Sleepless in Mondello II

Sleepless in Mondello II

Part II: Running out of hours

Six hours earlier, on the start-line of Mondello 24, photos taken, we lined-up Le Mans style, admittedly with a few butterflies testing my tummy, and waited for the countdown.  Unlike last year’s race, when I set out to win the start, this time I knew I would plod across the tarmac, sit-up on a bike that was 112 years old, and follow the crowd.

The groups formed very quickly, and they moved quickly too.  I had fitted a 3-speed to the Alcyon because Mondello is not as a flat as you think, and found I was shifting gears more often than I expected. More often than the hub gear was expecting too, and it started to grumble with an odd slip here and there.  As the first hour neared completion it was really complaining, and I was glad to make my first trip to the pits.

Fellow competitor, Declan Fitzgerald from Bandon CC, had brought his two obliging daughters Kit and Mel to assist and they helped me with the first of the many bike changes.  I had left cable ties and snips to remove and reaffix the transponder to the front fork. I changed my Garmin too.  My list had said ‘eat banana’, so I did that too.

Up next was a 1920’s Dilecta la Blanc.  This bikes sports ‘Super-Champion’ gears. The chain is adjusted by pulling a brass lever and over-shifting a long fork through which the chain moves. Every time I changed one of the 3 gears, the people behind me thought I was suffering a mechanical with the crunch of cogs and chain.  The key to this bike was to find a gear it was happy with and not scare the bejaysus out of my comrades.

Next up was a 1937 single speed Claud Butler. A beautiful bike, it had competed in the event last year under Tony Mulcahy.  Tony kept telling me 46×17 was fine, and I kept telling him it wasn’t enough. Luckily enough Tony was right, and I didn’t have time to prove myself wrong.

Following that was one of the most comfortable bikes.  My 1940’s Holdsworth, somewhat upgraded with derailleur gears  and bar end levers.  This bike sports mudguards as it’s my winter ride.  It would have been helpful to have mudguards last year so I thought a bike with them on this year may just prove beneficial and make me the envy of the 24 hour company.

I was disappointed to find a mechanical with my 1955 Raleigh Record Ace.  I’m sure I sometime said, “I must tighten that left hand crank” and it explains why I had left the dust-cap off as a mechanical mnemonic, but there I was with 2 revolutions on the left to every-one on the right and the pit lane couldn’t come quick enough. 

This was to be my first departure from the list, and happily, because of the list, I was happy with it and with me. I knew exactly how far I was going to depart from my plan.

I knew what I was going to change on to and I was not going to phased by this. Anyway, I was soon going to be riding one of my favourite bikes, the Shay Elliott Helyett Spéciale. Everything I want to say about this bike has been said here.

Then I cruised in for my first scheduled rest. Some ZZZzzs after my Beef Stroganoff and putting the cork back in the bottle I set out on bike 7 at 7:30; the crowd pleaser, the Moulton Mondello 24.  The Moulton followed me home shortly before the race, and I had suggested to Oisín we christen it Mondello.   Moultons do have form when it comes to long distance records (not that I would be setting any).  With its small wheels, heavy frame and unusual looks, I knew it had to come to Kildare with me.  Oh the smirks, the guffaws, the stares, the glares.  This bike shone out from amongst the rest.   I can’t quite remember all the comments, but one of them said surely “FFS”.

We were now approaching 1970 and things were looking up.  I was 7 bikes in, and number 8 is a very special bike, an early 1970’s Alan Competition.  When you look at the Alan in the low sunlight and imagine other bikes or indeed cars were all angles and oranges, browns and yellows, this bike must have seemed like it was from outer space.  It nearly was – the aluminium engineering is aeronautical.  Actually, and excuse the pun, I flew around on the Alan.

It was now around 1981 and I took out another rarity/oddity.  The Flying Gate.  The ‘Gate’ was the answer to a 1930’s question.  Just how do you shorten the wheel-base of a bicycle to make it stiffer and hence faster.  This question was answered with a hacksaw blade and a blowtorch and gave us the ‘Gate’.  A thing of beauty I leave to your mind’s eye.

It was not yet quite dark and as I had the intention of riding bike 10, my Bianchi when it was first truly dark, I leapfrogged it for Fergus’ 1992 D iZecca at 10pm. Again I knew just how far and why I was departing my list, and I knew if it failed the bike that was next was amongst my best. I may have to add Fergus’ Di Zecca to that list.  This was also my first full and only foray into Shimano this day and it was truly great.  The bike felt smooth on the surface, the brakes did enough around the corners, the indexed gears selected up and down harmoniously.  I could see why Shimano took off at the turn of the century.

Now by 11pm darkness had fallen I knew I wanted to be on comfortable ground so I sat up on my Bianchi.  How often do I ask prospective sellers of bicycles ‘if you get rid of that bike what year will it be before you have one as long again?”.  For me to answer that question of my Bianchi would be 2054. I got it in 1990. Darkness fell around the Bianchi and I began to contemplate. 

Things had gone well so-far and my system seemed to be working.  But there was a flaw in my plan.  I was running out of hours and not out of bikes.  There was still one to be ridden, but it was past mid-night.  I needed to rethink the plan, I needed to eat and I needed to sleep. Back to the van.

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