For those of you who are visiting my blog for the first time in a while, or are a newcomer, please take a couple of minutes to read the previous edition of these musings by scrolling down to the bottom of this week’s offering – this one will make a lot more sense if you read last week’s one first.
The day after posting last week’s edition I was riding up a hill which forks under a railway bridge. It makes no odds which one I take – they both lead home. I decided to take the right fork, and as I came out from under the darkness of the railway bridge….
The moment I realised what had finally happened, I smiled. Yes, you read that right. Leaning over the handlebars at the traffic lights I squeezed on my flabby front tyre. It was as soft as over ripe fruit. I didn’t get off there and then, I did something that is not recommended and rode gingerly on to the metronome of sullen complaints from the front tyre.
I was still smiling when, nearly a mile on, I rode over a bumpy spot of tarmac and my whole frame shuddered. Time to dismount and walk the last mile home in the sunshine.
I was smiling with relief. The thing that had been preying on my mind for weeks had finally happened. I was not stuck in the middle of the countryside, 9 miles from the nearest bike shop – as once happened. It was not pouring with rain. And best of all it was the front tyre (which is a whole lot easier to take off.) As I walked on, watching cyclists spin past me, I made a plan. My son, a victim of regular punctures, would be able to help. I didn’t want him to fix the puncture for me – just give me guidance and lend some moral support. Doing it myself would increase my confidence in fixing punctures, and thus decrease the anxiety about when it happened next time.
But that was when the true meaning of the puncture became clear. Having supervised me replacing the inner tube – the original tube that I had was ripped – my son pumped up the tyre. After pumping it up to what felt like me to the maximum, he kept pumping and a moment later there was a loud bang. The inner tube had burst from the excess pressure. He is used to pumping his tyres to a higher pressure than ones like mine. Enough to make me cry out in frustration? Much gnashing of teeth? No. While I was starting to feel somewhat deflated we noticed that there was a small rip in the tyre. Not right the way through, but enough to mean that had I not punctured I was risking a potentially dangerous blow out.
The next morning things took another surreal turn. I took the wheel to my local bike shop to buy a new tyre and inner tube. I asked the guy to fit the tyre on. I figured I had done enough to restore my confidence in my own abilities the day before. He struggled for a few minutes and finally asked a colleague to help him. They explained that new tyres could be particularly difficult to put on the first time. Yeah, right. But this admission made me feel, well, relieved, happy, quite light – headed, in fact. It really is hard to replace a tyre sometimes. Sometimes I really do need help.
Last time I felt like I was writing ‘live’, reporting how I felt as I was writing. This time it’s the same. Looking back to how it felt that day as I reached over to feel the soft tyre between my fingers; the feeling of relief that what I had thought I had feared for so long had finally happened. It made me smile because I had worked out that my increasing anxiety about cycling over the past weeks wasn’t about a bike puncture at all.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost (1874 – 1963)