Yet again, I’ve experienced the brunt of God, the Gods or whatever universal energy force may exist out in the nether regions of the ether, pissing on me from up on high and having a good old time laughing its/their balls off at my expense whilst the last drips land. This disruption usually occurs two or three times a year at specific months and after many years of scrutiny and realisation, I try to prepare as best I can for the coming onslaught of Fate’s dice-throw. As I’m still limited to travelling to work using the age-old transport method of the bicycle, this is usually the weakest link in my so-called life and it is most likely to be one of the contributing factors towards my tri-yearly stresses. So it comes as no surprise that this month’s boiling rage has arrived with a plumb and has been ushered in with yet another cycle-related extravaganza of pain and suffering for myself.
Just the other day I woke up, pulled my curtains apart and was faced with a windswept inner-city vista of rain drenched walls and streetlight amber-smudged tarmac, so out with the waterproofs, onto my bike and off into the grey morning of uninvited misery my legs rotated. Whizzing along my local main road in the torrential rain wasn’t a problem, except for the constant stream of tyre spray that was continually catching my eyes due to some preordained quantum physics and I remembered thinking I bet even Stephen Hawking couldn’t create an equation to explain this bastard occurrence. The mile before hitting the farm lanes passed uneventfully, then into the muddy breech I went, sloping and sliding through quagmire puddles and zigzagging to avoid blustery low tree boughs, progressing through this British monsoon. I was amazed that the rain had already managed to seep through my supposed waterproof jacket and was soaking my shoulders and back, slowly sending a rivulet of uncomfortable, cold liquid running down towards the crack of my arse.
Suddenly, I got a puncture to my rear wheel, but this was no slow developer; one second I’m riding high, the next I’ve slid off to one side and down onto the ground because there’s no air left inside my flaccid tyre. As I picked myself up - now covered in mud along with being wet - and wiped my eyes, I tried to discern my next move and things weren’t looking too good. I knew it was pointless to try to fix this puncture for two reasons: firstly, the inner tube was sticking out from the tyre due to the fact I’d had to put a thicker tube into the thin-rimmed wheel a couple of weeks before and my 14 stone saddle abuse had now paid dividends, dropping me right in the shit quite literally. Secondly, and more worryingly, I was riding a full-suspension bike called “THE BIKE-INATOR” that I had borrowed from a mate a few months prior (see “A tale of two bicycles” for more details) and now, through rain-stung eyeballs, I noticed a previously unnoticed issue with this bike - there was no quick-release spindle for the rear wheel, just two bolts that required a spanner, something that I did not possess anywhere on my person.
Now here’s one of the little quirks of fate I am sure governs my very existence: I had TWO spare inner tubes in my rucksack but no way of getting the wheel off to fit either of them. My mind flashed increasingly insane ideas regarding undoing the wheel nuts, from trying to fashion some form of wrench from a couple of tree twigs through using a Stanley knife to cut the inner tube free and culminating in a cringe-worthy image of me trying to use my teeth as an adjustable spanner, all to no avail. So “THE BIKE-INATOR” was thrust aside with the inner power of an adrenaline-fuelled super-hero who just happened to look like a drenched, forty year old cretin and felt like a sodden, sixty year old tosser.
At this point in the story, with the heavens gushing down upon me, my rear wheel’s tyre resembling a split sausage and lacking in the most basic of tools to change the inner tube in order to progress, I expected the fury within to cause some irreparable damage: a cardiac arrest maybe or struck down by a debilitating stroke or even a complete rectal prolapse due to the all-consuming stress of the situation. Surprisingly however, nothing of the kind happened, which just meant I continued screaming garbled platitudes skyward to an unseen and probably non-existent higher force. I didn’t even notice a bloke slowly jogging past on his morning run until he was level with my tangled bike and had to deviate around its prostrate form; he cast a confused, bemused look at me through the curtain of falling rain and all I could manage through surprised embarrassment was a Joker-style outburst of laughter, followed with “F**king typical, eh?! God’s dropping his guts all over me again!” His accelerated pace and squint-furrowed brow revealed the jogger must have thought it was best to vacate the area as quickly as possible and get some distance between this wet-through, cackling moron and himself.
Shaking my head, I picked up the bike and started to push it along the slop-filled farm lane but was stopped dead within a couple of metres due to the now-exposed inner tube becoming trapped against the back suspension’s sub-frame. Try as I may to loosen and extricate the wheel from its position, it soon dawned on me things were going from bad to catastrophic: the back end of the bike was now locked solid due to the oversized inner tube forming a giant rubber seal between frame and rim. Panting like a primordial beast, I weighed up my options and quickly realised I had three available at hand and all of them were completely useless due to my equidistant position within my journey. Option one was use the bike like a wheelbarrow by holding up its rear end and push it the two miles to work; option two was the same but push the bike back home two miles in the opposite direction; finally, option three meant locking the bike to a tree and walking the two miles to work, doing my job, then walking back the two miles again, only this time returning with a spanner to get the back wheel off.
The third option won. The bike’s lock was wrapped around a suitable tree trunk and fastened in haste, and then off I stomped into the drizzling distance, cursing as I went because my waterproofs had proven to be anything but. It was straight into work, clothes off and draped over any nearby heaters, job done as quickly as possible and then the all-important adjustable spanner snatched up as I set back off into a brief weather respite. The two miles trek wasn’t too bad due to partly-dried clothes and with the bruised sky holding back its swelled tears for the moment, I even started to see the funny side of the situation. Then as I reached the bike, the rain started once again, only this time with the vengeance of a Global Warming-influenced, North Manchester Tsunami and within a couple of unsheltered seconds I looked as if I’d been swimming in a slurry tank.
Rucksack was flicked off my back, spanner and inner tubes out and “THE BIKE-INATOR” unshackled from its woodland attachment, then flicked upside down onto its handlebars and seat beneath the limited leafy shelter of the tree. The adjustable spanner was a blur on the spindle’s nuts and the trapped wheel then fell free; not wasting any time, it was straight onto sliding off the tyre in one motion - helped in no small part due to the watery lubrication - and after double-checking for thorns or glass inside it, I slipped in one of my spare inner tubes and gave a little pump of air for structure. Just as I was about to slip the tyre back onto the wheel’s rim, over the noise of the downpour there was the unmistakeable sound of escaping air coming from a supposedly brand-new inner tube.
“I DON’T F**KING BELIEVE THIS!” rumbled from deep within my thorax and now with hands covered in mud, the inner tube was dragged out and flung over my shoulder onto the top of some nearby bushes, its faulty valve still spluttering air. I glanced across as I reached for my final spare and noticed a couple of Cows’ noses warily sniffing at its coiled, black shape as if faced with a hissing snake in the midst of their English meadow. Once more the tyre was filled with new rubber and a couple of quick thrust of the bike pump shaped the inner tube: I held it up close to my right ear, listening, hoping and praying it was fine. A high-pitched squeak of leaking air showed it was far from being fine and I was now faced with the soul-crushing realisation that both my spare inner tubes were compromised and I’d have to push “THE BIKE-INATOR” back home another two rain-doused miles. And the irony of this farcical situation threatening a Genome meltdown? I didn’t think I needed to carry a small, weightless and insignificant puncture repair kit because I had two spare inner tubes in my rucksack...
There was no internal explosion, no busting a nut and no punching something nearby until my knuckles split, just a crushed acceptance that it was either push the bike home or launch it into some nearby copse and leave it. The latter choice wasn’t viable due to the fact I’d only have to walk past the rusting, Nature-claimed frame day after day and would probably get increasingly furious with each passing footstep that I wasn’t riding a bicycle to work. So yet another rubber serpent made new bovine friends on top of the bushes and it was back on with the rear wheel without the tyre due to its insistence of getting caught up on the bike’s frame. All this meant I was pushing a bike on a bare metal rear rim. For two miles. In the pissing down rain. Covered in shit.
I set off, hundred percent sure nothing could get worse but after just a couple of steps, my MP3 player’s battery died, leaving me with just the echo of spattered rain falling upon my hood, the metallic grinding of the unshod wheel and the swishing of my soaked boots as they splashed onwards. My vocal mumbling and audible ranting along the way probably made me appear to be a borderline schizophrenic with a religious fervour due to my shouting up into the sky and cursing God, oblivious to all surrounding me. This sound of complete and utter failure would envelope me for another two lonely miles, just long enough a journey to perform some self-analysis and self-flagellation before reaching the safe haven of my abode. Then, a mental list was made up in order to try and combat this fated outcome just in case it arrived again any time shortly:
• Examine any spare inner tubes you’re carrying for rubber perishing;
• Double check you have a spanner or similar tool to cover all nut sizes;
• Ensure you’ve packed a puncture repair kit just to be on the safe side;
After careful consideration, I think perhaps it would be a good time to reject any Atheist or Agnostic viewpoints I may currently have and start praying to some higher force or invisible idol for an all-round easier life while I’m straddling the bike seat? And so, I’ve decided to create a new deity who’ll protect all cyclists everywhere under its “two-wheels-only-or-you’re-not-coming-in” aegis of exclusivity: Its name is ‘Cyclo’ and it’s the God of all-things bike-related, such as sprockets, chains and gusset chaffing. Primarily my worship towards this metaphysical being will be in the hope of garnering unburstable tyres for my bike and if successful to the point of gliding across shattered glass without a care in the world, then my reverence will only grow. It’s early days yet but I can envisage a time when human sacrifice could fuel Cyclo’s lust for offerings and so to ensure a trouble-free journey to work and back, a list of personally-picked arseholes to appease this imaginary Titan via slaughter may be needed to “grease the wheels”, so to speak.
Ah, adulation for a mythological, bicycle-based omnipresence - now there’s a belief system to believe in!