Dave Snowden


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Too much travel, too little hill walking and only one day between trips. But at least, I thought I can get out on the bike. I picked it up from Sean who had fitted a new chain at midday and then set out for my normal 50km round. The weather was not good and I really should have taken the cycle cross but the Dave Yates Audax bike is just so much more fun to ride. I also spend a whole day with the Bike Whisperer having it and the shoes adjusted to the point where I had about 15% more drive efficiency, so desire won out over sense. It all went well for the first 90 minutes although I hit a few hail and heavy rain showers in the most exposed sections of the ride so I knew this would not be a record time. But then as I approached Etchilhampton I hit a pot hole and the rear tyre was lost. A quick use of the pump and it was obvious it was a puncture but such things happen and I thought I was prepared.

The short and long term problem was that I had got a new emergency gas cylinder (pumps are for masochists on the road) and had thrown that along with a spare inner tube into the saddle bag. Unfortunately the old cylinder had tyre levers in the same bag and I forgot that so I was stranded in the rain with dusk approaching and no tyre levers. OK I improvised using a multi-tool and a couple of twigs (stress creates innovation) and got the new inner tube in but by now I couldn’t feel my fingers and threading the valve was difficult. The new cylinder was brilliant, full pressure in two seconds, too high as it happened but I didn’t have my pressure gage and was reluctant to risk lowering the pressure as given frozen fingers I met have let all the air out with a depleted gas cylinder. So I rode on with a light bump from the rear wheel that was worrying but would probably be OK.

That was foolish, I managed the hill that leads into Coate and turned for home at the Barge Inn. But entering Allington the rear brake started to engage unasked and just as I pulled over to check it a loud bang indicated an exploding inner tube and I was stranded. I suspect the wheel was slightly buckled by the pothole and it all compounded to a disaster. But now it became farcical. I phoned home, but then realised that the new car was parked in front of my wife’s and she has yet to drive it. Given its an automatic with more electronics that I care to think about she ended up (after multiple phone calls that almost made my prediction of divorce in yesterday’s post an inevitability) getting a neighbour to move the car off the drive so she could come out and rescue me; I then drove back to rescue the bike and finally got a bath at around 2100. It was dark, I was freezing, the phone battery way dying, next time the right bike and two inner tubes plus a proper gear check.

And now the bike is back with Sean, and a bottle of good wine has gone to the neighbour.

  • Hazel Edmunds

    It could only happen to you! Eloquently written.

  • Mitch Weisburgh

    We’ve got plenty of bicycles if you’re ever wanting to ride outside of NYC. Plus gear for nearly every likely weather contingency.

    • davesnowden


  • Barrett W Horne

    There is actually something quite lovely about such stories. Had you simply managed to make the loop, it would have faded into the blur of unremarkable and unremarked upon events of daily living. But it became an Adventure deserving of a Story, complete with Useful Lessons. Unpleasant at the moment, but already now part of a rich repertoire of pleasant anecdotes to recount in front of a warm fire in a country pub with a pint in hand. What could be nicer?

    • Dave Snowden

      We all learn best from failure …

    • Dr Wendy Eford

      I always find myself wondering where the editing should come in. Stories need rich detail. I live in that world (which is itself another story!) and in the end, the detail is subtly important to get out. Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast Thinking Slow and other sources show that both the reflection and the ending have different functions so far as memory, happiness and other important functions. We can extend the moment out to the value of the story telling. In Scouts we call this ‘bragging rights’. A long winded tale about a bad experience with a good ending makes you the hero if you have learned to hone your story telling craft and won the right to be listened to. For the rest of us non expert writers or story tellers, we are all work in progress but we still need to get the story out. It’s shared value that we should not with hold but often do. That’s what I like about Quora, heart on the sleeve blogs and such. Sensemaker just allows the edit to be left out of the equation which IMHO is important in a world that is ‘eaten by software’ and becoming crazier by the minute.

      • Barrett W Horne

        Yes, Wendy, yes. “[W]e are all work in progress but we still need to get the story out.”

  • rabbidfly

    subsequent flats are common. you can largely avoid them with a few tips. apologies if you already employ these.
    1. run your fingers inside the tire for debris – either debris that caused it, or debris that got in there via your frozen fingers.
    2. roll the last bit of tire over the wheel using your hands only. using the levers will often create a pinch flat
    3. CO2 canisters normally fill up to about 90 psi, which most wheel/tire/tube combinations can easily handle on a road bike, so you shouldn’t have to worry about that
    4. use your mouth on the valve to puff up the tube a bit to give it shape, and before laying it into the tire – helps prevent a different kind of pinch flat
    5. don’t ride over the same pothole in an attempt to experiment the butterfly effect

    on a side note – i have been looking for more content on complexity grazing in your blogs, but i have not been able to find anything but references to it

    if you happen to intersect your travels with Toronto, Canada, i’ll happily take you on a cycling ride with our club