Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

For more information on the Cafes I have visited and the latest cafe cycle news go to http://www.cake-crusader.co.uk/

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Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Monte Grappa cycling adventure day 1. (30 miles east of Feltre)

Monte Grappa cycling adventure day 1
If you are about to read this post expecting some European cafe based cycling action then I suggest you hit the back button now as there isn't any. However if you enjoy an exciting story of bicycle mechanicals and Italian cycle repair shop action or you are a fan of cycling guest cycling top tips then this is the post for you.

This trip all started to go wrong last week when, after months of planning, Big George phoned me up to say he had developed a back injury and wouldn't be able to come on the 4 rides I had planned in the Monte Grappa region of Italy. I could have quit then and used my holiday insurance to refund the current outlay. But I remembered the motivational poster I saw at the Magna Rosa cycle cafe near Bury St Edmunds that said pain is temporary but quitting last forever and I'm no quitter. Fortunately my son George agreed to come and do some of the rides instead, as long as he could bring his girlfriend Meg. So yesterday the three of us plus two bike boxes arrived in Italy ready for action.

When I awoke this morning then the first task was to rebuild the bikes as quickly as possible so me and George could get going and not abandon Meg for too long. I have rebuilt my bike on 4 previous occasions with no issues but this over confident, some may say almost arrogant approach, proved to me my undoing. I had even put my 'nothing is impossible with the right attitude and a hammer' tee shirt on to get me in the zone.
Bike chaos ready for rebuilding
Things started well as I had my bike with its snazzy electric gears back together in no time at all. I had slightly more problems with Georges traditional geared bike and was worried I had put his derailleur on wonky and knackered the thread but hoped it would be OK. I then posed proudly for my photo so every one could see how clever I was.
Bikes 'rebuilt' ready for the off
As we mounted our bikes to set off I clicked the button to change gear but nothing happened. Strange I thought, I must have forgotten to connect something but despite endless fiddling and much swearing no matter how many times I clicked the button the back derailleur was completely dead. I referenced the Internet and tried all their suggestions but no luck. Fortunately, as my tee shirt says, I have the right attitude and equally fortunately hotel reception didn't have a hammer as if they had I probably would no longer have a bicycle. They did suggest I try the local bike shop and gave directions. With no other alternative we loaded the bike in the car and drove to the bike shop in the next village.

The bike shop man spoke good English and was very helpful but seemed to know less about electric gears than me as he also tried repeatedly pressing the button hoping the gears would magically spring into action but they didn't. He did say he knew of another bike shop mechanic who was an expert in these gears so sent me there. The chance of doing today's planned ride was looking increasingly unlikely but without a working bike so were the remaining three days of rides as well so I decided to give it a go.

We followed some winding roads up a hill to a tiny village where to our surprise was a bike shop. Inside was a big man with a bald head and large side burns. He looked like you might imagine the local village blacksmith would have looked like in olden times but as there were no longer horses to be shoed he had moved on to bikes, and he wasn't very happy about it as he never smiled.

The blacksmith spoke no English, nor me Italian, and grabbed the bike in one big hand and took it round back to his forge. I was not optimistic as when previously I have had problems with this type of gear the local bike shop (LBS) plugs the gears into a laptop and runs diagnostics. The blacksmith just pressed the button a lot and grunted, before trying a lot of mechanical fixes to no effect. He eventually shrugged and gave me back my bike before returning to his furness.

Back at the hotel the holiday appeared to be in tatters, but despite still having no hammer, I was determined not to give up when I remembered cycling guest cycling top tip no. 52. 

Cycling guest cycling top tip no. 52. When putting your handle bars back on your bike with electric gears make sure you don't trap a gear wire or you may irreparable damage it.

So I checked and that is exactly what had happened. At least I knew what was wrong so asked at the hotel reception if they knew a shop that might sell a cable or at least mend one. I don't if I was more upset that the bike was broken or that the receptionist thought it was an ebike (one with a motor to help you pedal) and not just a fancy way of changing gear. I was concerned that she had decided that I was the type of cyclist who would use such a thing and it severely dented my enormous ego. However I forgave her when she came up with a possible option for fixing the cable but as it was nearly lunchtime they would now be shut until 3:30 as in these parts they all like to have an afternoon nap.

To pass the time I thought I would take George's bike for a spin to at least get some riding done today. I hadn't gone far when I noticed it wasn't changing gear properly either and the gears kept slipping. Despite much fiddling I couldn't fix the problem and knew that thanks to my clumsy reassembling it was pretty much out of action too.

I had no choice but to now bundle both bikes into the car and head for my third Italian cycle shop of the day. When I arrived I held out little hope as due to the confusion at reception she had sent me to a shop that mainly sold ebikes. However now I was here I thought I might as well try as they did have normal bikes in the window as well.

The man in the shop spoke no English, nor me Italian, but me both knew about cycling guests cycling top tip no 53.

Cycling guest cycling top tip no 53. If you and the local bike shop mechanic don't speak the same language continue to each say what you mean in your own language until one of you gives in and pretends to have understood.

Using this top tip plus international sign language for the gear wire is broken (pretending two of your fingers are scissors whilst they try and cut a finger on your other hand) the problem was understood and resulted in much tutting, head scratching and teeth sucking as the LBS mechanic wandered aimlessly around his shop. Then from nowhere, like a scene from Harry Potter, he suddenly produced the exact right cable, he seemed more surprised than me that he had one and in no time had swapped it over and the bike was back in action.

There was still the second bike in the car to be fixed but despite much use of top tip no 53 and pointing I couldn't convey the message that I had a second bike to fix so I just got it out the car and handed it over. He was much more at home with a traditional bike issue and quickly spotted the wonky derailleur, had the hole rethreaded in no time at all and everything was working once again. 

I thanked him for saving the cycling holiday and to cap it all he only charged me 20 euro which I'm pretty sure the cable would cost more than on its own.

When I got back it was only 4:30 so I decided to see how much of today's route I could do. The answer was 15 miles before it was time to turn back.
View of the mountains when day 1 ride finally got underway
In this time I did uncover one last cycling guest cycling top tip that will prove useful for the rest of the week. 

Cycling guest cycling top tip no 54. If you chase after Italian cyclists when they overtake you they will chase you back forcing you to got flat out for two miles so as not to lose face, so don't do it.

With everything now in place hopefully tomorrow will be more successful and will actually feature a cafe as me and George attempt to ride over Monte Grappa which I took a photo of on the way back.

View of Monte Grapa in the distance (although it turned out it wasn't)
The route we should have done of which only the 1st 15 miles were covered

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