Back when I started this challenge, I decided to cycle 100 miles for the cycling element. How hard could it be, right? So, I made a plan:
Stage 1: Borrow a bike
Stage 2: Borrow a helmet
Stage 3: Put both in the garage, and leave to mature for 12 months
Stage 4: Cycle 100 miles
Frankly, the plan was bulletproof. Which, sadly, is more than can be said for my bicycle tires…
But let me start at the beginning of my day of cycling, which I eventually got round to just 50 weeks after borrowing the bike. I decided that, rather than just cycle in a circuit for a while, achieving nothing and going nowhere, I would cycle to the very source of the River Thames. There, I would bottle the freshest spring water and bring it back to Murderbeers, who would create a delicious ale from it!
Realising I would need plenty of energy, I decided to go to bed early, get up early and eat a high energy breakfast. When it came to it, however, I drank some whisky, went to bed late, got up later and realised I didn’t really know what a high energy breakfast was.
Luckily, I remembered people often eat toast for breakfast and bananas for energy. So I took some bananas and spread them on some toast. Simple. Then I threw my camera into a bag and it was onto the bike for me!
That was the plan, anyway. Thanks to the strange “foot strap” things, however, I couldn’t get onto the bike properly without first falling off. Eventually, I was helped onto the bike by my long-suffering parents and, after a wobbling circuit of the road, I was off – to cycle one hundred miles!
I started off well, given that I’ve never ridden a road bike in my life. I struggled a bit to avoid being hit by cars in the middle of town but, once I was out on the open road, there was no stopping me! Even at traffic lights! (I’m kidding there, but I wanted to make some kind of light hearted joke because, frankly, long posts about cycling are tedious).
Anyway, using the popular “grit teeth and pump legs” approach, I made it from Bourne End, through High Wycombe, out to Princes Risborough, through Thame and to Oxford services in a couple of hours. Having covered 40 miles, I decided it was time for lunch, so I stopped and ate a Mars bar. Again, I don’t really get this whole “eating” thing that people seem so get so wound up about.
Then, it was onwards to power through Oxford and out, towards Gloucester!
That, however, was when I noticed something was wrong. At first, I thought the A40 was just a really horrible road. Alas, it turned out that my back tyre had been punctured and was deflated. Being me, I had nothing to repair the puncture and, being that it wasn’t my bike, I didn’t want to press on regardless.
So, I picked it up and walked…to Halfords! My only problem was that Halfords was five miles away. And I don’t walk quickly. Luckily, when I finally arrived, the super helpful staff repaired the puncture straight away and I was back on the road in what was now a torrential dourpour.
I made it about a mile before I realised that, even for a man cycling through a river, I was sliding around a LOT. So I checked my tire again. It was punctured. A walk back to Halfords revealed that one of the spokes from the wheel had come through a gap in the protective tape and had popped the tire. Twice. So it was repaired again and I was back on my way again.
This time, I also invested in a light (because it would be dark before I arrived at the source of the Thames) and a puncture repair tool, that would instantly repair and refill a punctured tire. I wasn’t going through all that again. Oh no. Not me, “Prepared” Ed.
By this point, I was pretty angry. Not with anything in particular, but mainly because it had taken me longer to get my tire repaired than it had to cycle 40 miles. Despite gunning my legs until the tears welled up in my eyes, I still had 60 miles to go and it was already approaching eventide.
Luckily, the A40 then took a downwards slope. Instead of coasting to save energy, however, I decided to hit the lowest possible gear and fly onwards as fast as possible, to make up as much time as I could.
That was good. That worked! For about five miles…when a rock turned up in the middle of the “cycle lane”.
Trapped between the curb and a constant stream of 4x4s driving at 80mph, I hit the stone at full speed, destroying my front tire. That morning, I had never ridden a road bike before. Now I was going flat out down the A40, downhill in the wet, without a front tire…and trying to brake…
So, my friends, the inevitable happened. I slipped this way. I slipped that way. Then I hit the curb…and flew. Luckily, my fall was broken by some stinging nettles. Unluckily, my fall was broken by some stinging nettles.
Eventually, I stopped rolling and peeled myself off the floor. After a quick check to make sure my camera wasn’t destroyed, I picked up the bike and applied the puncture repair tool. I shook it well before use, afixed it to the tire and hit “inflate”.
Foam went everywhere. Everywhere except in the tire. As far as puncture repairs go, this was the worst thing I’ve ever seen, short of the rest of the bike exploding.
To cut a long story short, I walked 5 miles to Oxford to catch a train home. Along the way, a wonderful man on the street repaired my tire with a pocket puncture repair kit! When he went to inflate the tire with a tiny tube of CO2, however, the tube exploded. It was a valiant attempt…but not to be.
The next 6 or so hours were spent thus:
- Wait at Oxford train station for 45 minutes
- Jump on train to Didcot Parkway
- Sit at Didcot Parkway for one hour
- Jump on train to Kemble
- Arrive at Kemble and get lost in pitch black fields
- Run back to station
- Leap onto last train back to Swindon
- Sit at Swindon for another extended period of time
- Catch last train home
- Get off at the wrong stop
- Get picked up
Still, whatever – I still spent 12 hours cycling, or attempting to cycle, 100 miles. I’m pleased with the result. Not pleased enough, however. I will try again another day!