A tale of two weekends (Pt 1)

Muddy bikes in Lacock
I haven’t written a blog post in a while so I figured it was about time I updated you very patient people and let you know what’s been going on.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago (Must Try Harder) I have been slacking a little, and apart from the off burst of riding I haven’t been out as much as I’d ideally like. This hasn’t changed greatly but I have had a few local rides in the last week or so.

Last Friday I decided it was time for a cold wet commute to work on the bike. It had been a full week since riding and getting up early on a work day to cycle to work cross country requires a little effort. Once up and out the legs push, the wheels turn and its all good. Though it wasn’t all good.

Having had some sketchy moments recently on slippery mud and clay and I had decided to lower the tyre pressure a little (on my 29er) with the expectation that I would gain a little extra grip. Well will extra grip comes extra drag, requiring more effort and a tired Tim. My time to get to work didn’t take much longer than usual, but it did require more effort to keep the pace I knew I needed so as not to be late.

Come 5 o’clock it was time to prepare for the return journey. Magic shine lights at the ready it was time to tackle the dark ride home. Oh and it was raining… The effort didn’t feel too bad, I had tried to eat well though out the day so I was more than prepared for the effort. What I wasn’t prepared for was the mysterious and elusive puncture I had half way home.

The Green Lane descent into Avebury was hard work with the rear end of the bike sliding around particularly more than usual. It wasn’t until I got to the bottom did I spot the reason. The tyre had very little air in it – time to check for holes! I couldn’t find a puncture. Even by the bright lights of my torch and bike I couldn’t find it at all. Was it the valve? So I pumped up the tyre and pedalled on. After 10 mins I realised it was well on its way down again. Time for another check, as I still had about 10k to go.

Still no sign of any tube damage, the valve seemed ok and I also couldn’t find any thorns or evidence of a puncture anywhere. I decided rather than to risk putting a fresh tube in and have that damaged by the same thorn or whatever had caused it, I would take it steady, pump the tyre as hard as I could and make it home stages, pumping the tyre every 15 mins or so.

It took me 2 hours, approximately 40 mins longer than it should have. I was annoyed.

Saturday was a busy day, so it was Sunday lunch time before I got the bike out again to meet a friend for a long ride. Needless to say I found the puncture in the day light and fixed it all within 5 mins. Lesson: the lower tyre pressure had caused two problems. It made the pedalling harder and it caused a pinch flat that I just couldn’t spot in the dark.

Muddy grounds, blue skies

The ride on Sunday was great. A muddy climb and single track trudge to start with made up for by the great blue skies. A burst along the road and down to the beautiful village of Lacock for a hot sausage roll at the bakery was reward for the first half of the ride. What followed was my first mistake of the day. For fun we decided to ride through the ford which is only about 8 inches deep and shouldn’t be a problem for a prepared rider. However my ankle length SealSkins that had been great in the wet grass suddenly became woefully less than perfect for the job once the river water got in!

The second half of the ride included a some newly regenerated canal towpath and the old railway line, now a cycle track, from Chippenham to Calne. One more deep section of water later and my feet were well and truly sodden! The temperature had dropped and the cold wet socks weren’t going to dry out on their own.

After 45k we made it back to the start as it was just getting dark. A good ride with a good friend ruined slightly by my lack of preparation. I left the bike in a muddy state, stripped my clothes and headed for the shower…

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