Some five years ago—probably just before I started blogging, as I can’t find anything about it here, and you just know I would—a certain huge cycle shop on Cowley Road tried to sell me the flysheet of a child’s tent, pretending in their sale that it was a multicoloured cycle cover. When I returned it, pointing out its tenty shape and the small triangular logo consisting of a boy and a girl gaily cavorting, they mumbled something about supplier issues.
As you’d expect, I didn’t go back for a long time. Then, a month or so ago, I needed wheel reflectors. the smug coterie of twentysomethings behind the counter at Bike Zone, who chuckle mockingly at anyone who comes in not wearing lycra, considered it beneath their dignity to stock them. Reluctantly, on their guffawing recommendation, I reasoned that anything made out of plastic and with a low profit margin would probably in that warehousey place in east Oxford, and grudgingly crossed its threshold for the first time in years.
Whereupon they sold me four of those long, chunky reflectors that attach to a single spoke with an insertable clip: with the clips all inserted at the till in front of my eyes. I didn’t realise as he did it, but those little pieces of plastic aren’t actually removeable afterwards, even with needle-nosed pliers, and hence all were entirely unuseable, unless perhaps I taped them to my forehead or bum. The money I would be able to get back from them was more than the hassle and cost of my return trip back over to Cowley Road: they, unlike the flysheet, went in the bin.
Yesterday the bolt on my saddle post sheared off. I felt like a fat bastard when I realised what had happened: my saddle became squishily loose for a couple of miles and, when I stopped and wobbled it, detached with a clunk.
I groaned when I realised. Bolts—proper bolts; singly or in lots; in standard, varied, and useful sizes; and made of decent steel—are hard to come by in east-west Oxfordshire since Leigh & Sons uncompeted itself out of business. Gill & Co are still around, but are also only open when everyone’s at work, and are in Oxford city centre (commenter pred: I have not checked Gill & Co’s opening times since the last five times I found them closed). I saw no other choice but to go to a building-supply chain, probably out of town, and suddenly telescoping in distance as I realised I couldn’t really cycle there.
As I was reluctantly hiking out to Wickes today along Botley Road, back by train from a London meeting, I suddenly remembered Warlands, the cycle shop that sells Bromptons and tandems. Surely, I thought, such a shop would be just as bad as Bike Zone: I’d never find something as boring as a bolt there. But it seemed like an awfully long walk to the business parks, or a misery of a bus journey interrupted, a riding of my journey in home chopped off just as I was looking forward to a mug of tea. I decided to give it a try. I went in and held out the two halves of the bolt.
“This might be a bit of a long shot, but I need another one of these-”
“Is that a saddle bolt?”
“Yeah, I was wondering if you had any in stock in this size.”
“Yes, lots. We have to have them in stock, because they keep doing [points] that.”
He disappeared into the back room. I was so pleased—at such a little thing—that on a hunch I hunted for some clip-on wheel reflectors, which they also had. I couldn’t quite believe it, and mentioned to him when he returned with a new bolt that not everywhere stocked them. A brief lesson on the law as it applies to bikeshop owners and to mere bike owners later, I bought some snap-on flourescent bracelets too. It seemed peevish not to.
God bless Warlands. My mother would raise her eyebrow at me for writing that, but that’s another story.