To have one puncture may be considered a misfortune, to have two is very bad luck, but three in a month is enough to test a man’s resolve. Welcome to my world in the last four weeks.
If you cycle long enough you are going to have a puncture. If you are lucky, you will have them on your own where you can sort them at a leisurely pace and get on with your ride. But eventually you are going to have one on a group ride. Then the fun begins.
Having been an observer of someone else’s misfortune many times on group rides, it was my turn on Saturday – just ten minutes into our Club ride. The fifteen minutes or so that it took to fix the situation and be on our way, just confirmed to me what I already knew. The group dynamics when someone punctures would have David Attenborough scratching his head. But there are definitely unwritten rules and obvious behaviour patterns when someone in the bunch suffers this misfortune.
- Rule #1 – Come tooled up. It is a chastening experience to have to beg, steal and borrow tubes and levers from fellow riders and will only increase the level of commentary from the sidelines (See Rule #2). Two spare tubes, a set of tyre levers and a pump is the minimum.
- Rule #2 – Expect an audience and lots of advice when you puncture, but don’t expect much help (see Rule #3). You will come to realise that the level of each individual’s expertise is inversely proportional to the level of noise they make.
- Rule #3 – The amount of help you will get from your fellow riders is directly determined by which sex you are. The formula is simple; if you are male you will get bugger all help. If you are female you will get loads. In fact if a lady plays her cards right she can be ready to ride again in as little as 5 minutes without so much as taking her gloves off. I am looking at you Judit Leszkovich!
- Rule #4 – The number of different opinions on how to get the tyre off and find the puncture is at least equal to the number of riders in the group.
- Rule #5 – The only acceptable way to sort a puncture is to fit a new inner tube (which you have with you – see Rule #1). Under no circumstances may you get out a puncture repair outfit. If you do, expect to see your ride disappear up the road.
- Rule #6 – The Velominati says: “You are not, under any circumstances, to employ the use of the washer-nut and valve-stem cap that come with your inner-tubes . They are only supplied to meet shipping regulations.” I say bollocks! I was told this last year during a puncture stop by a hard-core cyclist who explained that it was to do with rotational aerodynamics. This from a man with mud guards!
- Rule #7 – A pump is cool, CO2 is cooler. Cyclists go on a bike ride. Triathletes do a bike leg where the sole aim is to get to T2 in the shortest possible time so that they can start a run leg. CO2 gets you there quicker.
- Rule #8 – If you only have a pump, ensure you always know where the CO2 is to be found amongst your fellow riders. In this instance you can briefly ignore Rule #1. I am looking gratefully at you Nick Wall – enough said!
- Rule #9 – If you go on a training ride with tubular tyres and have a puncture, expect your fellow riders to wish you luck and leave you to it. (I thank my local cycling club, the Andover Wheelers, for this one – it was virtually the only piece of advice I was given when I asked them to explain the difference between tubular and clincher tyres!)
In other news, I have had a good week of training. With the Reading Half Marathon just a week away I have reduced the volume but tried to maintain the intensity of my sessions. Despite the weather I have managed to get out and train on six of the last seven days.
In less good news, I woke up this morning with man flu! Not what I want seven days before a half marathon. I am madly dosing myself up with Echinacea, vitamin C and Lemsip. Last night I even took Night Nurse and had the best night’ sleep in ages, but still feel rough.
I am keeping my fingers crossed!!