Day 4 – Derailleur Disaster

The fourth day started out fantastically. We awoke in the camp to good weather, said our goodbyes to Michael, and found our way to a bakery with some great croissants and baguettes. We cycled onward to Nice, following a great cycle path along the boardwalk, enjoying the sea air and beach vibe. We even passed the Nice airport and saw a private jet from Serbia, leaving me to wonder if I had just seen Novak Djokovic’s ride.

Matt in Nice

Almost out of Nice, we stopped at a supermarket on the hill and loaded up on water, fruit, and snacks. The amazing sights continued, as we rounded each corner, climbed each hill, and descended each downward slope. We were on fire. Things were going great and Monaco was fast approaching. Although I’m not really a fan of Monaco, due to its unwalkability, I imagined a glorious entrance, now that I had a vehicle, albeit foot-powered. I had planned a route that followed some parts of the Monaco Grand Prix, with a drive-by of a famous scene from Goldeneye. We were Double O agents of cycling with a licence to pedal. Nothing could stop us until SNAP – disaster struck.

Broken chain and derailleur

My chain had snapped, continued moving, and had got stuck beneath my tire. Still running through the derailleur, the chain pulled one of the most vital components of my bike along with it, destroying it and any hopes of continued motion along with it. As the extent of the damage became clear, devastation set it. This was a big deal. We quickly determined roadside repair was impossible.

Broken derailleur

The next thing we tried was to get on the bus to Monaco: surely we would find a repair shop there. Unfortunately, the bus driver refused to allow us to board with our bikes, leaving us to walk into town from Cap-d’Ail, a place sorely lacking in sidewalks. After a three kilometre walk and some helpful advice from a hotel along the way, we made our third and most useless visit to Decathlon. Shockingly, they didn’t carry any kind of derailleurs. Instead, their “bike expert” suggested we try “The Bike Store”, which was a “big” and dedicated bike store in another part of the city.

Several elevators and escalators and a long time of confused wandering later (I hate Monaco), we found the store. Unfortunately for us, this was an upscale store for wealthy Monaco cyclists, where the proprietor was clearly uninterested in speaking to lower class, tax-paying scum like us. We waited a long time before a helpful French-speaking British cyclist interrupted his conversation with the store owner and another customer to ask if maybe the owner could send the mechanic our way. Although the mechanic was very friendly and helpful, he informed me that nobody uses 9-speed derailleurs anymore, looking at my bike as if I had rolled in there with Archie’s jallopy. Luckily, the British guy came to the rescue again and gave us his phone to call around to some bike stores in Nice, where we easily located this ancient and supposedly no-longer-used component, the shopkeeper assuring us that he had various ones in stock.

We again fought the geography and unwalkability of Monaco to get to the train station and make our way to Nice. Cramming our way onto the overcrowded train and enduring the glares of many disgruntled tourists and locals alike, we managed to get to Nice and make it to the bike store a couple hours before it closed. But our troubles weren’t over yet!

Although securing the new part was not a problem, having it installed was impossible. This weekend was the Ironman Triathlon in Nice and the bike shop was fully booked. We explained our situation, laid out our lofty goals and aggressive timeline, and – most importantly – begged. It was only enough to receive an offer of come back tomorrow at 2pm. Faced with losing another day, we tried to do it all ourselves. Now, if I was at home and with my bike stand, I could easily install the derailleur and the new chain. Indexing the gears is always a huge pain but I could do it with the help of YouTube, as I’ve already done several times before.

Bert fixing the bike

Unfortunately, to make matters worse, my mobile phone provider screwed up somehow and I was without Internet for most of the day. YouTube was out of the question. Proper bike tools were out of the question. But we were determined and we tried hard for the better part of an hour. Finally, exasperated but semi-successful, I went back into the shop with the product of our labour and asked again for just a little help to get us past the finish line. Seeing that we really needed help and obviously having some extra time on his hands before closing, the mechanic finally agreed to service the bike!

That guy literally saved the day and I’ve since thought that maybe I should order some pizzas to that particular bike store. The gears weren’t set up perfectly but they were good enough to last the rest of the trip. The mechanic informed me that I should schedule an overhaul of the bike when I finish the tour but that it would last until then. We rushed back to the train to get back to Monaco and pick up where we left off. Amazingly, we still managed to make some good progress and actually finished the night in Italy. Mentally, I needed to move on from France, away from the disaster, and get ourselves in as good of a position as possible for the days ahead.

In spite of all the trouble, we still managed 50km that day and were very happy about that – overjoyed in fact. What was more, we had made it to the third country of the trip and had moved on from croissants to pizzerias. Magnifico!

Once again, Bert set about constructing the tent, while I saw to dinner. I set out for the nearest pizzeria and chose a couple tasty-sounding pizzas. Maybe I was distracted by the day’s events but I totally forgot that they don’t cut pizza into slices in Italy. Back in the camp, I at first went to ask if they had a knife but then remembered I was in Italy and asked the camp attendant for a pizza cutter – of course, she had one.

Pizza for dinner

The day began so well but, although we hit a major low in the middle, we went to sleep in a really good place. Determination is key.

And I still hate Monaco but twice as much as before.

Did you miss a previous day’s tales or are you looking for an easy overview? Then check out the European Biking Tour 2019 page to get a list of all the days and reports from me and Bert!

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