My last organised ride for the year was meant to be the Autumn Audax arranged by Beacon RCC. Called Beyond the Dyke, it starts in Belbroughton, and heads over to Wales before returning. Hilly, but not too much so, long (200km) and a wonderful route mainly on small country lanes (once you get past Kidderminster, that is).
However, the weather on the day was somewhat miserable, and I chickened out like a real loser. There’s a voice in my head asking “Is your mother proud of you?” and the answer, of course, is no. And so, I knew that I had to make amends, and have another go at the ride. So I took today off work, and set off in the darkness that is 6:30 in late October. Apart from the early cold (which was only a problem when going downhill into chilly valleys, and only until the sun came up), it was the perfect day for riding. No more than a slight breeze, dry roads, clear skies. Scenes like this abounded:
And up to the 43 mile mark, that was indeed the case. That took me to an isolated spot about 90% of the way up Clee Hill, where the clippings from the hedge trimmers took their toll, and I had a puncture.
Now, I’ve only had two punctures this year, in 5,500 miles of riding. One doesn’t really count, as it was more of a self-induced tyre malfunction (say no more). And the other was on day 4 of the Wales trip. Puncture-resistant tyres are wonderful things, these days. Not really what Kevlar was designed for, but I’ll take it.
So anyway, I change the tube to the spare I always carry. Or at least, I mean to – first, I put the punctured tube back in (doh!), and then second time around, I manage to pinch the new tube when putting the tyre back. After a long while trying to work out why my pump wasn’t working, I figure it out.
Out comes trusty Google, who informs me that there’s a bike shop called Bike Monkey no more than 0.3 miles away. What luck! Especially as the nearest town is tiny (see map below – the X marks the spot where the breakdown occurred).
I tried phoning Bike Monkey Ltd, but got no answer. So I started walking, and seeing no sign of any commercial activity at the house in question, I entered the yard. The doorbell didn’t work, so I knocked, and was greeted by a very old man, with an even older dog. The sort which has one eye glazed over by cataracts, can’t stand up straight, and has a rather patchy coat with hair falling out. And the dog didn’t look too healthy either.
Clearly, living in the middle of nowhere had taken its toll, as he struggled to communicate, and just looked blankly at me. Granted, if you get someone dressed in lycra emblazoned with Dementia/Alzheimers logos at your door, and they ask you if you’re in the bicycle business, you’d probably react similarly. So I gave up, and carried on down the hill towards Ditton Priors. Whence appeared my first good Samaritan, who loaded me up in the back of his voluminous Volvo, and provided me with a spare tube at his house (yes, he’s a keen cyclist). He then gave me directions to the nearest bike shop, in Bridgnorth, a mere 10 miles away. Smashing chap. Now if only I’d remembered to ask his name…
So, off I went. Initially, I’d considered leaving the bike shop and carrying on with my planned route. Which is the logical thing to do, because there’s only so much bad luck that can happen to you on one day, right?
Wrong. 2.5 miles down the road, I hear a tick, tick, tick coming from the rear tyre, and before I can react, it goes, predictably, BOOM. Blowout. Nothing to do now, except walk to Bridgnorth. Only 7.5 miles, shouldn’t take more than two hours. But wait, what about Uber? But by the time I’ve re-downloaded the app, I’ve assessed the situation, and am not terribly surprised to be informed that no cars are available. It is, unfortunately, a malady often suffered in these parts, I’d imagine.
After about 5 minutes, I get seriously unhappy about walking in clippy-cloppy-my-little-pony cycling shoes, and remove them, and my socks, and start walking barefoot down the road. But it’s cold, and there’s a long way to go, so decide to start running. As you do. Shoes in my left hand, pushing the bike with my right. And this is my appearance when I’m accosted by my second good Samaritan, who asks if I’d like a lift. Hell yeah! They’re on the way to Bridgnorth, he’s a keen cyclist (of course), and lives just a few hundred yards from Clee Cycles, my destination. Result! If only I’d remembered to ask their names…
And so finally, nearly two hours after the initial puncture, I have a functional bike. I get back on, head a bit further out (nearly to Craven Arms), and then realise that I’m running out of time, and so turn around, head home, and end up with a tally of 118 miles (instead of the 157 I’d planned).
So, it turned out to be an almost, but not quite, terrible, horrible, very bad, no good day. And the Audax still eludes me. I’ll have to try it again next year…