Thursday, 11 December 2014

Nos in Salta.

Guidebooks can date easily. Guidebooks can cause misinterpretations. On occasions I suspect an entry is created for the fist edition, but with each subsequent revision, is not reviewed or reinterpreted. Reiterated verbatim. One such is the idea that a travelling cyclist requires to carry a spare bike, a full workshop and the knowledge to use same. The former, or at least the perishable spares, was once true, and will still be in the more remoter places. But that's true of anywhere. Try finding a high end tyre in Durness. Quality workshop skills and their attendant tools never were in short supply. Poor quality necessitates care and maintenance. It's the comment regarding 'spares' that now needs some thought.

The entry for Salta in one guidebook, extols the museums and the ecclesiastical building, it also has this intriguing quote: " a favourite of many for soothing ruffled psyches with its profusion of services". Witness the congregation of 'overlanders', drawn up in the campings, some awaiting vital mechanical parts, and you understand that truth. We've passed this way several times now. It's a crossroads, a jumping off point for four differing directions, that, and a manageable bus station. Yet up until now we've not required the " smoothing of ruffled psyche" service.

This time last year it was the navigator who required hospitalisation; this year , by way of an anniversary, my bike decided to claim that accolade. What comes next is an embarrassment and a demotion on the touring cyclist's credibility league. My front fork is twisted, visibly twisted, emphatically visibly twisted. A mole could use it to draw a wine cork. The information was there, I'd noted the brakes that didn't align, the front carriers that sat at different points, my compensatory riding position. Still I didn't put all that evidence to the obvious conclusion. I'd added two to two and not even realised that there could be an answer. That is until we met Gerard, a German cyclist who is also escaping the winter, and happens to be a bike mechanic. It's whilst were stopped for lunch that he offers me the sucker punch line. " I've got bad news for you....I don't have a good eye for it, but even I can see that it's bent", an embarrassment compounded by the fact that I can now remember hitting a bollard in the middle of a cycle Uruguay....4000km ago. Slow learner.

So it's time to investigate Salta's cycleshop world. We start our trail in the sales department. A world of glossy hand built frames and Schwalbe tyres; the latter is an anoraks' shorthand for: 'top quality...don't ask the price.' Soon were taken through to the 'spares desk'. Revelation. A vast tin barn that can't echo because it's filled to the rafters by ranks of China-built 'sit up and beg' steelers, columns of tyres, rows of rims. And forks. Five storemen are serving a milling mass of customers, one old man is tightening a brake block using the captivated spanners; tyre levers are chained to the counter and an air line snakes over the pavement outside. All the supplies for the 'taller de bici' are here. Remembering all those tiny dark cycle repair shops that lurk down alleys, that populate the hinterland - it's obvious when you stop to consider, there has to be a 'mayorista', a warehouse that supplies them. I just didn't expect it to be both so public and available. Forbye, they have two frame builders who drop what they had been attending to, namely customers, to gravitate around my patient. I'm prepared to accept a new fork, expecting to have to botch a modification to fit the pannier carriers. Yet I'm given a series of Nos. No condescension. No tooth sucking. No new part. No, we will repair. There's a challenge, a fair degree of pride to be won here. I also suspect they're recognising the workmanship already invested in my hand built frame. "Leave it here tonight, come back tomorrow midday".

New day: nueva bici. Perfecto. And the final two Nos. No charge. No tip. " Just tell others about us"...I do, I am. Bicicleteria Manresa, Corrienes and Pellengrini, Salta.