Good Rubber (Just For Cyclists)

A South Oxon ride on Monday was reasonable for the most part, but part-blighted by two punctures – both caused by shards of flint. They used to make tools out of flint for a reason, sure, but I’ve had a very bad run of various Schwalbe tyres getting badly cut and often puncturing in the last few weeks – far more than I’d expect, even given the appalling weather and appalling roads.

So, since then I’ve re-shod my ‘workhorse’ Bianchi Nerone with some Michelin Pro4 Endurance tyres that I had in the garage.

(As for why they were in my garage: the saga is related here.)

Today it was a case of a ride on much the same lanes as Monday – and not only did I not pick up a puncture, the tyres aren’t even showing a cut.

I know that’s not scientific, I know there are any number of small variations between today’s ride and Monday’s. However, that’s as close a direct comparison as an ordinary user can make; it bears out my earlier experience with the Pro4’s predecessor, the Krylions … and all I can say is that I feel a fool for not putting them on the bike earlier. If you’re on a road bike and you’re puncturing a lot, you might find it worth your while trying them.

A Swyncombe Walk (With Route)

A late start (too much Saturday night partying for old fogies like us) and heavy rain forecast, so today saw a Sunday walk rather than a cycle, with Charli.

Two road cyclists with punctures at Swyncombe, and three mud-bespattered off-roaders along the way made the decision to walk rather than ride feel like the right one. It’s puncture season, and it had tipped down over night.

The route wasn’t too taxing apart from some slippery mud, and we weren’t rained on until the last half-hour or so. The obviously imminent downfall did lend the jaunt a certain urgency though …

Rain clouds over the hills

Imparting a sense of urgency

Walking versus cycling? I’d take cycling if I had to pick one, not least because it’s a pace I like, but we’ve been walking more of late and the additional intimacy with the landscape that being on foot affords is proving very rewarding. I’m discovering new places and old places take on fresh aspects, even though I’ve lived in and cycled these parts for years. Not only do we need to get out of our cars, we need to get off our bikes too sometimes.

Codgeration now includes walks …

The Route: starting by Swyncombe church, dropping down to Dame Alice Farm, taking in Swan’s Way / The Ridgway and then back up to Swyncombe via Ladies Walk. About six-and-a-half miles. The only mildly confusing part was the start – the first path starts a few yards along the seemingly private road to Swyncombe house, which isn’t obvious from the church-side road.

View Route Map
About The Route Mapping

Autumn’s Light

Autumn – for cyclists, as always, it’s the time for horribly strong and suddenly cold winds, slippery roads, more punctures than any other time of year, and unpredictable heavy rain.

True, you can opt for the ‘mists and mellow fruitfulness’ angle, and on benign days over these few months I can warm to that view. And Keats’ ‘maturing sun’ is often particularly apt; there’s a quality to the light around about now, especially as it’s fading at the end of a clear day, that is unmistakably autumnal.

Is there a touch of melancholy inherent in it? I’m not sure. I’m more inclined to ‘grim resignation’ about the impending tougher cycling conditions than melancholy. We need autumn and winter just as much as spring and summer – remember vernalization!

Autumn Hills, here seen from around Hailey, near Wallingford

Autumn Hills, here seen from around Hailey, near Wallingford

Autumn Hills, here seen from around Hailey, near Wallingford

Autumn Hills, here seen from around Hailey, near Wallingford

Autumn Hills, here seen from around Hailey, near Wallingford

Autumn Hills, here seen from around Hailey, near Wallingford

Autumn Hills, here seen from around Hailey, near Wallingford

Autumn Hills, here seen from around Hailey, near Wallingford

In Praise Of Michelin (Just For Cyclists)

(The weather’s back to being foully cold and windy, so it’s back on the turbo-trainer yet again. This is getting tedious.)

Longer-standing readers will know I’ve sung the praises of Michelin Krylion tyres in the past. As last year wore on and their quality became obvious, I a) learned that they were no longer being made and b) as a result hunted around and bought a pair for the future.

Fast forward to November/December and I picked up a couple of back wheel punctures, thought perhaps the tyre’s getting a bit worn now, and so went to put one of the new ones on.

Not a chance.

I’m in my 50s. I’ve been changing tyres and inner tubes for a good few years now. I know some are tight fits. I quickly came to suspect that the second set of Krylions I’d bought weren’t usable. They just would not go on the rim.

I left it a while, made sure the tyres were warm and I was feeling patient and tried again. No way. They were just too tight to get on – whichever wheel/rim I tried.

Having convinced myself it wasn’t me, I contacted Michelin. After some correspondence I sent them back, and I’m very pleased to say that I now have a pair of Pro 4 Endurance tyres by way of replacements, and Michelin have kept my unusable Krylions for further testing.

You might say that’s all they should have done and perhaps that’s so. What I would say is that that’s still good customer service in my book.

Flint Mapping (Just For Cyclists)

Yes, Flint Mapping, not Flint Knapping.

It occurred to me today, riding in the territory south-east of Reading, that even during ‘puncture season’, when there’s lots of washed-down debris on the roads, I’ll rarely get a flat if I stick to the roads south of the Thames.

Climb north on the other hand and the phrase ‘puncture season’ all too readily comes to life, and more often than not it will be a shard of flint doing the damage.

With a realization that just serves to emphasise how slow on the uptake I can be, north of the Thames, around here, you’re heading into chalk hills – and with chalk comes flint. Simple, blindingly obvious, and I’ve never thought of it before.

That did make me wonder whether it would be possible to get a statistically significant number of cyclists to report on when they puncture and where, and to map that against the geology of the underlying land. That might prove very interesting – and possibly useful too. Correlating that data with the tyres are being used would also be helpful, I’m sure there are any number of other variables that could be usefully fed in to the data set too.

Now, all we need is a network of cyclists, a statistician and a programmer …

Mis-sold Optimism

There was heavy rain last night and more of the same forecast’s for the 24th, so today was an attempt to make the most of it and get a ride in.

This was a mistake.

I was surprised to find low-lying, very cold fog spreading across the fields and lanes the further north I headed. I knew the roads would be filthy and flint-strewn but I still somehow imagined they wouldn’t be that bad. I didn’t expect the subsequent puncture even though it was a perfectly logical outcome. If I picked out five flint shards then I picked out a dozen. Only one of them had gone through, but one’s enough.

The sun’s now low enough to the horizon to not warm anything appreciably, even if the sky might be clear – as it was today. It means there’s little recovery from a deluge; nothing bounces back with the shot of life the sun imparts at other times of year. It means optimism is ill-founded.

That optimism can be ill-founded is fine; that it feels wrong that it should be so is just a testament to the power and pervasiveness of the positivism industry – because industry is what it is. It’s a foul corruption of reality on any number levels. Things don’t always turn out well.

 ‘Sick Life’ graffiti.

The question is, did the person who wrote this do so with a positive or negative intent