A First, Of Sorts

Now, I know it might seem like a conflict of sorts for me to say the following two things – that I love cycling and with the exception of a cycle ride up to the farm shop about a month ago, I haven't ridden since late September.

I have no excuse. My fitness levels have nose-dived totally (not that they were very good to begin with) but with the clock change and short days, I don't feel comfortable yet cycling to work in the dark. The roads here are quite pot-holey (shame on you Kirkless – and I thought our roads in Leeds were bad) and if I hit one in the dark, I'm a goner. I do have a good cycle light that I bought for cheap from eBay, but I was sceptical as for its waterproofness. Apparently it is, so I may give it a go yet.

Anyway, I digress.

We had decided between Christmas and New Year to go for a little ride together. We live about a mile from the Spen Valley Greenway – a Sustrans route (Route69 ) that goes all the way from Ossett to Bradford. We had planned to cycle from ours to Cleckheaton – a total distance of about ten miles.

Being the dutiful cyclists we are, we were giving our bikes a quick check over and making sure our tyres were at the right pressure when I heard an ominous hiss from my back wheel…

Now we went on a Brompton maintenance course at our local bike shop in August and we'd been walked through how to take all the bits off your bike in the event of a rear puncture. On a six speed Brompton with a rack, there's a lot of BITS. We armed ourselves with lots of YouTube videos, a 15mm spanner and some tyre levers we eventually took all the bits off, removed the inner tube (which had a rather conspicuous hole) and upon the reminder to make sure there was nothing left in your tyre, I came across this:

It's a TREE! In my tyre. Now I should point out that these tyres are pretty darn tough. They're German, made of super tough rubber with a magical green compound in the middle that makes these almost unbreakable. Yet somehow this beast had done it. Before I had even ridden a yard that day šŸ˜¦ It must have happened on that previous ride to the farm shop in appalling rain. (Said ride happened on a day that Trev assured me it would be dry. Less than five minutes from home the heavens open and it didn't stop).

I should highlight at this point that compared to Trev, I baby my bike. I love her. Comparatively, he treats his meanly, rides far more miles and does he have a puncture? On the rear wheel no less? No. Life is just not fair.

This thing was tough. I couldn't pull it out with my fingers and had to resort to using a pair of pliers:

Look at the size of that thing!

After giving everything a bit of a clean (turns out getting a rear puncture gives you access to all those hard-to-clean places), Clara was reassembled.

Look how proud an amateur bike mechanic I am!

So about two hours late we eventually set off on our ride.

The five miles to Clecky were all uphill, in a headwind and rather thankless – to top it all off, when we got there, everything was shut. Everything. Even Gregg's (yes, I was willing to stoop that low). (Tesco Express was open, but this doesn't count. Those things are like petrol stations and will always be open.) This was despite assurances from Trev that he had checked that his favourite cafe would be open on this Sunday between Christmas and New Year. (He was fibbing – he just assumed).

Thankfully I had packed some Rice Krispie Squares as snacks so we munched those and headed back home, unimpressed. At least the way home is almost entirely downhill which makes it much more fun. As do some of the interesting sculptures on the route. For example, steel sheeps:

This is about a mile out from Clecky and there's a little herd of them, on both sides of the path. Lovely! As was Clara:

Post-puncture and a good deal cleaner she was very happy indeed.

The day after New Years we went for another ride – we want to build up our mileage and wanted to go from ten miles, to fifteen. With that in mind, we sailed past Clecky, almost to Bradford – stopping at Victoria Park to take photos of each other before heading back (Trev looks unfairly cool in cycle gear – I look like a pink <insert large animal here – perhaps an elephant or a hippo?>):

Back to Clecky where this time the promised cafe was open and we helped ourselves to an All Day English Breakfast for lunch:

Of course, cycling the way I do burns no more calories than walking, so despite our round trip being over 15 miles, we consumed far more than we'd burned off. Never mind eh šŸ™‚

So, while I can't say I'm pleased to have had my first rear puncture, I am glad that I've discovered they're not as scary as I thought it would be and actually eminently fixable by me! In fact you can since find me doing this:

Which is taking my bike semi-to-pieces so I can give it all a really good clean, tape up vulnerable parts and have it run like new again. There's still lots of things that scare me, like adjusting anything to do with my gears or brakes, but I can now tick off a few key things, like replacing my handle bar grips, saddle, tyres, inner tubes, all by myself. I would want to have to do any of it at the side of the road, but I would if I had to.

Plus it if means I get to use completely weird, crazy looking contraptions like this:

(It's for cleaning your chain and it's AMAZING!)

I should point out that after our long ride, Trev discovered a small cut in his front tyre where something sharp had been ridden over – probably some of the lovely broken glass that litters the next suburb like confetti – but the sodding thing hadn't cut through the super-special green extra-tough rubber layer and he DIDN'T have a puncture. Life is not fair. Plus it would have been his front wheel which isn't fair either.


As penance, I'm getting him to plan our next ride (this may prove to be a bad decision in light of his research and weather-prediction skill) – hopefully a 20-miler – we want to go all the way to Hebden Bridge or Todmorden along the canal. Eventually, we'll move on to tackling hills. I can't wait for the days to lengthen and to be able to cycle to and from work again. It was noticeably lighter in the morning today and I'm looking forward to brighter things šŸ™‚


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