Three punctures, one culprit: the story of a ride

This week the weather has been – as we like to say in the UK – changeable. That means shit in almost every other place on the planet. I guess there is truth in the myth that April brings showers and we have had a shed-load of them this week. But the weather predictors – those brave souls upon whose words avid BBQers and wedding planners wait with baited breath – said that today would be sunny, dry, still and cool. Boy, were they right.

In fact it is probably fair to say that they could have said “it’ll be a perfect morning for a bike ride” as shorthand for what the weather was going to do.

So I contacted Kaz, a friend of many years standing, who I met at the Mornington Chasers running club (he was the team captain for one year, dontcha know) and asked if he would be up for a ride. Since the heady days at the ‘Chasers when me, Kaz, Marc, Alex, John and a gaggle of others all dueled it out to see who was the fastest, who could find the most effective training plan and who would go ‘sub-3’ first or get a London Championship qualifying time, we have changed. Fatherhood for some. Moving away for others. Old age for most of us. And Kaz started dabbling in triathlon (I say ‘dabble’ – he actually represented Hong Kong in the ITU World Champs) and now he’s always up for a cycle.

Kaz suggested a 70km loop that he knows into the countryside north of London. I though that sounded much nicer than endless 3 mile laps of Regents Park.

As I opened the door this morning, it was spectacular. The cars were still dusted with frost at 6am and it was cold. But the sun was already high in the clear, blue sky and there wasn’t much more than a gentle breeze. Perfect.

I was very fortunate to receive a parcel earlier in the week from ashmei, who have recently launched a cycling and tri range to complement their running apparel. We agree a contra-deal for some work and they had sent me three items from their bike range – bib-shorts, merino carbon cycle jersey and cycle softshell jacket. After following instructions about washing the bib-shorts before the first ride, this three-some was my kit for today. It was perfect. Actually I will write about my first impressions in a review that I’ll post soon. But for now, suffice it to say, this kit is amazing.

So there I was – breakfast eaten, tea finished, all kitted up and ready to ride. Well almost…

The back tyre on my bike was flat. As flat as a pancake.

Actually two weeks ago I had a flat on that tyre on a group ride. The guys I was riding with had helped me change the tube and used a CO2 canister to fill the tyre. One of them warned me that I should deflate the tyre and refill it with air when I got home, because the CO2 would escape over time. I forgot.

So no drama. I used the track pump to get the tyre up to 100psi and off I went.

Kaz and I cycled to Hertford. About 25 miles. It is a flat ride out with a couple of tiny hills. But I was really blowing from around 15 miles onwards. It felt like I was peddling through treacle the whole time. And the bike felt squishy.

When we arrived in Hertford, I found out why. My back tyre was soft. Not flat – I would definitely have felt that. But it completely depressed under my thumb. That is why it felt so hard to pedal at my usual pace.

We had a coffee and then I changed the inner tube. I thought that maybe it was the CO2 from a couple of weeks ago causing problems (although the tube was completely full of air since I’d pumped it up). We set off.

Five miles down the road and that squishy feeling was back and I was better tuned in to it. We stopped and once again, the back tyre was like marzipan.

A second tube come out and this time, in the absence of a friendly Halfords that would lend me a track pump – as we had in Hertford – I was reduced to pumping furiously with a pump that looked like a biro.

This time, though, I did what I should have done the first time the tyre was flat. And the second time. I checked really, really carefully for anything stuck in the tyre. And sure enough, there it was – a tiny splinter of glass. Almost too small to see and actually so small that it was barely piercing the inner tube, so the puncture was a slow depressurisation rather than a dramatic psssshhhht that usually happens when glass meets pressurised rubber.

Finally after a few minutes, we were on our way again.

Sun was still out. The temperatures were still low and the sky was blue. The roads were dry and – thankfully – for the majority of the ride, the drivers were not all reckless, aggressive idiots. It was in fact, a perfect day for a ride. Just a shame that the rider was such a novice! Lesson learned. Let’s hope that there are more days like this for me to find out ways to develop as a cyclist.

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