Fate Brought Me to Karlos B.

October 8, 2011

Yesterday I fell off my bike.

How? The bolt holding my seat on broke in half and my butt was connected to the seat when it hit the ground.

Are you okay? I took the impact onto my hip. It hurt and I have a fist sized bruise there now. I’m noticing other bruises on my legs where the frame landed. But they’re just bruises. I’m perfectly okay really. I had ridden for two hours and had arrived at Mordialloc. It was when I was hopping back on my bike for the return trip that I fell. I’d only made two or three pedals on a low gear and was going quite slow, luckily. I landed on a flat surface and not in the midst of oncoming traffic! Although a few seconds later the bus parked at the stop I was passing would have been right behind me.

How did you get home? True, you can’t ride a bike without a seat. Knicks are heavily padded but not padded enough for that! Four gentlemen came to my aid when I was lying on the ground in shock – the bus driver, and three bystanders from the cafe in the area. Once they’d collected all of the seat bits off the road they established the cause (the broken bolt) and we realised that more than an alan key was needed to solve this one. I was directed to a nearby bike shop. The bike shop was less than 50 metres from where we were. I hobbled off in the direction I was told to go, reassuring the kind people I was okay and making some sort of joke about the size of my butt (given that I’d just snapped my seat bolt in half).

In the bike shop I met Karlos. Firstly he examined the seat and responded quickly to my repeated joke to compliment my shape and say that my butt size wasn’t the cause of the broken bolt (which was sweet and entirely the right thing to say to a woman whether it were true or not). He told me it was the fourth broken seat bolt he’d had to deal with that day and showed me the marks on the seat that indicated it had been fixed too far back. This put pressure on the bolt – no wonder it snapped. Secondly, he ascertained that it was an aluminium bolt and not very strong.

While he was explaining all this to me in a gentle and caring tone, I started to feel like we all do when someone is sympathetic, a little sore and sorry for myself. I couldn’t help it, a few little tears escaped and ran down my cheeks. “What’s wrong?” he asked. “I just fell off my bike”, I replied. He gave me a hug.

I dug out a tissue and pulled myself together. (I carry a snap lock bag with cash, credit card, bandaids, a tissue, and my garage blip in it.) He was impressed with my organisation. “Where did you learn to do that?” Oh, I’ve been riding road bikes since I was 18 I told him.

He started work on my bike. “Did you feel like you were reaching too far for the handle bars?” he asked. I told him that I had. I’d only had the bike for one year. I bought a carbon fibre bike with Ultegra gears as a package from Melbourne Cycles. It was a lovely bike but I had always harboured doubts about the way they’d set it up for me because I felt as though I had to stretch. On long rides I experienced back pain as never before and I couldn’t comfortably reach the drop position (a position I’d been very comfortable in on my previous bike set up by Ivanhoe Cycles). I’d even asked my bike guy at uni to check the set up. He improved the situation but only slightly.

Karlos’ history was in bike manufacturing. He’d been head-hunted for the job at Mordialloc Bicycle Centre (where I found him) and he’d only been there a few weeks. His sport was downhill mountain bike racing. He was 35 but had the demeanour of a man much younger. He was an adrenalin junkie. Compared to the spills he’d had in his downhill career, my thud onto the bitumen was pretty lame. Apparently he is fairly famous in that circle, known as ‘the jackal’. Despite the thrill seeking, he had a wholesome philosophy about cycling and life. Maybe that’s because he was essentially a country lad.

Apparently my handlebar stem had been put on upside down. By putting it the right way up, Karlos brought my handle bars closer to my reach. Coupling this with the adjustment of the seat position, I felt as though I was on a different bike, one that had been sculpted around my body shape! I was ecstatic. But that’s not all he did.

“You do realise the seat you have on is for males, don’t you?”

“No, it was sold to me as a female seat!”

“Have a look at this. This is a female seat. It has this little gap here. Do you think that would make a difference to your comfort?”

Karlos didn’t realise that he was talking to someone who for a year had been putting up with too much pressure on a very sensitive part of her body, thinking it was just down to getting the angle right, who at the end of every ride regardless of the seat angle felt as though she’d lost a layer of skin from that area and who had gritted through 210 km in Around The Bay last year minus several layers of sensitive skin due to the unnatural pressure and deep bruising around each sit bone.

“WHAT!!!@#*!?!”, I was astonished, cross and relieved at the same time, “Do you think you could sell me a female seat right now?”

“You can have this one for 20 bucks”, he grinned. He  adjusted my handlebars and put a stainless steel bolt in to hold my new seat. I told him to sell my old seat if he could (it was only a year old).

I rode the 50k home and arrived just before it started to rain with a few warning drops falling from the sky. Even though my bruises gave me a bit of pain, I was so much more comfortable on my bike. And all this just a week and two days before this years Around The Bay!

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