Where Was I Now?
The idea was that I’d be camping out in the wild; making the most of the remote, picturesque landscapes that Scotland provides in abundance; something I successfully managed in March last year for my LEJOG run. Unfortunately, the conditions were not so kind to me this… May? … At least I think it was May. It felt more like February.
After a bit of a rigmarole last night, chasing round all the hotels, a youth hostel and the B&B’s in the area, in the cold and rain, trying to find somewhere I could stay for less than a million pounds, I eventually managed to get a deal where the hotel agreed to knock the price down to £50 from £60… Not ideal, as I didn’t quite own £50. Luckily however, a life of being in and out of debt gives you a strangely good credit rating. Credit card again?
I decided to cut my losses as I was quite enjoying the roof above my head. A quick glance outside to the horizontal rain confirmed this. Yes, I’d quite like this current roof to stay there until morning.
They told me that breakfast would be at 8:30am and to basically just follow the crowd in the morning. Easy enough I thought. I was just glad that the day was finally over…
When I woke up, the first thing I noticed was this little note posted under the door:
You’d think this might upset me, or put me in a bad mood… especially having being told ‘when’ and ‘where’ to expect the breakfast in such detail despite never asking; but I honestly thought this was the funniest thing ever. I liked the friendly decoration around the word “hi”. That was a nice touch.
Breakfast quickly became an improvised meal of EVERY item of the fruit basket (I don’t even like lemons) and ALL of the complimentary coffee, tea and hot chocolate from the room.
Satisfied with my minor anarchy, I then left the hotel. Today had started a little bit weird, but ultimately I was in high spirits and that counts for a lot.
I had learnt from my two days so far on the road that taunting the weather to do its worst is NOT a good idea, even if it seems funny at the time… and desperate pleading with it doesn’t work a lot better… However today I simply ‘feared’ the weather. All morning I found myself staring up at the clouds in fear of another downpour.
So it is on that note that I can now finally report my first ever ‘FRODO’S CYCLING TOP TIP’ (patent pending) based on science I’ve done:
FCTT #1 – The weather responds best to ‘fear’ – Do not in any circumstance ‘mock’ the weather or act like it can’t hurt you. The weather is bitter, vindictive and has a lust for power; you WON’T win. – Science, 2015
As I travelled down past Loch Lomond and eventually into Glasgow, the weather threatened me with dark clouds and the occasional light shower; clearly enjoying my fear and wishing to prolong it as much as possible. Obviously by the time I hit Glasgow and there were plenty of places to shelter available, it stopped doing this and the sun came out.
Glasgow was slow-going. A lot of stopping, starting and constant confusion by the cycle routes, but I eventually made it out the other side by the afternoon. As the towns started to get a bit further apart again, and I felt like I could open up and make some faster progress once more, the sun went in and we returned to occasional showers and I swear the clouds formed a slight grin.
Truth be told, this didn’t really bother me too much at this point. It became a game of cat and mouse where I’d quickly have to find shelter under some trees or the occasional bus shelter for up to 20 minutes at a time. As long as I didn’t become soaked right through, I could still dry off later and would be able to camp out in the evening.
All in all, I was pretty pleased with my day’s progress all things considered. As we hit the early evening, I was approaching 100 miles for the day and the roads had just started to give me some downhill again after a long spell of grafting hard, uphill on concrete roads that were riddled with pot holes. Never underestimate what a difference the quality of the road makes when on these slick, racing tyres!
I think it was a combination of all of these things, AND noticing my Garmin tick over onto 99 miles that made me decide to put in a fast mile.
I managed a time of two minutes dead for that mile, which after only eight minutes of maths, I calculated that was an average of 30mph for the entire mile. I was quite pleased with this, as I’m not known for my speed normally and this seemed precisely ‘a bit fast’.
To make matters even better, the bike lane I was riding in here had a really smooth surface now, so the speed down the hill was comfortable to maintain. I was feeling pretty great! This steep downhill then went round a fast bend and in a slight daze, I didn’t notice the cycle path ended abruptly.
It looked a bit like builders had built the entire path out of legobricks, then very suddenly ran out of lego and decided to go home. It went from being a smooth, perfect riding surface to a steep curb of sharp rubble within milliseconds of coming into view…
My options were: ‘slam on the breaks’? Or, ‘try to swerve away into the grass verge’. I elected the latter option, but just glanced the rubble with the back wheel and was sent flying!
As I landed hip first onto the side of the road, the bike took a similar line and landed directly on top of me. This was fortunate really, as it minimised the damage done to the bike, but did give me a bit of a double whammy of pain to contend with.
At risk of sounding a bit like a boring health and safety executive here; I have to say the main thing I realised from this with crystal clarity, is the crucial role a bike helmet plays. This was far from the most extreme of crashes, but after my hip and elbow took the brunt of the impact, it resulted in a whiplash effect that caused the back of my head to absolutely slam into the ground at full speed. A fairly tame fall for all intents and purposes but I am confident that if it wasn’t for that £9.99 helmet from Argos; that would have been ‘lights out’.
I must have been lying on the road under the bike for ages longer than necessary. I’m not even sure what I was waiting for… Once I was satisfied that I was okay, I gingerly got up to inspect the damage to the bike. A lady in a car also stopped to make sure I was alright, but it was just a few cuts; nothing serious. Thankfully also, the bike didn’t look in bad shape either; just a deflated front tyre and I had a spare inner tube. I just had to figure out how to change it.
After a bit of staring and scratching my head, I eventually concluded that the wheel would have to come off. I then had to figure out which one of my tools is used to get the tyre off. Amazingly, this all went rather well and before too long the wheel was as good as new!
I think I probably got another 10 miles before I heard a very loud “POW!” sound from behind me as the back tyre went.
I didn’t have any more inner tubes so I very much hoped that this one could be repaired. So I used my new-found skills once more to remove the wheel, remove the tyre and set to work attempting to glue a piece of whatever it is to the broken bit… I maintain I did this successfully, but unfortunately as I pumped it back up again, to my horror, I discovered that it wasn’t just the inner tube that had split; the tyre itself had split open. That’s game over!
Then at this point, it came to my attention that I’d never had to remove a back wheel before, and consequently, I had no idea how to put it back. I assumed it would be pretty obvious, but it was not quite as obvious as I hoped.
So to summarise my current situation: I had a badly bruised hip, a bleeding elbow/shoulder, a bike with no back wheel and a broken tyre, plus I had no idea where the next town was, let alone one with a bike shop in it. I felt utterly stunned!
Negative thoughts and emotions flooded my head and I had to work really hard to push them back. I was on the phone to my dad for quite a while who did a pretty good job of spelling out how to put the back wheel back on in a way that makes the chain go around the cogs. Problem 1: solved! I now had a bike that I could at least ‘push’, but where would I push it? Google was telling me the nearest bike shops were about 20-30 miles away and there weren’t any train stations anywhere near me… hmmm… to quote from Ned Flanders – this was a dilly of a pickle.
It was night time now, so I pushed my bike a bit until I got sleepy, then found a small woodland area to throw my bivvi and wounded bike down to get some sleep. I had a bit of an idea of what I needed to do tomorrow, but I very much didn’t like it and hoped I would think of something better by morning…