Yesterday I set off to go for my first Hyper Randonneur. For the non audax weirdos amongst you, that’s 4 x 600km or longer rides in one season. With PBP and another two 600’s done I just needed one more before the end of September. The best thing about a Hyper is that it’s not actually an official award. There’s no patch or badge, it’s just for fun.
The fun started at 6am on Saturday. By about 11am it had already become a bit unfun. I’d just made my first coffee stop. I exited the shop with my drink to discover sealant had sprayed from the rear tyre all up the inside of my mudflap and ‘guard. I pressed the tyre to feel the pressure, luckily it had hardly lost any. I necked my coffee and continued east. All was well until around 290k in. I could feel the tyre had gone down. It was around 5:20pm and I was just about to hit Whittlesey. I continued on in the hope to catch a bike shop open. As it turned out there was no chance of that, there was no bike shop in Whittlesey. But according to a local, there was ‘the bike man’ who repaired bikes from his home. I was only a mile away from the bike man, so I headed over. I reached his address and was greeted by the most adorable, barking and slavering gigantic German Shepherd. Thankfully, bike man appeared from another door and entered the garden. I asked him if I could borrow a track pump. He said of course. I blew up the tyre with no sound of leaks. Thanked bike man and got back on my route. 30k later and I could feel the tyre going deflating again. It was now clear something was up/down. Another 10k further on and it was like sitting on an eel in a deckchair. The sun had just sunk and I was now in the middle of nowhere. You might be thinking, why doesn’t he just put an inner tube in and spare us all this bollocks. Well, I didn’t have an inner tube. OK? Those which have used tubeless will know, if you haven’t got a spare 28 days to pick out all the flints and glass which a tubeless tyre doesn’t give a shit about, then all that happens is, 9 times out of 10, an inner tube will just puncture. Another reason for not carrying a tube was that I’d put quadruple the amount of sealant in the day before. But I’m now of the assumption the Muck-Off stuff I’ve been using is just pink water with kitten pubes masquerading as rubber flecks. Anyway, it didn’t really matter. I was fucked. Pointless trying to blow up the tyre, it’d only go down. I’d just made a village, it was about 8:30pm. It was pitch fucking black. I decided to knock on a door and see if I could get an inner tube (yeah, yeah. I know). First house, no answer. I went across the road, walked down a drive. There was a woman stood in her kitchen looking very spooked by the lanky, black clad alien in budgie smugglers wheeling a bike towards her house. I tried to gesture that I hadn’t come to kill her but that I had a problem with my bike. She came out and I explained my predicament. She didn’t have any tubes nor suggestions who might. This was a tiny village of only about 6 houses. As I thanked her and was about to turn on my heels she said, you could try my brother-in-law next door. So with not much hope but fuck all to lose I went next door. I rang the doorbell and immediately a bespectacled man in a checked shirt appeared. I asked him if he’d got an inner tube. He kind of laughed through in his response of, no, I haven’t got an inner tube. He asked me where I was heading and we had a brief chat about the route. I then started babbling and mentioned my tubeless set up and the lack of sealant. His next sentence felt like I’d just been spoken to by God. Each letter a crisp white dove atop a gold platter made by Fabergé delivered to my eardrums by 21 angels to the sound of a lost Tchaikovsky piece played out by the Miami Sound Machine.
“I might have some sealant.”
What.The.Fucking.Fuck. I thought I must have started hallucinating early, so I turned slightly to one side and punched myself in the thigh to see if this was all real. In immediate retrospect this was a pretty fucking stupid idea as I was wearing Rapha Cargo bib shorts with my phone in the outside pocket of aforementioned thigh. Still, my now skin cracked knuckles did indeed confirm that I wasn’t trippin’.
We walked across his drive to what I thought was a large outhouse. But in fact was a huge barn, crammed to the rafters with all sorts of amazing shit. A huge oak workbench with over a hundred painted and ready to be painted lead soldiers. Old lawnmowers, bits of classic car, tins and pots and fuck-knows-what. He disappeared towards the back barn and after a couple of minutes returned with a bottle of sealant. It felt like a fucking miracle. Just 15 minutes ago I was contemplating having to walk in the hope of finding somewhere to sleep, with possibly sacking my ride and Hyper off altogether. As it turned out I don’t think I could have stopped at a better place on the whole fucking route.
The big barn of everything also produced a tiny syringe so I was able to inject the heavy duty tractor sealant straight in. While I was doing that the God of Sealant went to the boot of his car and came back with a compressor. Fuck me. Is there anything this bloke hasn’t got? Sadly it was for a car and didn’t fit my valve. Which was a real twat as I’d finished injecting the sealant and had begun trying to inflate the tyre with my own pump, but it wasn’t having it. GoS then said, I’ve got a couple of air guns I use for painting and another compressor in the barn. So I kept my hose on my valve, he rigged one of the air guns to the compressor and held it to the hose. The tyre went straight up. Hard as a rock but with the sound of a leak. I span the wheel around quick and the magic tractor gunk sealed it instantly. I was back in the fucking game.
I put on all the clothes I had with me and readied myself for the night.
We said our goodbyes. I thanked him profusely for his time, generosity and good will.
I asked my saviour for his address so I could post him something, whether I made it round or not. It turns out we were in Slow Longa.
So yeah, that’s it really.
Words and pictures – Mark Hudson