|Yours truly at the top of Clarks Lane, bike dangerously exposed to traffic|
En route to Westerham initially, my bike was the first to suffer just past the roundabout beyond Botley Hill. Andy noticed it before me, exclaiming, "You've got a puncture!"
I slowed to a stop, turned the bike upside down and got on with the painfully frustrating task of removing the rear wheel, levering off the tyre, pulling out the inner tube and trying to find the hole. It's the same old, same old. All the familiar things were there: unable to pump up the inner tube to hear the puncture, eventually finding a small tear that was likely caused by the spokes or some part of the wheel itself rather than a genuine puncture in the sense of a thorn.
Phil eventually spotted the tear and I fixed it with a leech before cycling on towards Westerham, but then disaster struck again, this time for Phil who found he had a puncture as we began our descent into Westerham. We stopped and Phil set about fixing it on the roadside. Two down, one to go and we were waiting for Andy to announce that he too had a puncture. Fortunately, it never happened and we resolved to ride back up the hill to the Tatsfield Churchyard and abandon all hope of reaching Westerham.
|Moments later, Phil's bike falls victim to a puncture|
Oddly, while we drank our tea, my bike decided to let out all the air in its rear tyre. We looked round and found it flat. Andy lent me one of his 'leeches' and I set about fixing it again, although within seconds of getting the tyre back on the wheel and resuming our chat, the tyre deflated itself again with a loud hiss. Andy lent me a spare inner tube, a brand new one, and all was fine.
By late afternoon, the promised rain arrived, drenching a parched landscape and continuing throughout the night. While the rain did cool things down slightly, the night was still hot and I slept badly listening to doors knocking, foxes squealing and the distant shouts of revellers making their way home from somewhere. When the alarm went off I wasn't sure what to do. During the night I had considered calling Phil and Andy and aborting the ride, but decided against the idea – thank God I couldn't find my mobile phone, although whether I would have aborted or not was never a foregone conclusion and in the end I got up around 0600hrs, made tea and cereal, watched a bit of breakfast television and then headed off for the Green with Phil at 0630hrs.
The rain had cooled things down and there was a pleasant breeze as we headed up the 269 towards Botley Hill, hoping that we wouldn't be dogged by punctures for a second day. We sailed past the Tatsfield Bus Stop, noting that another cyclist was taking refuge there, and then virtually freewheeling all the way down the hill towards Westerham. The breeze and the cool air were very pleasant and when we arrived in Westerham, out came the tea – and Phil's bacon sandwiches – just what the doctor ordered.
|...and then, at Tatsfield Churchyard, another puncture for yours truly|
We sat on the Green, behind the statute of Winston Churchill, watching cars and other cyclists and chewing the fat about this and that: Top Gear, the Hungarian Grand Prix, holidays without mobile phones and computers and then we headed off home.
We cycled up the hill towards Botley and then north along the 269, parting company with Andy half way along the road as usual and then powering our way into Warlingham and then Sanderstead.
The weather was wonderful, albeit mildly cooler and now, as I write this, it's very warm and there's a mixture of blue skies and white cottonwool clouds, the sound of distant airliners and the tinkle of wind chimes disturbing the peace.