After a great bouldering session at the Biscuit Factory on the first Sunday since I bought the Ten, my wife calls me to say that she and her friends are waiting for me on the South Bank for a late lunch. I hasten to please and jump on the Ten.
Before Waterloo roundabout I turn right onto Cornwall Road, which leads me to Upper Ground. I’m doing 15-20 mph and turn into the 90 degree curve. And there, I start losing the back, then the front wobbles badly, and I end up low-siding. W-T-F!?
A few pedestrians stop as I lay, clueless, on the road next to my smoking Ten. ‘Are you all right?’ A car parks nearby and the driver helps me prop the bike up. Thanks guys, by the way.
For a while, the only thing that comes to mind is McEnroe. I can’t process information. All I can think of is John’s ‘you can NOT be serious!’. But there’s no umpire in sight, and actually all I can think of is more like ‘you can NOT be FUCKING serious!’.
I’m fine. I don’t have a scratch. My leather jacket is spotless. My jeans and gloves are smeared with some of the kind of kitchen grease that cause my crash, but apart from that they’re as new. Even my helmet is squeeky clean.
Sadly, as much can’t be said about my Rambo bike. The fucker is leaking cooling liquid, various parts of its left side are scarred, and the clutch lever and cable have snapped. The gear lever is also bent. A 15-20 mph low-side on a giant oil-covered frying pan and the rugged adventurer is good for the count? COME ON MAN! You can NOT be FUCKING serious!?!
I’m trying to be clever and think rationally: I was going too fast in that corner, I didn’t look enough at the road itself, etc… But, basically, all my brain screams at me in the background is: WHAT KIND OF RAMBO BIKE IS THIS SHIT?!
Being as mechanically-minded as a bar of camomille soap, I diagnose that the bike is dead. Rambo done for by a fall at jogging speed in the London jungle. So much for Laos then. Luckily for me though, I am lucid enough to call Fabrice, a friend who can do more with his fingers than type on a keyboard and pick bogies in his nose.
The man is resting at home on this cold Sunday afternoon, miles away in Orpington, and yet he insists on coming with his trailer. Being a nice man, I let him.
I still think the Ten is dead and buried when he arrives. But then he looks around, moves this and that, pulls here and there. Before I know it he has bent the gear lever back into shape and put the bike in neutral, which allows us to move it away from the side of the road, where it had been propped up.
He’s only been here a few minutes, yet he’s already worked out that the leak was not a leak, but an overflow of the cooling system in case the bike is on its side (well, at least THAT worked). I hadn’t noticed that it had stopped leaking a while ago. That’s a relief, I tell him.
I was half-expecting him to then go on to explain that the snapped clutch lever and cable just needed a bit of oil and virgin’s wee to get back to normal, but unfortunately he confirms he’s not superman after all, and that I can’t ride it as if nothing had happened. The bike won’t go nowhere. I’m that close to telling him he’s disappointed me greatly. But hey, he’s a nice guy.
We push the Ten in his trailer, and away he goes with the only half-broken Rambo.
The next day I hunt for replacement parts, which I finally find at the dealer where I’d tested the Ten a year ago, and take the train to Orpington. It feels weird to use public transports again. Bus, Tube, train – yuk! Actually, it’s not that bad. Maybe even a bit better than I remembered.
After lunch at Pizza Express, we set to work, and for the first time in my life, and most probably my previous lives too, I do something mechanical. My hands get dirty with greasy stuff, grey with whatever is grey in and around cables and levers and engines, and after two hours of fiddling around, de-bolting and bolting back, pulling and twisting and squeezing, my Ten’s as new.
Fabrice even insists on polishing and spray-painting the scratched areas of the bike, despite my protestations that Rambo wears his battle scars and wounds on his sleeve. I’d never imagined Rambo at a cosmetic surgeon’s, but strangely he doesn’t point his machine-gun at Fabrice’s head, so once again I let the surgeon operate.
And this is how, proud as a peacock, I ride into the sunset, back to London.
I promise myself to start the process of getting Fabrice canonised the next day.