Wednesday, March 28, 2007

African Power: The Verdict

March 27, 2007

How many bicycles have I owned in my life? There was the orange one with the banana seat that the training wheels came off of. There was a black one with a banana seat (banana seats were big in the early 80s) that Andrew and I would cruise no-hands around the parking lot at Dalhousie Elementary. And a red one that I rammed into the iron gate at that same school, and a black BMX with black foam padding on the crossbar. I’m sure there were others I’m not remembering.

During the teenage years it was mountain bikes. First the Miyata that somebody stole out of our garage. The insurance money from the theft bought the Marin that’s still hanging from a nail on the wall of that same garage. That was the best bike I ever had. Took me through the Kananaskis and across Graham Island and all over Toronto. I retired it for a road bike that really loves to fly.

Whitehorse is a mountain biking extravaganza and I bought a workhorse of a Giant when we lived there. It and the road bike and Trish’s sweet Specialized came down to Calgary on the back of the Honda when we left the Yukon. All three sit gritty in the basement at Edgemont.

It made sense to get a bike in Kumasi. I’ve got to get around somehow. Footing it was only possible some of the time and cab fares add up. Plus, I love to ride. I love the wind in my face, the blood in my legs, the riding by motorists trapped in traffic. Here, I love the bemused and bewildered looks on African faces as I roll by. They stare at oboroni (white man) anyway, why not give them something to stare at? Oboroni on a bike.

Despite finding this joie de vivre, African Power is without a doubt the worst machine I’ve ever put to pedal.

Buying anything in Africa is a bit of a crapshoot. You never quite know what you’re going to get. That applies to everything from food to footwear to bus fares. African Power cost the equivalent of $42 and looks just like a Canadian Tire special: plastic pedals, spot welded rear forks, cheap rims. Made in China, sold in Africa. I should have known better.

I did know better. I saw the quality. I felt the shimmy when I give it a test ride, and the tweak in the left pedal. I bought it anyway. The left crank broke off on the first hill I climbed. I wasn’t surprised, just a little sad. I’d hoped to at least ride home without problems.

The mechanic stuck the crank back on with a fresh bolt. He couldn’t do anything about the seat, which is too short and is also weak and starting to bend under my weight. The second time I road home the traffic bell broke off when my leg brushed against it. I snapped off a reflector with my foot on a dismount. Today, the cracked left pedal fell apart. African Power is disintegrating.

I’m resolved not to put any more money into this poor specimen, but that resolve may fade as necessity dictates. The bike’s got to last me six more months. Then I’ll give it to some neighbourhood kid, if there’s anything left to give. G.

No comments: