Start: April, 2015 in Lisbon, Portugal
End: September, 2015, in Dublin, Ireland
Distance Cycled: 4,444 km
Longest Day: 104 km
We rode into Dublin with a squeak and a rattle.
Now that's not a good sign. A squeak, creak, rattle or hum emanating from a bike usually means something is amiss, and if it's not fixed it usually gets worse - a wheel bearing gives way, a pedal falls off, or who knows ..... ?
So for several days we have been trying to eliminate these noises.
The creak was straight forward. At Rostrevor, on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, we met a long distance cyclist who knew a thing or two about Brooks' leather saddles.
I was complaining that mine had resumed troubling me, to the point where I had a blister on my backside. He looked at it (the saddle, not my bum) and stroked it in such a gentle manner you knew he was a genuine Brooks' man with a deep seated love of the world's best known touring saddle.
"It needs to be tensioned," he pronounced, telling me something I already knew but had been reluctant to do. It's such an opposite - to make a saddle that's hurting, firmer than it already is.
"Look at it on the left there. It's got a real dip in it. Mine used to be like that."
I waited until he was gone, then took out my Brooks' spanner, took a deep breath and did as he suggested. I tightened the hell out of the saddle.
The next day we set off cycling and within moments the squeak we had become accustomed to, was joined by a creak.
Finding the cause of these noises is a process of elimination. The first step is to stop pedalling. If the noise stops, the chances are the problem is somewhere in the chain, sprockets, pedals or gears.
Or try standing up, so there is no weight on the saddle. No creak, the problem is the saddle. Easy as ...
So that was the creak identified just like that. But how to fix it? Slacken the tension, against the advice of our fellow cyclist, to return it to the way it was? Or leave it alone. My backside didn't feel so sore, so I chose the latter.
The creak persisted, but at least we knew the reason. The squeak was still a puzzle. It was on the top of the stroke of the left pedals.
We repeated the elimination process. We both stopped pedalling. The squeak stopped. We both took our left foot off the pedal and just pedalled on the right. The squeak continued but wasn't so bad.
We arrived in Dublin without finding the cause and allowed ourselves the distraction of the city's sights.
On our last day we pedalled from our campsite along 15 km of flat cycle path to the ferry port. It was an easy ride with very little pressure on the pedals. There was the now regular creak from the saddle, but no squeak. Gone, just like that. Was it the flat terrain, or had something just come right of its own accord (unlikely)? The mystery awaits our return to New Zealand and a more thorough investigation.
It was with a sense of relief we woke the other morning and realised we did not have to go cycling. Ever - if we don't want to.
At the same time, we felt an odd sense of loss. Without the riding, something was missing from our lives - all was not as it should be.
To make matters worse, we packed up our tent for the last time and made our way to London and a very comfortable AirBnB bedroom. There we bounced off the walls, finding it somehow constraining after the fabric softness of the tent and the open spaces of a campground.
We also managed to get ourselves and our clothes perfectly clean - another small shock after months of struggling to get the dirt out from underneath our fingernails and occasionally using coin-in-the-slot washing machines. Not that we are complaining. It's nice to feel pampered and sheltered, but it is an odd feeling.