Easter Sunday: [√]
Shitty overcast weather: [√]
Tarmac, gravè and mud?: [√]
Riding 100km around Hertfordshire: [√]
Other than gorging your own body weight on chocolate, there isn’t much else to do on an Easter Sunday. Rapha saw the plight of many and decided to offer a social ride with a gathering at the finish to watch Paris Roubaix 2012 and enjoy beer and frites. Their homage to one of the great monuments of the sport, Paris-Roubaix, promised to be an adventure along the lanes, bridleways and dirt roads of Hertfordshire.
The weather would play a key role in this social ride. Would it piss down like every other Bank holiday?, come on.. this is England and you’d be mad to think otherwise. Heading out to Central London early, the weather was showing its face and it was wet. The start saw myself and the rest of the London Phoenix riders take shelter under a shops awning until the start. Now, some clever sods had decided it would be more suitable to ride this on a cross bike. Wise choice you say, well I was beginning to think the same whilst looking at my Colnago Master’s rather skinny and indeed slick tires.
As we set off, the pace was good and we were hurtling through North London. All was going well until we hit that first bit of bridleway. It wasn’t romantic or classic, more like bone-jolting and sliding like you were on ice. Yes, the bike choice wasn’t a good one and this might hurt. Kilometer of kilometer went by and after the fourth bit of dirt road, I was feeling rather smug, HAH, no punctures yet Daniel!
What a dick, my Hell of the North was about to begin. Going down a particular rough bit (funny, a road bike isn’t meant to go over rocks, so I was amazed how far I’d gotten), I heard the dreaded bang and felt my arse shake like nothing else. Problem is, when you are sliding down a steep decline on thin wheels, it’s not exactly easy to stop quickly.
Puncture #1: split in the tube caused by a sharp piece of rock. Hmmm, notice my saddle bag is full of water, that sucks
All fixed and off I go, well for a kilometer or more and ssssssssssssssss, arse.
Puncture #2: split in tube, caused by another sharp piece of rock, this time the split is wide and the tube is trashed. Next!
Ok, new tube, let’s do this. Tarmac, gravel, tarmac, gravel and BANG.
Puncture #3: front decided it has had enough of the abuse. By now, I notice an alarming fact that the water has indeed stuffed all my inner tube patches. Cue loads of cursing and shaking of fists, I’m down to my last tube. Look I’ve had three punctures, surely the gods of cycling won’t punish me anymore?
Thankfully Rapha’s fuel stop was like an oasis. There, alongside the sweets, Bike Food bottles and bananas, were the heavenly sights of Specialized finest tubes. Yes please gentlemen, may I take two? Feeling all smug and with a mouth full of sweets, I was back on track and hurtling down bridleways. Hell of the North, pfft what are people on about? Oh how fate can be so fickle. BANG.
Puncture #4: fucking rocks, my rear tire now has a lovely split in it. Cue me using some of the now wet patches to act as a barrier, I soldier on.
Right near the end, we were supposed to make a loop over the highway and then turn back on ourselves to head to the pub. SSSSSSSSSST, are you fucking kidding me????
Puncture #5: Rear tire now has two gashes in, about 8mm long. I use a bit of plastic bag I find next to me and do a Macgyver (I’m rather happy with myself at this point, you have to laugh I guess). Whilst I’m busy repairing the problem, Rapha’s kind photographer is taking pictures. Then, as I look at the back of my seat, where the seat bag should be, I notice a void. It has decided to abandone ship too.
Five kilometers, 5000 meters is all I needed to ride to get back. I’ve got no tubes left, no patches and my multitool has now gone awol. Honestly, going over that last bit of gravel wasn’t the best part of the day, so when the sign for 1 Kilometer was seen, I was ecstatic.
A fistful of frites and beer was waiting, enough motivation for anyone. Whilst the punctures were a bit mad, it didn’t dampen my spirits at all, in fact it became more hilarious as they racked up. Seriously, 700cc road tires are not meant to bounce over rocks and gravel, no matter how good the tires are. The Colnago rode like a dream, steel is real and my god did it take a beating.
Rapha, hats off to you, you pulled off one of the best social rides I’ve ever done. Pure brilliance and a big thanks to all of the team involved.
Next year, it will be on a mountain bike!
Those kind folk at Rapha decided I was the winner of the most punctures prize. My prize, the weight of a small child in chocolate!