Saturday, August 13, 2011

It's a single-speed! No, it's broken! No, it's fixed and fully functioning!

We decided to spend Thursday in Kantalahti getting Taina's bike back together and giving Leka, Laura and Taina a chance to rest a bit after their marathon cycling the previous evening (even though they all claimed they weren't at all tired).

Leka had come up with the idea of converting the bike into a single-speed in order to avoid overstraining the damaged parts, and first thing in the morning he ran downstairs to see if his theory worked. He naturally got thrown out of the hotel lobby by a stern woman who pointed out that this was indeed a shopping center and not a bike repair shop. This far we hadn't noticed any signs of any shopping going on in the hotel, but Leka obeyed and moved his equipment outdoors.

The single-speed plan seemed to be going well at first, with the chain rolling nicely around. Taina took the bike out for a short spin and everything seemed to be fine, so it was decided that we'd have something to eat and she'd do a longer test ride later.

Unfortunately Taina returned in the afternoon from her test drive with a sad face: the chain had been jumping all over the place and finally gotten stuck. Leka decided to change it to a lower gear to get it straightened up, but it just wouldn't work, the chain was either too tight or too loose.

As the evening was getting later we started seeing some concerned faces and bus and train timetables from Kantalahti to Murmansk were brought up in the discussion. Buying a new bike would've been hideously expensive and would've left us with the problem of finding a safe transport for Taina's bike that could be easily fixed in Finland with the correct tools and spare parts. Someone would have to drop out of the group and travel home with the bike as luggage.

At this point a Russian man who also was staying in the hotel showed up and started talking to Lina in an endless monologue in Russian. The rest of us had no idea what he was saying and Kaisa even suspected him to be one of these obnoxious men who always think they know everything a bit better than everyone else and was giving Lina advice on how to use her camera. But it turned out that he was the exact opposite: a true friend in need, not looking out to somehow benefit from the tourists' despair but just genuinely wanting to help.

As it turned out the man happened to know a bike mechanic in nearby Apatit, and was willing to take Lina there with the bike, let her stay at his place and return both Lina and the bike to Kantalahti in the morning. It also turned out that the mechanic was specialized in road bikes, and on top of it all the man's own son was competing with road bikes. And he himself had been driving the service vehicle in countless cycling competitions. So this truly was a person who knew what he was doing.

We waved Lina off a little nervously, begging her to call as soon as she had any news. And at 2.30 AM the phone did ring. The bike had been fully fixed, the twisted part forced back into shape and everything put together - with a warning not to crash the bike again or the derailleur might snap off entirely. Leka rushed to give the good news to Taina, and we couldn't wait for the morning to come and the bike to arrive.

And so came the morning, and the bike, and it was perfect, changing a smoothly as ever, and decorated with a sticker from Olympic bike repair. So people, if you ever find yourself in need of a bike mechanic anywhere near Apatit, this is the place to go!