The chain on my bicycle broke on the way to the toilet block. I’ve had this happen before on my touring bike, and it’s not a pleasant experience. One moment you are pushing hard on the pedals – as it would be a moment of extreme exertion when a chain snaps – and the next moment your Crown Jewels are making violent contact with the crossbar. But not this time, I was on my Brompton, so no crossbar – just an unoccupied child’s saddle. It’s no less painful.
Once my eyes had cleared I managed to work out what had happened. A visit to a bike shop was necessary.
Our reason for visiting Bielefeld was to see Clare’s friend Patra, and her little girl Maya. Patra had worked in London as an architect, living on Blackheath Hill, before returning to Germany and running her own business renovating property. She was unable to see us until five that evening. It gave us ample time to find a bike shop.
Convieniently, the bike shop was located just over the road from Ikea – yes the town that many believe not to exist can support an Ikea. A plan formed: drop off the bike for a new chain, lunch in Ikea, then pick up the bike. I was naively unaware of how poor customer service can be in Germany.
“Lucky Bike” is a big shop with a huge range of bikes, electric bikes and children’s bikes. The workshop is located at the rear of the children’s bikes showroom. I had brought my bike and broken chain in with me. “Do you speak English?”
“Yes, a little”, came the modest reply in an Oxford accent.
“My chain is broken, how much to replace the chain? I’ll be going to Ikea for lunch so could pick it up afterwards.”
“We can do it, but it will take three weeks.”
Flabbergasted I took a step back and nearly fell over a toddler’s Puky bike. I explained that it was just a broken chain, a five minute job to replace. “All these five minute jobs add up”, says he, “three weeks.”
I bought the chain he recommended for €9.99 and a chain breaker for €18.99, a specialist tool that I already have but did not bring away with us.
Never before have I come across a bike workshop that need to book you in for minor repairs.
We had a lovely lunch in Ikea, Jack chose meatballs, Ben and I schnitzel, and Clare a wrap. Then we dumped the boys in Ikea’s wonderful child disposal unit and had an hour to ourselves walking Meg.
Petra lives the far side of town, in a house she shares with her father and brother, each with their own apartment in The multigenerational house her father built in the sixties. Petra’s father was a specialist mechanic for Mercedes, but now at 85 spends his time restoring old cars. The garden is littered with car carcasses, and there is a beautiful old Citroen truck in the front drive. Born in Lithuania in 1933 he lived through Nazi then Soviet occupation before being expelled to Berlin with his mother because of his mother’s “East Prussia” papers.
Patra’s Polish partner cooked us a very fine BBQ.