I considered myself very lucky yesterday while riding in the forest with rain for 4 hours and not having any tire spoke problem in the middle of nowhere. Particularly considering that over the last two days I had that problem twice each day. I wasn’t going to take the risk today and the first thing I did was finding a bike shop in Merzig.
I was carrying salsa into the store and the probably owner opened the door saying not-so-nice but I’m-German-so-it’s-ok way, “you can’t come in here, bring it to the back entrance”. Or at least that’s what I understood. Yisela showed me the day before that if you asked germans for English speaking right away it would not be very successful. But if you asked them for Spanish first they will likely say “I can’t speak Spanish, but I know a bit of English”.
So I asked in german right after another client brought his bike and left a long Laundary list of things to fix, “do you speak Spanish?”, “No”, “ok, Italian?”, “No, I only speak German, what do you need?”. I explained and showed him the problem on the tires hoping that he would get his hands on the job skipping the backlog of the day.
Two things happened then.
The positive one: he pulled salsa into the workshop, fixed it on the bike support, he did spin the back wheel and instead of using a fancy tool to gage how far off was the unbalancing he fixed his finger to the bike frame letting his fingernail barely touching the wheel rim. He pulled out a spoke adjuster -similar to the one I have in my kit- and gave half a turn to every spoke. Checked again for unbalancing and attended the offenders with another half turn. He repeated the same process on the front wheel. All in all he might have spent 5 minutes or so and no special tools were needed.
The maybe positive one: I asked how much it was, and after a pause he answered… “€10”.
I initially I thought this was a complete ripoff, but gladly paid and left the store. The place did not actually look like a regular shop, it resembled more a cycling boutique. Regardless from which country, bike shops normally have bike parts in the toilet to hold the toilet paper and the dustier or dirtier the cooler the people and the shop is. This toilets, -yes, female AND male- where sparklingly clean, just like the rest of the place. The next 20 km or so I kept convincing myself that he was actually going to charge me €15 or 20, and he reduced the rate in consideration of my situation. Down to a more convincing argument, there was no way I would have done that repair in such a short time, and even worse, if I had a problem in the middle of nowhere €10 was a bargain to pay and put me back in track. “Well spent”, I padded myself on my back.
Found the Sarre river and continued copying its path. Compared to yesterday, this was a very easy ride, a bit cloudy but no rain, some wind but not too strong and some on my side or back, and the landscapes were great. I ended up staying at Sarre-Union cause it was about 7pm when I crossed it and had 105km on the today’s ride.
Sarre-Union is not at all the town I wanted France to welcome me with. No local person spoke anything other than French. I felt I was getting old when trying to speak French and my mind could only through German words out of my mouth. The lady at the hotel, which by the way was the only option for dinner in town, could not believe I did not eat meat, chicken, or lamb, and wisely suggested an omelette. She complemented that with a generous mountain of French fries, embarrassingly this was taken away from me almost as it was brought as I preferred a different source of carbs. The table next to me spoke English and we had a great conversation with their French humor. They suggested some routes on how to cross the alps on my way from Switzerland to France. Something that I will have to deal with in a few days.