So last Saturday, training for our cycle from Wales to Scotland (plus climbing Snowdon, Scaffel Pike & Ben Nevis) ramped up a gear. Andy and I were determined to get a decent 100 miles done. Luckily, we live 50 miles from each other and so Andy would hit the road to Oxford at around 6am and arrive in Oxford for a full English breakfast. We would then cycle together towards Bedfordshire before going separate ways and I would continue with the return leg to Oxford.
Andy, the accomplished cyclist, had no problems. My first real long distance cycle proved a little more ‘challenging’. It was reassuring to have Andy alongside and setting a pace; it was also obvious that trips like our 3 Peaks Challenge would definitely be more entertaining doing it with some company. It’s also fair to say that sharing a challenge makes the time pass faster, massively helps motivation and for some, probably even raises their breaking point.
Luckily, on this practice cycle neither of us were near our breaking points and before we knew it we were 25 miles from Oxford and even had the chance to practice fixing a puncture on my back tyre! Around lunchtime we were approaching Ampthill and due to time constraints (a promised reunion in the evening) I had to turn and head back just short of the 50 miles. Andy continued on home, problem free. This is where the cycle really started to begin. I was pleased to be plodding up hills and battling against a prevailing wind but before long this was all too good to be true! A second puncture on my front wheel slowed me down but was again up and running before long I was back through the half way point. I was on the home straight and gliding through quaint Buckinghamshire villages again. Until, freewheeling down a hill I hit a hidden pothole and immediately felt my rear inner tube explode, which left me trying to recover a wobbling bike at a speed I wouldn’t have liked to hit the floor at (Andy knows all about this!).
After stopping for the third time now to take off the wheel and assess the damage it was clear this was one of those days where your luck just seems out. My inner tube had a large slice and I had now run out of patches (for any other amateurs out there consider this the moral of the story- always take a fully stocked repair kit and spare inner tube). Despite my best efforts to fashion a homemade patch out of a bit of rucksack the air was still eventually seeping out after 100 yards of pedalling. With my reunion now becoming fairly pressing I had to be sensible and head to the nearest town, find a pub and ask for a postcode and taxi to the nearest train station. The nearest town was Botolph Claydon and just in case you find yourself in a similar position or there on holiday, please be aware the town does not have a pub! A nice looking village hall did, however, catch my eye and naturally popped my head in to ask if I could have a taxi number and post code. I didn’t actually get that far as to my glorious surprise inside the hall were around 50 people, covered in lycra and helmets. They were cyclists! My request for a spare inner tube, which in a pub would have been a fairly long shot, became a fairly mundane request in my now favourite village hall! A couple of them patched me up and I polished off the rest of the miles to Oxford with an enormous grin on my face.
This story is a personal thanks to the lady who not only made the teas for the other cyclists but also gave me her spare inner tube. I had no cash on me to trade her for it but she graciously accepted payment in the form of a promise. A promise that: if I ever see a raggedy cyclist in need of an inner tube I will give them my spare. I will be sure to keep that promise and am forever grateful to the kindness of those fellow cyclists and to those fantastic coincidences in life (like getting a puncture near a village hall full of cyclists). That my friends is the karma of punctures...