Huff, puff and two flat tyres

Fellow cyclist Barry

Fellow cyclist Barry

Following on from my previous post, where the day started with being on BBC Three Counties Radio and discussing cycling with Iain Lee, I was starting my commute to Stevenage when I acquired an unexpected companion.  It was still dark when Barry caught up with me, suggesting I followed him on his route but I should say we already knew each other!  Here’s the low down on some eventful cycling…..

Within minutes of Barry catching me up, we were on the National Cycle Route number six heading from Luton towards Harpenden.  This is a delightful stretch, gently undulating through mostly wooded areas.  At this time of year it looks so geogeous with the leaves turning through those wonderful orange and reds autumnal colours.  That’s all very well but they’re  also slippery and slimy, almost sending me me flying.  I was following Barry with his super bright lamp.  Every now and again he’d yell out “branch” or something else in warning me of some description.  Fair to say it was a, shall we say, a “spirited” ride.

We then turned off, heading uphill and towards Kimpton.  That involved a fair bit of huffing and puffing for us both followed by Barry knowing every bit of the road: all the potholes, rough bits and steered a good path through a rather rough road which lasted 3 miles before getting to Kimpton.  From there we headed through Codicote, Old Knebworth and down into Stevenage.  All okay, just getting light as we split off into our different cycle paths to the different offices where we both work.

First puncture

Through the day we arranged to cycle home together, following the same route.  As I left work I sensed the back tyre was soft and by the time I reached our rendevouz place I knew I had to change the inner tube.  This was the first picture.  Also noted was the chain, virtually dry!  How can that be!?!  The wrong oil, more about that another time.  But the issue of a dry chain showed itself on the first hill with it jumping around. We stopped and I fiddled but there was nothing wrong apart from the dry chain.

And the second puncture!

No sooner was that fixed and pressed ahead for a couple of miles.  Went around a corner and the rear end felt a bit weird, followed by a bump and sure enough, another flat.  The moral of the story so far is about always taking two spare inner tubes, plus patches.  Fixing the flat was straight forward but the troubling thing was, there was nothing obviously wrong with the tyre – absolutely nothing sticking though.  That troubled me.  Carrying on I reckoned that was all the huffing and puffing for the day.

I was wrong.  Barry was just getting into his stride and was pelting along, unaffected by the strong headwind we had in parts.  When I wasn’t behind him I’d pull out and try to ride alongside.  By the time I’d get there and just resume the conversation a car would appear from behind and I’d need to pull back.  This game carried on for most of the way back into Luton and along the Bus Way cycle track.  I knew we were coming to a fairly wide stretch and ideal for getting alongside him.  Success I managed it!  And then Barry picked up the speed even more and soon I was going like the clappers to maintain the same speed but happily still able to speak coherently.  Barry then confessed he too was at the limit, so then I could console myself.

We ended up parting company at my house.  Barry reflected on his choice of bike he’d made for the day: you might think he was on some exotic carbon fibre road bike.  No.  It was an elderly heavy weight hybrid, nothing fancy.  Flip I thought, if he’d been on his road bike I wouldn’t stand a chance.  We shook hands and said our farewells.

It turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable workout, both ways and completely unexpected.  I felt that the pace was maybe 3 – 5mph faster than my normal plodding pace and consequently I’d needed to work harder than normal; no bad thing.  Thanks Barry!

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