luggage and bike in the centre.

Cathedral Familia

But that's it a sad reflection on the end of what had been an amazing trip, compounding the sad feeling of finishing such a journey. Everything I had travelled with including the bike was now in bits in the back of a Volkswagen golf!

Bike in a car

But I couldn't leave it that way..... but in the meantime, tomorrow was a full days drive through northern Spain to Santander.

Day 18. A ship called dignity. (Wednesday 15th October)

October 15th, 2014

.... In Santander, after spending Day 17 driving from the Spanish Mediterranean to the Atlantic, I was heading to the ferry port carrying the wrapped up heavy bike bits strapped across my shoulders but as I got closer I figured that I had to at least give the bike some dignity.  After all, it did get me just over a thousand miles and through 4 countires including completely across two.  Together we'd also climbed the highest pass in the Pyrenees at over 2,400 meters, not to mention climbs adding up to in total to the height of Mont Blanc plonked on top of Everest and even a little bit more.  So instead of dragging it on the ship in a cycle bag I quickly put it back together and rode the 1920's beast gingerly through customs and onto the ship to the amazement of the many waiting bikers and caravaners. They were clearly not expecting to see a butchers bike wobbling past them....

But that's the end of the trip and it's ending a good 5 days earlier than hoped. A 26 hour ferry journey awaits before hitting the UK and then just another 2 hours to London...... Although that said, I'm not even thinking about the 9 mile walk home from London Waterloo late on tomorrow (Thursday) night and early Friday morning!

Bikes last stand