For Christmas I was given an exercise bike, a most thoughtful gift for the adventure I was about to embark upon.
It’s something I’d talked about for ages, trying to decide upon that or a rowing machine. As it happened, with the decision made for me, I was pretty chuffed.
Only I didn’t realise that the actual exercise began before you even sat in the saddle.
This particular contraption arrived courtesy of Amazon.
A pretty hulking box, it has to be said, that probably should have had a sticker on it reading something like: “Dinnae try lift this yersel if you’re a chubby bloke who doesnae dae exercise.”
But needs must, and a risked slip disc or two later, it was in a space to be unveiled to my world.
Now, have you ever tried to open a cardboard box from Amazon? No?
Well, let’s put it this way.
You could probably protect an entire Battlegroup with the corrugated packaging that envelops the contents.
It’s the kind of material that you don’t so much rip or prise off, as take a blow torch to.
The only way I made a breakthrough was when the sweat from my brow softened a corner enough for me to stab a chisel through.
Even then, it was dark by the time I got to the SECOND LAYER.
Upon which there was a label that read: ‘Warning: Heavy – Two People Required.’
Soldiering on, through the outer layers, was folds of bubble wrap and plastic to wade through before the bike could be freed.
Or, more accurately, the bike frame.
Then the pedals.
Plus the handlebars, the seat, the stands, the nuts and the bolts.
And the little, neatly folded up leaflet which read: ‘Some Self Assembly May Be Required.”
Along with a tiny, plastic wrench. Action Man size.
Not to be put off, and in spite of my laboured breathing, I studied the instructions.
Then I checked and rechecked the required number of nuts, bolts and washers, and set about this giant Airfix.
There was, in fact, just one wrong turn – I used washers B instead of washers F to connect parts A with parts C.
But that was quickly remedied with a pair of pliers, a screwdriver and about 10 minutes of murderous swearing.
However there we were, close to three hours later, and the fold away bike was ready to ride like a horse which had just been broken.
Then, then … clunk, rattle, thud.
This steed was lame.
From the only fully enclosed section of the bike, presumably where the chain and gears live, a black piece of plastic fell to the floor.
I didn’t know what it was, it wasn’t in the plans, no sign on the instructions, nothing on the website.
And looking at the edges, it had clearly been snapped off from inside, only working itself free when placed upright.
Now, it may or may not have been important, perhaps inconsequential to the running of the machine.
But if an expensive piece of kit even appears to be broken on its first outing, it really does have to go back.
So phone calls made, picks ups arranged and redelivery ordered.
Which is in itself an interesting experience.
Have you ever tried to return an exercise bike to Amazon having destroyed the original packaging trying to get it out in the first place?
Let’s just say some imaginative use of duck tape, wrapping paper and empty beer boxes may have been required.
But after all that, no exercise bike was needed.
And I’ve been left saddle sore just thinking about its replacement of which I’ll take delivery this weekend.
Be warned – I may be gone some time.