Sunday, 19 April 2009

Unexpected treat

Unexpected treats are always welcome. So when a jaunt on the bikes was proposed yesterday afternoon, I was stupidly happy.

The euphoria was short-lived though. A voice from the garage announced “Oh. You've got a flat.”

“Very flat?”

“Very flat. Back tyre.”


The sky was blue, the grass was riz; there was but a warm and gentle zephyr shifting the tops of the silver birches. This was no time for messing about with punctures.

I spied no 2 son's abandoned Kona. Knobby tyres, grip shifts, Manitous (seized but whatever). Just needed a couple of pedals, the saddle lowering, air in the tyres and I'd be away. He forsook it, still muddy from the last ride (from the colour of the mud, I'd say Queens Wood, Herefordshire and yes, he should be ashamed) when he took his road bike to Uni several years ago.

“Quicker to fit a new tube,” ventured Captain Sensible.

It fell on deaf ears. I was captivated by the thought of an interesting ride on the Kona. Gripshift gears, after all. Why hadn't I thought of this before?

Pedals were no problem but the seatpost wasn't going anywhere. Three lots of squirty stuff later, I was tempted to clout it with a mallet merely to vent my frustration but it has such a nice saddle that I didn't have the heart.

Captain Sensible shot me a look that said “Ahem” quite loudly.

Doh. So ok. Back to the tyre. I guessed blackthorn and found the demon spine well bedded in. But it was still going to be a pain to get that out and get a new tube on. Yawn.

I returned to the problem seatpost hoping the penetrating lubricant had done it's stuff. The seatpost was still unbudgeable but how hard could it be? Four broken fingernails later, quite hard.

But lo and hallelujah – in the meantime, Capt Sensible had sorted my back tyre! I just had to fit it. Another 10 minutes and my hands were covered in oil. I had oil on my downtube, oil on the handlebars, oil on my cycling jacket. The spiffy LX gear thingy kept getting in the way of the wheel going back in. Then my brakes jammed.

By now there were three bikes in various states of unrideability (did i mention that Capt Sensible's pannier clip had snapped and he'd discovered the wall of his back tyre was shredding with age?) littering the terrace.

This was the moment where, in another life, I might have said “fuckit” and abandoned the lot for a glass of chilled sauvignon blanc and a comfy chair in the last of the afternoon sun beneath the apple blossom. It would be have been pleasant to languish, watching the frogs in the pond and forgetting about oil and things which were stuck.

But in addition to leg muscles, cyclists develop bloody-minded perseverance. And I could never abandon my lovely Orange. It deserves respect and tlc. We've been together a long time.

So after another 20 minutes, the difficulties were resolved and the bike was raring to go. All that oil may be messy but there are few experiences quite as beautiful as riding a smooth, silent, silky-geared bike.

Immediately we set off, I knew it had all been worth it. Who wants to languish when you can have the sun and breeze against your face on a nice downhill?

There, rising above the fields in the distance, was Gloucester Cathedral; all bathed in the golden glow of late afternoon.

The ride wasn't ambitious. Capt Sensible wanted to ride to a pub and back. Fair enough. It involved some track, some fields and a lot of canal bank. There was a testing bit involving a narrow track, much churned-up mud and the possibility of a swim with the moorhens if you didn't pay attention to detail.

We tarried outside the pub watching the canal, people, narrowboats, letting the sun seep into our bones. There was warmth, a nice view and a large gin and tonic.

It didn't really matter that the Capt Sensible's pannier clip had to be repaired a second time or that the tricky mud had to be negotiated in gloom observed by curious, luminescent swans on the darkening canal.

In the waterside thickets, a chorus of birds sung out the end of the day. Scores of grazing rabbits fled as we pedalled across the fields.

We wound back through some Severnside wetland just as the fat setting sun was turning dark reedy pools into pans of roseate quicksilver. A brief, transient, magical time.
Worth all the effort, and more....

...even taking account Capt Sensible's back tyre blowing half a mile from home.

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