A few kilometres north of Old Halliwell Inn I rode through Currys Post. The stretch from there toward Mooi River was the section that made me settle on my mountain bIke rather than my road bike. With rain forecast I did not look forward to battling through mud on that dirt road section. In practice it didn't work out that way.
We were running tracking apps and a quick phone call established that Ted had left Halliwell 10 minutes after me. I didn't know at that stage that he was riding a Cyclocross bike. I hadn't given any thought to his choice of mount. As I rolled off the tar onto the gravel road I realised that my fears were ill founded. There had been rain in Currys Post but not recently. The road was hard packed, smooth and fast. Just wet enough to prevent passing cars from throwing up clouds of dust.
Ten or fifteen kilometres after leaving Old Halliwell I heard a bike behind me. It was Ted. So much for a mountain bike being faster over gravel. Ted pulled up next to me and we had a quick chat. He stopped to remove his jacket and I continued riding. I did more than continue riding, I rode faster than before. Ted closed on me in no time at all. I simply couldn't match his downhill speed. There was bike envy for sure. Added to that, I had finally realised what was wrong with my bike that needed attention.
The bottom bracket (for the non bike techies that is the bearing unit through which the pedal axle passes) was creaking. I realised that I would have to stop and sort that out. My more immediate problem was a fast disappearing up ahead - Ted. I pushed some earphones in my ear holes and got some music running. Partly for distraction and partly to drown out the noise of the protesting bottom bracket. I kept in touch up the final climb before the drop into Mooi River but when I crested he was nowhere to be seen.
I was initially planning on making a quick stop in Mooi River but as I turned into town I could see Ted about a kilometre ahead on the climb out of town. I had enough water to get me through to Estcourt so didn't stop.
As I started the climb the noise from the bottom bracket could no longer be ignored. There is a collar on the left hand crank that is used to take up bearing slack. This collar has a pinch bolt to lock it up. The pinch bolt had come loose which caused the collar to tighten up against the bottom bracket bearings. The noise was caused by the protesting bearings. The collar was too tight to loosen by hand so a rock had to do duty as a hammer. It worked.
It was nice to ride a bike that no longer squealed like a rusty gate with every revolution. Although I couldn't swear to it, the cranks seemed to turn with more ease. The other problem was still ahead. Far ahead. I could see a good distance ahead and there was no Ted in sight. Out of sight out of mind - I got on with executing my race plan without the distraction of Ted.
I pedalled into Estcourt early afternoon and was surprised to find it all abustle. Certainly busier than the last time I was here. To be fair, last time I rode through in April it was sometime after midnight. Dave and Dawn Bell also rode through here in the wee hours and I remember Dave telling me about a garage shop that served a great cup of coffee. Last year I stopped at the first shop I got to and there was no coffee and the selection of treats was rudimentary. I decided to go in search of Dave's better option. I was almost through town when I spotted the shop. Sure enough they served coffee. I bought a coffee, a bag of crisps and a litre of water to top up my bottles. The coffee was okay, the cup less so. It leaked all over the counter. Fortunately the shop owner arrived back from mosque just in time and rushed over to give me a new cup. We got to chatting. The obvious question arose, "Where are you going?"
"I mean now, today."
"Jo'burg. Maybe not tonight but I will be their tomorrow afternoon."
"Oh, be safe." He walked off.