On Sunday morning I woke up, poured a coffee and stretched myself into the day with half an hour of yoga. The night before, Arron had shared his worries about going back to the UK so soon, with no job or plan to jump into. I could totally understand. Just a few weeks ago I had felt the same. Before we had even left Hong Kong I had told him that I didn’t want to rush home for those very reasons.
I encouraged him to think of other things he could, would or wanted to do. Nevertheless it shocked me when he told me on that quiet Sunday morning that he had decided to cycle home from St Petersburg without me. Of course, this had always been a possibility, but after my bicycle broke, he quickly decided to fly home from Moscow, taking both our bikes back to the UK with him. After that, I decided I would continue my journey overland by foot, perhaps catching the odd ride along the way.
Suddenly he had not only changed his own plans, but he had, inadvertently changed mine too. My plan to walk home from St Petersburg had only developed when he had offered to take my bike home. Now this was not possible, and posting it would cost significantly more than the bike was worth.
“Don’t worry though,” he reassured me, “It’s a totally different trip.”
Of course, he was trying to be kind, as he always is, but I was upset. Not only had he changed my new plans, but he was now talking about the exact route we had planned to cycle together as if it was a journey through a place I had never heard of. It was a hard pill to swallow, and I confess, it didn’t go down well.
Thankfully, that same day, Harry, an ex-housemate from my days in York, and bicycle expert, messaged me. He suggested P clips – a way to attach pannier racks without bolts. Later, my Dad and sister, Fi, both suggested more alternatives that we hadn’t thought of earlier. Suddenly, the situation that had seemed hopeless when we left Almaty was injected with new vision and new hope.
After a long chat, some space and some tears, Arron and I decided to return to Almaty together to try once more to fix my bicycle’s pannier rack. If we succeeded, we would get a train to Saint Petersburg together and continue cycling home from there. If we were unable to fix my bike, we would split in Almaty; I would walk and hitchhike home and he would cycle.
The two day journey back to Almaty was tiresome but undoubtedly beneficial. We had, since Sunday, lost the sense of team that had kept us glued together until then. Our many bus rides allowed us a little bit of time to rebuild this fragile but essential element to the future success of this revised cycling trip together.
The first bike shop we tried in Almaty was well stocked with almost every bike part and gear we could imagine; except the p clips or a quick release mount pannier racks, the only we were looking for.
I had a good feeling about the second one, named “Crank Master”, as we cycled across town to find it. On arrival however, I was somewhat disappointed by its back alley location and shabby outward appearance. It looked unlikely that a tiny shop such as this would sell anything we wanted.
Thankfully, my first impressions were wrong and we left happy customers with a brand new p clip pannier rack.
This rack mounts onto the frame with two clamps instead of the bolt holes near the rear mech. It still uses the bolt holes behind the seat post, but, thankfully, they remained intact on my bike.
I spent two hours this morning trying to fix my new pannier rack onto my bicycle as carefully as possible. Knowing that it was probably because the last one had been overloaded that the bolt had sheared, I carefully adjusted and readjusted my new one until it put the least amount of tension onto each connecting point on the bike. Arron watched and helped as I tried to make it perfect.
I was tightening up the final screw in the bolt behind the seat post, chatting to Arron as he held my bike steady. We were laughing and teasing each other, the team spirit back in full force, both excited that this new rack meant new life for our trip.
Suddenly, the bolt I was tightening snapped and fell into my hand.
I was gutted.
The shock that the same thing happened again hit me hard and I burst into tears. Arron instead appreciated the irony of the situation and, despite his best efforts to suppress them, burst into giggles.
Luckily he came and gave me a hug, smiled and just said “At least we know how to fix it this time.”
So, despite another bolt stuck inside my frame, we have successfully managed to mount a new pannier rack onto my bicycle. It is not yet perfect, but with our new plan we still have time in Almaty to fix it, as well as buy some studded winter tyres and (hopefully) some front panniers.
All being well, we will set off from Saint Petersburg in the middle of March, and cycle home through Scandinavia from there. Wish us luck! 🙂