Day 15. Part 2. Why go to London when you’ve got Croydon! (Sunday 12th October)

….. Suddenly and without warning a massive crack came from the back wheel, I sank about 1inch and the bike broke sharply as the rear wheel dug itself into the bike frame. I lurched forward smashing my chest into the handle bars but managed to stay on and steer the bike away from oncoming traffic, something my back wheel was trying to oppose. Winded, I stood at the side of the road trying to figure out what had happened. It was pitch black so ended up dragging the bike a mile or so up the road to a well lit supermarket carpark. While walking I was trying to figure out what might have happened. If it was tire rim I could easily fix that so I could limp the last 28 miles to Barcelona. In the carpark I took the back wheel off and my heart sank. The axle unit came apart in two, it is actually meant to come apart into two but unfortuneately not without unscrewing the bolts first. This was terminal. The rear axle had split clean in two, the stress and weight had finally taken its toll. I had been wondering through the hardests parts of this challenge what would break first, me or the bike, and now I knew.

If this was a normal bike with a normal rear axle I could go to a bike shop and quickly get it fixed, on this bike, the axle acts not only as something to make the wheel go around but also as a brake and an intricate gear change. A simple fix was out of the question here and not possible anyway as it would take time to get the part, even if I did, I would need a specialist with these gears to fix it.

Even though I knew it was terminal I kept thinking “maybe if I pushed the bike and cycled slowlydown hills where I could” but had to keep talking myself out of it. Eventually I accepted reality and decided that there was just one last bodge to be done. The axle was hollow and so I was able to stick a metal screw in it to hold the two parts in line. I could ride the bike a little if need be, but as it would just be the frame clamping the wheel together, cycling too much would likely permanently damage and possibly split the frame. But I could now at least use it like a wheel barrow, an expensive one at that, to get my stuff around. Amazingly though, not a single broken spoke, typical!

I walked back into town and found a train station. I’d missed the last train but found I could take the bike on a train tomorrow for the 1 hour trip to Barcelona… as long as it was after 10am. Looking at the train map I discovered that maybe I had been lucky if you can see it that way. This was the only town on my route through Spain with a train station and it was right on the end of the suburban line to Barcelona. Any further away or closer to Barcelona would have meant miles of walking. It is in fact what Croydon is to London, a commuter town. As it had gone 11pm, I settled on a bit of damp grass next to the river and collapsed. I laid there feeling what it was, abject failure. To add insult to injury, in the accident I must have hit my gps hard as it’s now frozen on the millage that I’d done today.

Exactly 100 miles, and amazingly my odometer was 1000 miles! an omen? I’m concerned I’ve lost all my route data which will be gutting as I did want to produce a map of my journey. But at over 1000 miles cycled to be this close, just 28 miles to my 2nd target and fail is absolutely gutting. I mean would you be happy if you put lots of effort to go on holiday to London but ended up in Croydon!

But at the momnet I’m stuck in “Croydon” in the dark with a broken bike!

Day 15. Fifty miles down hill! (Sunday 12th October)

Today Total
Distance 100 miles 1000 miles (1609km)
1008 miles (1622km) including rolling!
Height gain 1367 metres 14215 metres (46637ft)
Calories 3500 38900

It had been raining heavily all night and it was still raining by the time I had to set off. The rain and wind made it feel very cold but I could at least be thankful that the rain had held off for my journey over the peak yesterday. I decided to set myself the challenge of getting to Barcelona in one day, this would be about 140 to 150 miles, 50 to 60 more than I’d managed in a day so far. So heading down from Soldeu, apart from one or two short climbs, it was basically another 10 miles downhill before entering Andorra la Vella, the capital.

As El Pas de la Casa had been full of French tourists stocking up on booze, this place was full of Spanish doing the same. Once you find the old town it does have a bit of charm but the modern shopping centres and boutiques make the place a little tacky and characterless..

So I continued downhill for another 5 miles or so until I reached the Spanish border. The border guards ignored me as I cycled past, so I didn’t stop and cycled straight through while others in cars were being stopped for contraband checks. But that was it, I\’d cycled from London to Spain!

The scenery was stunning as I followed the river down a series of gorges, every now and again there was a short distance of uphill before a town, or over a small hill which felt all the worse for all the downhill, but it had to be said that I’ve never experienced cycling 50 miles downhill and probably won’t again. I took lunch next to a badly drying out reservoir just after Oliana and pondered where to go next.

The problem with heading to Barcelona is that there was another mountain range in the way, although at only 800m (can’t believe I’m saying 800m is “only”), my legs were tired from yesterday but I decided to continue.

I eventually made it to the peak, but the steepness on a couple of occasions had meant I had to push the bike a little. The gears were starting to go funny again and they were noticeably worse so I figured I should be a little cautious. Then it was downhill to the pretty little towns of Solsona and Cardona, then pretty much downhill, with occasional climbs to the industrial town of Manresa.

At his point I’d done 98 miles in the day and figured that as the crow flies I was just 29 miles away from central Barcelona I could push on and be there within three hours although it would be close to 11pm. But cycling from Andorra on Barcelona in one day would be a challenge I could not miss. So I set off again but just as I got 2 miles out of town, disaster……..

For more detail on route click HERE.

(© google maps)