For the past week we have been following the Ginstleden cycle path, or rather, attempting to. There are only a few sporadic signs for the Ginstleden; small black plaques that pop up on lampposts or signposts every now and then reaffirming that for that moment at least, we are on the right trail! The rest of the time we follow our own route on maps.me, road or cycle signs to the next town or village in the direction we want to go (south) or the Kattlegattleden.
The Kattlegattleden is another national cycle trail that follows the west coastline of Sweden from north to south. It is beautiful, incredibly well signposted and took us always on small country lanes and cycle paths. However, for every 10km we planned to cycle, we did another 10km in extra detours through pretty villages or to avoid a couple of kilometres on a road with no cycle path. So, we decided that rather than commit to any one route, we would pick and choose as we liked, taking long winding detours when the skies were blue and the shortest most direct route when we were fighting the wind.
Our final day before a bed indoors and a shower (arranged through Warm Showers) dawned with beautiful clear skies and, even better, a slight tailwind. This was good as we had a long way to go to make our destination that night, having stopped early due to a strong headwind and hail showers the evening before. Warm showers hosts are wonderful, and make our journey so much better, with kindness, hospitality and of course, a warm, dry place to rest our heads. However, it also means that we commit to being in a certain place on a certain day, so we set off with the road stretching out before us, snacks in our pockets and determination on our faces.
Monty, my bike, was of course, having none of it!
After the first couple of kilometres, my front brakes, that I had so carefully replaced the pads on just a few days before, were rattling and rubbing on my disc. We stopped, adjusted them, but for some reason could not make the noise disappear. In fact when we continued riding we seemed to make it worse.
At the next town we had to stop to buy bread anyway, so in Netto car park, sheltered behind the wall and with the sun on our faces, we looked a little closer. The new brake pad did not seem to be sitting as it should, moving as the wheel moved instead of staying stationary. Arron swapped the new ones for the old ones, wondering if we had the wrong size. But that didn’t work. We were now even more puzzled.
On closer inspection, it seems that the spring inside the brake calliper itself had sprung loose, and as a result, was not holding the brake pads tightly where they should be. It is hard to explain (especially for me who really has no idea about this stuff and is learning all the time!) The long and short of it, the calliper was broken and needed replacing.
No worries, we thought. We have spare brakes in our bags. I had swapped the hydraulic brakes my bike had come with for mechanical ones back in Hong Kong after tales of hydraulic brakes failing in cold weather, and we had carried the hydraulic ones with us as a back up ever since.
We unscrewed the calliper and as the screw fell out, the thread did too.
Arron swore and held his head in his hands. “This is not good, Laura.” He said. He tried to screw the new calliper on, but the bolt would not bite.
Now I had no front brake at all!
Arron took it harder than me. He was psyched for a hard day of cycling (which in truth, I wasn’t) and this ruined our chances of making it to Maggi’s house, our host for the night.
Grinning, I just said, “No worries, worst case scenario I’ll just ride home with no front brakes.” Filled with some new determination from somewhere, I continued, “I’m not giving up now!”
Arron, as always, came up with a theory. “We may be able to get someone in a bike shop to drill it out and rethread it with a tap and die.” So, we searched our maps for the nearest bike shop and headed that direction.
I walked into the gloomy basement shop and immediately loved it. It was cluttered with bikes, repaired or waiting to be repaired and bits of bike all over the floor and the walls and every available surface. It was chaos.
A portly man came to the counter and we began to chat. He took a look at Monty and exclaimed, “How did you manage this?! Bike designers are not stupid you know, they design these things very carefully so that this sort of thing doesn’t happen! What did you do?!”
“Erm… I don’t know…” I replied sheepishly. (I neglected to mention that until an hour ago it was that bolt that had not only secured my brakes, but also my makeshift front pannier…suffice to say I no longer have a front pannier!)
Despite being ridiculously busy, Saffa, as I later found out he was called, agreed to do exactly as Arron had proposed. “But you have to understand it is at your own risk.” He said, cautioning us that it might not work. “But don’t think about it too much,” he continued, “You don’t have a choice anyway, and most Swedish bike shops would just tell you you have to replace the fork. They won’t even try this.” I believed this short, smiling Iraqi man who looked me straight in the eye as he spoke.
For the next hour we hovered nervously in his workshop, watching as he carefully drilled out the bolt hole and rethreaded a new one, chatting to us the entire time. He was interested in our journey and about living in Hong Kong. He laughed when we told him how cramped living conditions are in Hong Kong and told us that we should buy property in Egypt because it was so cheap. In the end, he succeeded and handed me my bicycle back with fully functioning front brakes again. I was over the moon! 🙂
We didn’t make it to our host’s house that night, but we stole some internet from a nearby mall and managed to email her. Maggi replied saying it was no problem at all, being a cycle tourer herself she totally understood the mishaps on the way, and we were welcome any time.
Turns out, Maggi is yet another total legend from Warm Showers and we are now enjoying a day off in her lovely home, enjoying the warmth and a brilliant cup of coffee. Thanks Saffa for fixing my bike and Thanks Maggi for being a wonderful host 🙂