I’ve been fixing bikes for over twenty years. I like to think I’m a reasonably competent bike mechanic. But holy shit. Seven broken tyre levers and the stupid fucking tyre still refuses to go on.
Ok. I’m getting ahead of myself. So this is what happened.
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Knowledge doesn’t produce results, action does. Just knowing how to do something doesn’t guarantee success, especially something as difficult as qualifying for Kona; you have to put in the hours. In this book I share some of the lessons I learnt between being a back-of-the-pack beginner to qualifying for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
I’m doing mechanical support at TriAthy. Apart from Ironman it’s the biggest triathlon in the county. Two thousand athletes, a large proportion of whom are first timers, beginners, newbies, tri virgins. It’s been my favourite event to work at for years.
It’s the same every year. Someone (actually usually it’s about thirty someones) shows up with a bike that’s broken or not safe to race and they’re turned away from transition and end up over with me at mechanical support panicking that they won’t get to do what is usually their first tri.
I get a big buzz from saving someone’s day. I feel like a superhero with an Allen key and a track pump.
Anyway a woman showed up to get a puncture fixed, easy one. So I peeled off her tyre, pulled out the tube, cleaned the tyre and replaced the tube. I started re-fitting the tyre and needed a tyre lever to get the last bit on.
“Man this is tight” I think to myself and then there’s a snap and the levers broken. “Shite” I think. I haven’t done that for a long time. “No problem, I’ve brought eight levers with me” I think to myself.
I grab a second one and start to pull the tyre on and the second one snapped almost as soon as it touched the tyre. “What the fuck?” I reach for a third lever, trying to look all nonchalant and in control like this isn’t at all uncool or incompetent. That one breaks as soon as I start to pull the tyre on. “Jesus holy fuck!?!?”
I do a quick count of the levers. I’ve five left. Plenty.
But that feels a bit like famous last words.
You know that I’m going to tell you that the fourth lever broke. And the fifth. And the sixth. And the seventh.
I’m standing there completely incredulous. Not to mention more than a little embarrassed. I’ve stopped trying to get the stupid motherfucking tyre on the rim and am looking at the wheel unable to believe the amateurish attempt I’ve made at this simplest of bike mechanic jobs. The woman looks at me and sheepishly apologises that she’s taking all of my time while there’s a queue of others waiting.
Did I forget to mention that? Yes, I’ve an audience of people waiting on this supposedly expert mechanic to save their day and make their sick bike well again. I can see in their expressions that their hope and confidence in me might well be misplaced…
I turn to the lady with the tyre from hell and start to explain the situation we find ourselves in.
“Ok…. so…. I’ve broken seven tyre levers”
“I’m sorry” she butts in
“No that’s ok, my fault completely. However the problem is that I only have one tyre lever left and I’m not confident that I’ll have any more luck with this last one than the previous seven. If I try and break it then your day is over. No race”
I wait for that to sink in.
“I can fit a new tyre on for you but that will obviously be more expensive than just a new tube…but at least if you ever have a puncture you will be able to get it on and off yourself. This one? The tyre from Hell? This will break every tyre lever you own..”
So that’s what I did. And fixed another half dozen punctures with my single tyre lever without any more drama.
Some days you’re the aproned, tyre lever wielding superhero, some days you’re the dope who can’t fit a tyre.
Chasing Kona eBook available
From smoker to back of the pack triathlete to the Ironman World Championships.
Read about how I overcame all of the odds and discovered what it would take to get to the Ironman World Championships – my eBook is now available to buy as an eBook on Amazon UK, Amazon US, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes
It is also available as a paperback at Wheelworx.