Thorn in my Side

September 30, 2019

In the last week or so, autumn hasn’t just arrived, it’s taken its boots off and got itself comfortable, ready to stay awhile. This morning I was treated to a display of mist, first clearing and then reassembling to wipe out the valley below, before the sun finally burned through, and the wind has an edge to it didn’t have even a couple of days ago. The swallows are assembling for the off, the leaves are gradually turning, the nights are drawing in, and farmers everywhere have woken up and thought ‘today looks like an excellent day to go hedgecutting.’

For cyclists, this means only one thing: bastard big thorns. Indeed, on Saturday, as we were preparing to meet the others for my anniversaire, Back on my Bike discovered that she had fallen victim to the hedge trimmings scattering the road outside town. As she efficiently sorted that out, I had a quick look at my own bike and discovered I too had picked up a thorn, which was thoroughly embedded in my front tyre.

This leaves me with something of a dilemma. On the one hand, a thorn in a tyre is bad news and tends to be detrimental to its airtightness. On the other hand, taking off a newish Marathon Plus just as a precaution seems to miss the point of having puncture resistant tyres as they’re a giant pain in the neck to get on and off, and I’ve now ridden at least 80 miles in the tyre-plus-thorn combo with no apparent loss of air pressure. Back on the original hand, however, simply ignoring what is likely to be an imminent puncture seems likely to come back and haunt me, probably at the furthest point from civilisation, well out of mobile signal range, and on a day when the wind is blowing the rain sideways in all directions, and I’ll have nobody to blame but myself.

So far I’ve done the obvious thing, which is to ignore it and hope it goes away while offering up obeisance to the P****** Fairy to turn aside her wrath (this may have worked too well, as it was someone else who got the second puncture during Saturday’s festivities). I suppose I could at least put my pump back in my bag and purchase a spare inner tube, for when the inevitable comes. Because now that hedgecutting season is in full swing, a flat is really only a matter of time, whatever the current thorn in my tyre decides to do.

Falling Flat

April 30, 2019

So, for the last few weeks I’ve been looking forward to this moment – Pop safely, indeed successfully, over and a chance to catch up with myself, maybe relax a bit, and generally find the rhythm of normal life again. There’s still a little post-POP admin to do, including soothing the ruffled feathers of people who want to know why they hadn’t known it was happening and feel this is somehow my fault, even after they acknowledge that they did see a few posts about it on social media but hadn’t bothered to click on the links. Yeah, I don’t know either, pal, maybe next year I’ll come round to your house and read out the POP website to you? Although I think that may not be in line with the GDPR.

Meanwhile, my recent neglect of those little life admin tasks has been catching up with me. My study looks like an explosion in a cow costume factory and my filing backlog has reached the stage where I’m only able to find stuff by identifying which strata it may have been buried in. More to the point, when I got a flat last week after our epic party ride, and noted that three patches on an inner tube was possibly a sign that I should perhaps get a spare, I didn’t get any further than forming a vague intention to buy one next time I was passing the bike shop. Obviously that meant that yesterday evening I got off the train from a meeting in Glasgow to find my bike had yet another puncture and I had neither pump, patches, nor spare inner tube to avoid the ignominious phone call for a lift home.

So today was spent practising my puncture repair technique, which I’m actually getting reasonably slick at. I would have done it all singlehandedly had not our new neighbour passed as I was fitting the tyre back on and unilaterally came over and helped me with it. Indeed, so easy has it been to get the tyre on and off that I actually double checked that the back tyre (which is only just over a year old, and therefore just getting bedded in as far as I’m concerned) really was a Marathon Plus – and not just because it has suffered four punctures in its short lifetime. This time culprit was a couple of blackthorns, and even Marathon Pluses have never quite been proof against those, but even so I don’t remember when I’ve had quite so many visits from the puncture fairy in the space of a few months.

Still, a new inner tube has been fitted, the bike is running sweetly again and I’ve even formed a very firm intention to buy another inner tube to act as a spare. And maybe do something about the fact that the front tyre is looking somewhat bald, before that comes back to bite me.

But you know, all in the fullness of time…

Bike Maintenance Achievement Unlocked

November 13, 2018

Pedalling back from Bigtown during today’s temporary cessation of hostilities on the part of the Weather Gods, I stopped to enquire whether the cyclist who had stopped at the side of the road was okay.

“Not exactly,” she said. “I seem to have a flat tyre”.

Now, I always stop and ask if I can help when I see a cyclist by the side of the road, because it just seems wrong not to, but I have to confess, I’m usually relieved when they wave me on. The odds of a stranded cyclist having something wrong with their bike that is so simple that I can fix it, but not so simple that anybody else can’t fix it, AND it requiring the somewhat patchy content of my toolkit (tyre levers, patches, dumbell spanner, cheering-up sweeties, wrong size of allen key and usually no pump due to the iron law that you’ll always have left your pump in your other bike bag), are pretty long. But it turned out today that she had a pump and a spare inner tube, but no tyre levers, and the theory but no actual experience of changing a flat tyre. Between us, then, we made an awesome team. We extracted not one but two Bastard Big Thorns out of her tyre (one of them was so large I suggested she get it stuffed and mounted) and she was back up and running just in time for a man to cycle past, notice the two extremely competent females dealing with the problem, and pedal on with barely a hitch in his cadence. She was happy that she now felt she could deal with a puncture herself (a good thing, as hedge-cutting season is in full swing and nothing is proof against Bastard Big Thorns) and I was delighted to have cancelled out my woeful performance on Saturday, and also made a slight dent in the giant debt I have accrued from all the times someone else has helped me with my bike.

November afternoon

It has also reminded me that I should probably go and put the pump back in my main bike bag and track down the right size of allen key, because if this post isn’t an irresistible temptation to the Puncture Fairy, I don’t know what is.

And the Puncture Fairy makes Three

January 29, 2017

misty morning start

After a couple of years of running winter rides for the local Bigtown Cycling Campaign that have attracted none, one, or at best half a dozen participants, suddenly all our likes, comments and shares on Facebook have started turning into actual cyclists, turning up on actual bikes, to come out and ride with us, which is nice.

Unfortunately the Puncture Fairy is also apparently following us on Facebook and turned up this morning with a vengeance – including one poor lass who’d only been out for a spin on her nice new Halfords bike on her own and been struck by way of collateral damage as she passed our assembly point. Sadly Halfords had not thought to supply her with a pump or spare inner tube (or managed to set up the quick release on her brakes) so she was awaiting rescue when help arrived in the form of several knights in shining – or at least hi-vis – armour in the form of several of the wiry-old-boy-in-lycra brigade who like nothing better than fixing a puncture, especially if it can be combined with fulminations about the uselessness of Halfords.

And even if you don’t count her, the grand total by the time we finished was one delaminated tyre (fortunately noticed before we set off), one puncture at our destination, and one mega puncture involving a Bastard Big Thorn, a duff valve on a spare inner tube, and a recalcitrant back wheel, which meant by the time the back markers had arrived at the cafe stop, most of the front markers had already gone home. Having eaten all the soup. Honestly, there’s just no solidarity among cyclists these days…

Still, it was a gorgeous day to be out, and the weather was mostly pleasant enough to make standing around in the sun making helpful remarks during someone else’s puncture repair (and handing out cranachan-inspired flapjacks, complete with a tot of whisky, to mark the fact that this was our Burns ride) almost pleasant.*

afternoon sunshine

* apart from the point where I said, ‘we’ve been very lucky with the weather within earshot of the weather gods, who imediately started raining on us, just to remind us they could.


August 4, 2014

Preparing to head out for the papershop with the other half (he wasn’t daunted by last week’s front page news story about ASBO buzzard’s near neighbour and fellow cyclist harasser – and please note everyone suggesting a cycle helmet that if anything wearing one seems to send them into even more of a fury), I remarked casually about how I hadn’t wanted to take my pump out of my bag because the mere act of removing it would undoubtedly cause me to get a puncture. I then wondered briefly whether that would be enough to bring down the wrath of the puncture fairy, but I remembered we didn’t believe in her, so set off happily, and we were not harassed by any buzzards, although we were delighted by the sight of a bird of prey, probably a kestrel, swooping along the road ahead of us.

It was only on the way back that the other half noticed a splinter of wood had lodged itself in his tyre in a way that suggested removing it would not be a good idea four miles from home. And it was only as I waved cheerily to the hedgecutting tractor man that I remembered that Marathon Plus tyres are proof against many things, from broken glass to undoubtedly buzzard attacks, but they are not proof against blackthorn. No doubt having the not one but two pumps in my bag meant that we both got home before the air was entirely out of our tyres, but it was a close run thing. And it ‘only’ took me an hour to fix my puncture (including having to extract the blackthorn out of my tyre with my teeth) although I would like it noted that I did it All By Myself. And the other half hasn’t even started fixing his yet.

That said, nothing is fixed until it’s tested and fixed (as I used to say ad nauseum to my staff) so we’ll only know later whether I got my wheel on properly or not. Given my 100% record of not doing the bolts up tightly enough, I’m guessing ‘not’.