When to steal your own bicycle

I headed out for a long ride on Saturday, with the aim of ticking a box on Strava: the Gran Fondo challenge for August. This simply involves riding 130km, which I thought I should be able to manage, given enough time. I had five and a half hours, perhaps six at a push, and plotted a route through Chipping Campden.

The ride out was fantastic – early morning clear blue skies, with green pastures interspersed with ripe wheat fields. The air was still, the bike was silent, and there was a surplus of peace in my corner Warwickshire. The hill at Loxley was dispatched with ease, and once through Ilmington, I even made it up Larkstoke without too much ado about puffing.

So I felt ready for a well deserved rest in Chipping Campden. I parked the bike next to the town hall, locked it up, crossed the road, passed the Big Issue vendor (“Big Issue please”), and went into the Co-op for a snack. As usual, I bumped my head on the ceiling. Dang these ancient oak frames. Outside, I gobbled a quick bite, slowly ambling back (“Big Issue please”) to the bike.

Which was where the drama started – I couldn’t find the key to the lock. There are only three pockets on the back of my cycling shirt, but I must have tried all of them three or four times. Nothing. Looked on the ground, under the car nearby, all the way across the road. Still nothing. Headed back into the Co-op (“Big Issue please”) and checked up and down the aisles I’d perused. Asked the young girl at the till if anyone had handed a key in? Nope. Perhaps I should try tourist info, people often hand things in there.

Off to tourist info, where a lovely old lady very helpfully gave me no help at all. Back to look for the key again, then. By this time, even the Big Issue vendor had given up on me, and just stared at me rather bemusedly as a trundled past. No key had magically appeared on the ground, and so I pulled out the option of last resort: the cellphone. No answer, which was just as well. Having to get rescued wasn’t really part of my manly plans. So, back to tourist info (“Big Issue please”), and enquired whether there might be a hardware store in town. Wouldn’t have expected it in a place like this, though – far too many coffee shops, art galleries and antiques dealers to fit in something quite as low class as DIY. The dear old darling informed, me, however, that the Post Office sold a bit of hardware.

Post Office. Yes. Well, off I trudged across to the Post Office (“Big Issue please”) and had a look around. Lots of stationary, cards, trinkets. Wait – there it is in the corner – duck tape, wire, and just what I was looking for: a hacksaw. For the first time ever, I purchased a hacksaw in a Post Office. My life is now complete.

Back to the bike, past the community policing officer who was busy writing a parking ticket and the tourist buying a pay & display token. Suddenly, wearing high-vis red didn’t seem like such a good idea – given that I was sawing at a bicycle lock, I’d probably have preferred something more surreptitious. But after a few minutes of frantic thrashing away with the little hacksaw, while smiling politely at the passers-by, the final strands of cable gave way, the lock was quickly ditched in the nearby bin, and I was back on the road.

But I’d wasted just over half an hour traipsing up and down the high street (“Big Issue please”), my enthusiasm had waned somewhat, the weather had turned, and I was now cycling north into a mild north-wester. The last 35 miles suddenly seemed a lot further than I had the gumption for. I finally found myself 2 miles from home, 15 minutes late, with 6 miles to go to get my 80 mile target. Yes? No? Yes? No?

No.

Oh well, some things just aren’t meant to be. At least there wasn’t any rain.

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