I hadn’t done a good long ride all summer. In fact, all I have really done is the commute home from work, 53km or so depending which roads I take, with a bag on my back. It’s alright, it’s still nice to get out, but sometimes it’s nice to get up on a weekend morning when it’s nice and warm out and go for a nice long ride. On the Saturday of the last weekend of August; the Labour Day weekend, I got that chance.
The wife took the kids up to the lake the day before leaving me behind to cycle up the next morning. The weather was to be ideal, 22-25 degrees with a little humidity on top of that and a wind that would ensure a side/tail-wind for most of the way. It was a hilly enough route for the early going but I was in no hurry. I’ve only raced once this cycling season and won’t be racing again until 2015 so I had no desires on high speed for maximum fitness gain. This was to be a ride that got to the very sole of why we cycle: For the pleasure of it; to watch the world roll slowly past with the wind from your motion keeping you cool on a hot summers day.
I set out an hour later than planned, a common trait when I don’t have a hard schedule to stick to and when my original plan was unrealistically early. And within the first kilometre I was on the first hill.
The road rolls across North Oshawa and east out of Durham region, no long climbs but the short-steep little things that after a while start to take it out of your legs, or can do if you don’t pace yourself. I’ve been guilty of that before, but not today.
Up and down I went, some longer than others, some steeper than others until after 21km I had already climbed 1,000 feet. The good news was that according to the profile of the route I had plotted out on the computer the day before, and from knowledge of driving in that general direction, the worst of the hills were now behind me. Anything else would be a bump on the road and I could settle into riding along and enjoying the view.
I stopped twice on the ride. Once in a little town called Millbrook after 48km in this quaint little cycling themed coffee shop called the Pastry Peddler. I sat outside on the loan table and chair because inside the loan table and chair was already occupied. They had old bikes from the 1970s or 80s hanging on the wall and tributes to various Canadian cyclists to have ridden the Tour de France. Old photographs and bits and pieces made it the most cycling coffee shop I’d yet visited in the area.
Further up the road I stopped in Lakefield for lunch and then pressed on for the final 50km.
I was gliding down a very quiet country road, the wind on the back of my right shoulder and thinking how this might be the most enjoyable ride I had done in several years and how good it was to keep the kilometres per hour graphic off the front page of my Garmin so as not to worry about what speed I was maintaining when I heard a loud bang from close by.
A sniper? Or a blowout? I needn’t have feared.
I climbed off and set to fixing it. Frustrating but not a big issue. A big issue would be two spare tubes that didn’t fit right and a second blow out. Which duly came. Several cyclists past by asking if I needed help but I never once had the nerve to ask them for one of their own tubes, sure I could sort out my own problem until which times I realised I couldn’t and no more cyclists came past.
The problem was the valve. The two tubes I had bought had short valves that with my slightly deeper rims that normal, didn’t go very far through. The result was that the tire couldn’t fit under the rim at the point of the valve when the tube was inside. When I inflated it, even a little, you could see the tire bulge as the tube tried to force its way out. With little to lose and a spare tube on me, I tried to squeeze it in as best I could and screwed on the Co2 canister it inflated the tire to a rock solid state. Immediately I could see the problem: The tube was half out of the tire and the tire itself bulging. I only touched the Co2 canister to release it when an explosion of air burst around me as the tube ripped apart.
Down to my final tube I set about putting it in only to discover the same issue. I was screwed.
I was able to inflate the the tire to about 50%…enough to ride on to the next main road but not to my destination…not if I wanted to get there before sun-up the next day! Left with no choice, I angrily slammed the wheel into the ground, cursing my luck and did the only thing left: Called for help.
Riding slowly up to the main road to wait for my rescue ride to arrive I told myself I was done with cycling, at least for this year. If I couldn’t get this most pleasurable of rides done then perhaps that was a sign. It was my third blow out of the year — the other two occasions shredded the tire and required a call for help — and on another occasion I got caught up in a thunder shower demanding my retreat to a coffee shop for several hours. I love a coffee shop during a bike ride, but not like that!
I had gotten 105km into this ride, still one of my longest rides of the year and yet felt like I’d come so short. I had planned for 145km and had been enjoying the ride so much that upon completing it I almost felt like I’d be able to turn right around and ride home again. And now I was stuck with a ‘mere’ 105km.
Later that evening over a few cold beers I came to the conclusion that 105km was still a decent ride albeit unfulfilled and that I’d have more chances again to do the in full…and further. That I’d have to lump it and take what I could from the ride…those first 105km that were some of the best I’ve enjoyed on a bike for a lot of years.