Across Continents

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Bottoms up

May 24th, 2011

Did I find the chairs comfortable she asked? Yes, I said. But quickly adding I probably wasn’t the best person to ask. Explaining I spent much of my time perched on a leather saddle. After which razor blades had a certain appeal.


I’d stopped at a small cafe. Eager for some respite for my posterior. Ordinarily the saddle is pretty bearable. Invariably aware of its presence of course. But beginning to think I’d soon have to add "Imprint of leather saddle" to the Official Observations page of my passport. Quicker than dental records to identify me in case of my demise.

But the saddle had become a little more challenging of late. Eye-watering. For which, fortunately, I’d a little tube of ointment….



Saddle sore

September 27th, 2010

“So how can you tell me you’re lonely,
And say for you that the sun don’t shine?
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London

I’ll show you something to make you change your mind”

– Ralph McTell, from “Streets of London”

It wasn’t London. It was Hami. Provincial city. On the edge of the Gobi desert. Breakfast in a small hotel, “Streets of London” for accompaniment. Friendly establishment. I’d arrived the previous evening, damp and dishevelled after the long haul through the mountains from the Turpan Basin. But, presumably, unmistakably English. Despite the grimy layer of sunblock and diesel fumes. “Huw” – his adopted name – quickly summoned to interpret. A little bartering, but, no matter what, a twin room meant two breakfasts.

Giant - main - web

Hami might be renown for its melons. But what I sought was a decent bike shop. And a new saddle. My existing one had been a dream across Europe, but since Turkey had shifted back and forth between tolerable and excruciating. Refusing to accept it wasn’t possible to return to former glories, I’d stuck with it, tried everything. And a bit more. Modicum of improvement at best. So, time for something different. A fresh saddle. Might not have the longevity of the one I had, but if it kept the energy sapping sores at bay, I didn’t care. What price comfort?

My Mandarin vocabulary still struggling to reach double figures, I’d fortunately been able to find someone who knew of a decent bike shop and could write the address down for me in Simplified Chinese. Sixty pence taxi ride. From the outside at least the store looked promising. “Mary” – a student working there over the summer – spoke good English whilst I apologised profusely for my poor grasp of anything but my mother tongue, and a smattering of Welsh and French. I would, she explained, be better going to their other shop a few hundred metres away. Better selection. And she’d take me there. By bicycle.

[If you are a cyclist passing through Hami in need of cycle spares, tools or assistance, I’d recommend the shop(s) – major on stocking Giant – no idea what the places are called as I can’t read Simplified Chinese, so probably best if you print out the image below of their business card and show it to the nearest taxi driver….]

Giant - card - web

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