Thursday, 15 June 2017

Eroica is looming - which bike to ride?...

At last a break from the turbulence of late - I'm in my office; it's 7.45am, the sun is shining. The trees display none of the violent animation of late - it looks like a good riding day.

I'm on the Colnago today - I have to make a final decision on which 'old' bike to use for Eroica - Yesterday I went out on the Bianchi and that went well. However, I'm pretty sure it will be the Collie - but a long ride today will help the decision ...maybe.

The outward part of the trip is great - the bike is riding well, smooth, quiet and remarkably quick. I cover the first ten miles easily, the sun is behind me, it's warm and no wind to delay progress.

At some point I will need to pause, catch my breath, give the legs a rest, but the clear sweet summer air is somehow exciting with the feintest tingle of freedom. The sky is clear and bright blue, a few white clouds unfurl vapour trails marking the journey of aeroplanes overhead, but here on the ground it seems that all of England is laid out before me, shaken out across to the horizon like a proverbial summer quilt. Each blade of grass seems to catch the sun and toss it back to the sky and meadow flowers are weaving a tapestry of subtle colour through the fine grasses. Islands of Ox-eye daisies reach upwards, their spindly, delicate stems swaying gently in the lightest of breezes.

I stop with 18 miles covered - I decide a lie in the grass would be a good thing. I stare up at the empty sky. There's nothing to do, nothing is moving, nothing is happening. the June grass is long and cool to lie on, entagled with wild flowers and spears of wild wheat, coiled with clambering vines and the whole humming with bees and the flicker of scarlet butterflys. I lie there, chewing on a piece of grass.

The sun is high in the sky as I set off for the return journey. It's hot now. Bees and butterflys fly back and forth amongst the vegetation, the hedgerows are alive with buzzing. The hardest part of today's ride is the return journey, taking in a number of stiff climbs, all challenging, especially on the Colnago with it's racing gear configuration. The first climb: up past the forgotten apple tree, in abundant leaf now with green fruit forming, past the climbing rose with its dizzy scent displaying bright mauve and pink blooms, past the ash and hawthorn hedges with glimpses through the gaps of the rolling countryside beyond. The climb drags on - I'm feeling tired, but I finally make it to the top - a gentle roll now for a few hundred yards as I catch my breath. The next few miles are okay, although I notice a distinct headwind - no wonder the pace is slower.

Anything even slightly uphill feels like a chore now - legs are aching slightly but feet are worse - not helped by being squashed into my old pair of Patrick Poulidor cycling shoes - these were fine 35 years ago - they're tight now, I'm sure my feet have swollen with the heat? I try to focus on the landscape - it's a beautiful day - the swelling slopes of meadow, the sunlight lying like transparent gold among the gently curving stems of feathered grasses summer has arrived and we must make the most of it.

I'm 8 miles from home when i'm suddenly awoken from my idle thoughts - a front wheel puncture that went off with a distinct bang - I'd recently filled my tubes with anti-puncture sealant - this white latex concotion spurts from the tyre as it revolves - it's like sitting on a catherine wheel - within seconds both me and the bike are covered in sticky white goblets. I pull over and access the situation - will the tyre seal or do I need to change it - I get the wheel out anyway and sit for a moment on a convenient bench. A cyclist passes and calls out - I tell him I'm okay - he turns and comes back anyway just to check - 'Just a puncture" i tell him - and he's soon on his way - 'Nice bike' he nods towards the upturned Colnago on the grass next to me.

I try pumping up the tyre - still more white stuff oozes from the hole. I decide to change the tyre. Not as simple as with a 'normal' bike though. These tyres are glued onto the rim - first thing is to release the bond and prise the tyre off - then spread new adhesive onto the rim (I'm carrying a convenient tube of glue!) Then get the new tyre onto the rim in the right position - it all goes well until it comes to trying to pop the last part of the new tyre onto the rim - it's tight - I have to really stretch the tyre to get it on - it slips and pops off the rim - the rim spins as well landing on my lap and depositing the newly applied adhesive all over my shorts. This glue is mighty sticky - fine strands stretch from the wheel rim to my clothing like a spiders web. More from hands back to the rim, it's getting messy!

Second time I get the tyre on - I try to wip the spilt glue from my clothing but it's a hopeless task - I pump up the tyre and carry on. The final few miles are hard work and I arrive back feeling drained. One good thing though - a tube of 'sticky stuff remover' makes short work of the glue on my shorts - and when I pump up the punctured tyre it seems to have sealed - looks like I should have waited longer for the sealant to act?

Will I ride the Colnago at Eroica? - still not sure!

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