Finally the demand of regular blogging ran into the squidgey, latex wall of nothing much to blog about. Everything till now had been preparation for actually doing some off-road cycling which still hasn’t happened, primarily due to injury though I did manage to get out for one trip, though not very far, before the injury. My mini adventure was a bit of a disaster, but as happens with problems, I learnt stuff. Here’s what happened and what I learnt.
I set off with about 34 kg of kit very early in the morning – too early as I hadn’t really had enough sleep. I’d hoped to beat the rush hour traffic, which I did, but can’t say that it was worth it for the lost sleep. The first hour was ok though much tougher than I’d imagined – even gentle hills were a challenge. After ten miles I decided to stop for a short break. As I pulled off the road onto a track I heard a crashing sound from behind me and the next thing I knew I was standing next to my bike, which was lying on the ground with the rear rack, luggage and all, broken away from the seat stays. I was lucky really. There’d been a lorry right behind me as I turned off, so if I’d stayed on the road and it’d come off I could have been crushed.
LESSON 1 – Don’t take so much stuff especially not cans of beer!
LESSON 2 – Make sure the pannier rack is secured properly.
Punctures 1 & 2
I spent about an hour repairing it and then set off for the next stage. This was uphill and much steeper than I’d expected. It was so steep, at least for me with all my gear, that I simply couldn’t ride up it but had to get off and push. As I was struggling along, pushing the behemoth up the narrow country road with no footpath, just road and hedges, and cars and farm trucks travelling far too fast for comfort, I noticed a strange sound from the back of the bike. I looked down to discover a puncture – oh joy!
With nowhere to fix it except in the road I had to keep pushing, fretting that my rims would be damaged, until I reached a house. Nobody was in so I set up in their garden anyway – there was nowhere else to go. I removed all the gear for the second time, took the wheel off, took the tire off, and fixed the puncture . . . or thought I had. Just when it was nearly inflated (using a small hand pump) it went again. Off came the wheel, the tire and the previous patch to be replaced with another. This time it appeared to have worked . . . or so I thought, so I reloaded the gear again and set off.
LESSON 3 – Get fit.
LESSON 4 - Take great care to fix a puncture properly and take a spare inner tube.
After a few hundred yards, still uphill, the bike ground to a halt. The rear wheel had slipped in the dropouts and was pressed against the chain stay. Rather than take all the gear off at the side of the road, I loosened the wheel with the quick release, kicked it back into place (or something approximating it), then tightened it up . . . or thought I had. Two minutes later the same thing happened again so again I had to loosen it, kick it back into place and tighten up.
LESSON 5 – After fixing a puncture make sure the wheel is secured properly.
It held this time but wasn’t properly aligned as I could hear it catching on the brakes but didn’t want to stop to fix it as I was now flying downhill. That was all well and good until I got to the bottom and a crossroads with a steep climb in all directions. By now it was five hours after setting off. The last three miles had taken four hours! I was knackered and stressed out about the back wheel so I took a break to think things through.
LESSON 6 – After fixing a puncture and securing the wheel properly align the brakes.
I soon discovered that the place I’d stopped had a stream running nearby and some woodland next to it, across a small unused field accessed via a low rusted gate. I decided to move in and chill out for the rest of the day.
After a terrible night’s sleep I decided to rest another day during which I did my best to consume as much food and beer as possible to reduce the weight and to fix the bike properly. The next day was clear and I was psyched for the hills to come. After much huffing, puffing and sweating I got the bike and the mountain of gear out of the woodland, across the field, over the gate and loaded. Now I was ready to complete the next 15 miles even if I had to push the bugger all the way.
Punctures 3 & 4
After 15 yards I noticed that the rear tyre was almost flat. A slow puncture. Or, rather, a slow poorly repaired / unrepairable puncture. Again all the gear came off, the bike was upended, the wheel came off, the tire removed and the puncture was repaired again. Then, just as it was almost completely inflated, there was a pop and a loud hiss.
Enough is enough. I called home rescue (my sister) and she came and collected me. Pride and bike hurt I slunk home muttering things about never riding a bike again, being too old for this nonsense and why don’t I take up chess or gardening instead.
Back to the Drawing Board
After some rest, though, I re-planned, reorganised the kit – reducing the load by a third – changed the inner tube (packed a spare tube too) and began some training to get me fitter for the hills. That’s when I pulled my hamstring.
It’s still not right but I’ve got an appointment for some sports rehabilitation tomorrow so hopefully I’ll be good to go in a few weeks time. If that fails then I’ll be blogging about chess and gardening instead.
By the way, the rear inner tube that gave me so much trouble was (supposedly) self-sealing!!!!!
LESSON 7 – If all else fails pack a spare hobby – chess or gardening for example.