If at first you don’t suceed

It’s always good to have a spare

… redefine exactly what you mean by success.  I haven’t ridden my cross bike much lately, although that verb transcends my entire bike collection during the first half of April. After an amazing trip to the Maritime Alps*, family holidays, refusal of spring to turn up, lack of very large mountains to ride on, etc, it took buying a new pair of forks to motivate any kind of riding activity.

Fantastic they are. First two rides crashed both times. There’s only so much that high specification components can mask talentless stupidity. So turning rather gingerly to a different bike as a possible solution, the wagon wheeled Solaris was car packed, and ready to go at the end of a working week best marked ‘well nobody was actually killed, so it couldn’t have been that bad

When that work finally stopped, the weekend didn’t start well. A late release from paid lunacy saw me instantly fall into the trap of attempting motion on a Friday night motorway. The 10 minute saving this route should have made slowly turned into 30 minutes of steering wheel chewing, bumper to bumper action, so we could all get a 5mph drive-by view of a car with a slightly bent bumper.

Finally free, the next blocker between me and some bike action was the heinous cross of equipment-strewn tractors and barely moving cars peopled by ancient hat wearing individuals. So it was some 30 minutes late that the bike was hauled out of the car, and various body parts were mooned to the good burghers of Malvern in my switch from corporate clone to mountain biker.

Being somewhat full of angst, my pedalling revolutions sent me down the first track at a speed leaving my riding buddies behind who’d so patiently waited for my eventual arrival. They had to wait again as the VERY FIRST METRE of proper off road slashed the rear tyre in that depressing feeling of instant deflation. This is a trail I’ve ridden maybe a hundred times on almost the same line, but today seemed the ideal opportunity to try something that’d cut off a whole second. And a chunk out of my tyre.

Quick examination showed the kind latex leakage all us tubeless fans fear. Dispensing with inner tubes is a great idea for most of the time until suddenly it isn’t.  No problem, I’ll stick a tyre boot in there to get us going. That tyre boot would be in the other pack some fifteen miles away. Along with my spare tubes, pump, valve core remover, emergency badger**, etc. The packin my hand contained  a bit of water and a cavern of almost no tools or anything useful at all. A fine selection decision at 7am that morning.

My friends were great. Firstly a spare tube was willingly handed over. Quick latex soaked installation later, we raised it to 30 psi and removed the pump. At which point the valve exploded and shot across the Malvern hills never to be seen again. We checked how many spare tubes we now had. The answer was one. But no level of optimism could disguise the clear fact it was three inches too short.***

Furrowed brows brought up more solutions, remove a valve from another tube. For which we’d need a valve core remover, Which was 15 miles away still. Somehow I wrested one out, but my briefly fired excitement was quickly extinguished by the realisation that the rest of the valve core was irretrievably lodged int the valve, and I didn’t have a big enough hammer to even begin to solve that problem.

Finally, more in desperation that hope, a gas canister applied high pressure to the tyre which merely splattered the remaining latex across every innocent individual within a 15 yard blast radius. I waved my companions goodbye as they began a dusty ride under blue skies, while I grumpily pushed my way back to the car.

Motoring home in a fury, my fully rounded plan to get drunk and sulk was modified by the thought that other bicycles are available. Flinging open the barn door, I extracted the cross bike, manically applied a proper pump to the sagging tyres, fetched the ‘badger pack‘ off the wall and set off into the darkening sky with demons to exercise.

It’s fifteen minutes to the local woods. Not tonight, it was a tad over fourteen with a sweating eyeball-stalked lunatic wrestling a willing bike up and down the cracked and pot-holed roads that make up most of Herefordshire. Waiting just a moment for the spots to clear, I was away on damp, loamy and grippy dirt lit by a dying sun and a big riders grin.

The cross bike is fun on trails like this. Even with now mostly bald tyres and tubes too full of air. Based on how well my tyre antics had gone that evening, I didn’t even consider improving the grip at the risk of a subsequent explosion. Instead I bounced off roots and slithered on soft ground making a total arse of myself.

Night was chasing away the last of the day as I excited a final whoopy trail and hammered for home. Just time to take in a last trail heading due west into a sky someone has thoughtfully set fire too for my viewing pleasure. Back home, karma restored, I examined the pack under the light of a cold beer. Three tubes of differing sizes, two pumps, a shock pump, spares I know not even of their history never mind purpose, two rain jackets and a phalanx of energy products of uncertain vintage.

None of which I needed of course. All of which I shall be carrying from now on.

* which shall be written up in a’full gloat’ style when life slows down enough for me to make up some bad lies around great pictures.

** You can never have too much spare stuff.  I know this from my commuting days.

*** We’re talking about the tube here. Well I am anyway.

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