By Mark Buckshon
Longer-term readers know the story of how Robert Merkley hooked me on cycling by encouraging my participation in The Ride, an 117-km cycling experience supporting The Ottawa Hospital’s research.
It is hard for any supplier to say “no” to a customer’s request, especially it is for a good cause, and so I brought out my 30-year-old bicycle for the first experience of long-distance riding a bit more than a decade ago for a gruelling trip to Merrickville (when The Ride was called Ride The Rideau.)
Despite the pain (or perhaps because of it), I enjoyed the healthy impact of cycling and began commuting 10 to 15 km a day from my home to office. After a couple of years, I upgraded to a new $800 hybrid bicycle, increasing my cycling frequency and distance, and graduating to the mis-named “clipless” bicycle shoes.
Then, in 2019, I took the next step forward, purchasing a $4,000 carbon-frame endurance bike and associated gear, and set out on daily 30 to 60 km journeys around the city, and a bicycle tour through Austria, Hungry, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. (The distances weren’t as great as the number of countries might indicate – I was near the border of the four nations, and completed the 300 km journey in six days, hardly an overwhelming travel load.)
Of course, in the pandemic, the bicycle has proven to be perfect for socially-distanced exercise. However, riding so hard, and perhaps with not the best in maintenance, I managed to muck up bicycle’s gear system. This could be a real problem in the COVID-19 era, especially because the wait time for bicycle repairs at major shops can stretch to several weeks.
Fortunately, I had discovered home-garage bicycle mechanic last summer. However, he gave me some bad news when he inspected the bike a couple of weeks ago. “I can make some temporary repairs, but you won’t be able to use all your gears unless you get some new parts – and parts are hard to come by these days,” he said.
I knew that, but together we set out on a sourcing exercise. To find any parts, I needed to upgrade to a higher-end gearing system (cyclists will know the difference between ‘105’ and ‘Ultegra’ — and ended up purchasing stuff online from suppliers in Halifax, Vancouver, southern California and the UK.
After all the parts arrived, I took them to the mechanic, who is working on the job as I write this post.
For a recreational cyclist, the cost might seem daunting, well over $1,000, but the expense is insignificant when you compare it to a major car repair (think of replacing the engine).
The repairs will allow me to participate with some energy in the Ottawa Construction Association’s commemorative Revival RIDE for Cancer Research on Sept. 12. The distance isn’t nearly as long as the original RIDE, but it will still be good to get back to support the original cause and charity that turned me into an avid cyclist. You can register to participate here.