Tested With Flint (A Tale Just For Cyclists)

For a few weeks now I’ve been riding on Michelin Krylion Carbon tyres on my main Bianchi ‘workhorse’ bike and have been very impressed. Inspecting them closely once or twice has shown them to be almost totally unscathed – barely a cut or even a mark on them. I’ve hooked out one embedded piece of stone (which didn’t cause a puncture) and that’s it.

Photo: Michelin Krylion Carbon Tyres

The remarkably resilient Krylions

However … we’ve had hardly any rain for ages, and rain means dirty roads and lots of washed-down pieces of grit. Around here, grit often includes flint. A heavy bloke on a bike riding on flint-strewn (let alone pot-hole riddled) roads is a proper test of a pair of tyres.

Yesterday – a Bank Holiday, so pretty typically – it rained almost all day. Sometimes heavily, sometimes just lightly, but all day. What the weatherman called ‘useful rain’. It made a very welcome change even if it meant riding would have been a bit unpleasant. It also made today’s jaunt around the lanes the first proper test of the Krylions. They remain almost completely unmarked.

That actually is quite remarkable.

It might not be a super-fast race tyre but I’m not a racer. If you’re at all prone to punctures then all I can suggest is that you try them – they’ve worked for me. (And if you’re a racer who’s prone to punctures, then I’d rather suspect getting through a race without a flat will gain you more time than the seconds to be gained from a lighter tyre.)

I did have a pair of Continental 4000s that I wore out without them ever puncturing, but otherwise I’ve been let down by various Schwalbes, Continental Gatorskins, Vredestein Ricorsos and any number of cheaper tyres.

October is what I’d call the traditional start of puncture season – wet days after the dry summer months can mean a lot of road debris – so we’ll see how they fare then. So far though, I am impressed.

Why have I come to be riding on them? Back in January (the 7th) I stopped to lend a hand to a chap who’d punctured. Another rider was already helping; naturally talk turned to tyres; the other rider helping was on Krylions and recommended them. Then on the 11th I had two punctures on one ride and that prompted me to try something new. So, I do have to say I am very glad I stopped to help, and grateful for the chap’s opinion. It’s good when events have a kind of symmetry.

(If only there was a gum-coloured side wall version of the Krylions to put on retro-looking bikes … Ah well, you can’t have everything, and that really is being a bit keen.)

A Heron Walking

Another long-for-me ride, making the most of the weather. It is odd to feel that you’re a long way from home but it can be like that when you’re 20+ miles out and you’re not even half-way yet. It’s not the distance as such, it’s the fact that you’re reliant on just your own power to get back home again. I suppose it’s a kind of frailty. I guess once upon a time all travel did present that kind of a challenge; now we can just take it for granted most of the time. I don’t know whether that’s good, bad or neutral.

The traffic today was surprisingly light. On some stretches I went for a few miles and saw no cars at all. Sure, this was along a couple of lanes up near Upper Basildon and Aldworth but even so, no cars at all is unusual. Even the road down to Hampstead Norreys was quiet. Perhaps it’s just that it’s August and people are on holiday. Perhaps the price of petrol really is making people drive less – that’s what they’re saying is going on, but whether that’s country-wide they don’t say. Around here it’s generally affluent. It would be interesting to see some detailed figures about what’s going on, perhaps broken down by county.

It would be interesting, too, to see a world with a lot less driving going on. I don’t say that from any anti-car stance – I ride a bike but I drive too. It would just be interesting to see how nature responded. It might be quite a different world we’d all find ourselves living in, quite quickly. Today I saw a sight I’ve never seen before – a heron walking along a road. Admittedly it was a very quiet lane and it was near the ford by Bucklebury, but even so I think it was an uncommon occurrence. Perhaps we’d see more of that kind of thing if there were fewer vehicles being driven. A different world but whether that’s the same as a better world I don’t know. Nature in the ascendant? Nature wouldn’t do humans any favours.

A quiet ride and so little interaction with anyone. I didn’t see any other cyclists today, not one. Thanks are due to the driver of the Verdant Group van near Kidmore End for making room for me, and it’s nice to be acknowledged by the silver Astra I let pass near Hook End. It costs me nothing apart from a break in my rhythm to let a car get by me on a narrow lane and it only seems polite to do so. Add to basic politeness a belief in “what goes around comes around”, and a break in my rhythm becomes no big deal.

The Comfort Of Strangers

Seven rides in the last eight days, including two short partially off-road ones, just for a change. There’s been a fair bit of talking to strangers, which always adds something, and the weather’s been pretty good by-and-large – with all the improvements to everyone’s mood that that brings.

Even drivers snarled up in Wargrave (road works) and Sonning (the usual mid-day-even-though-it’s Saturday queues) gave me plenty of room; hats off in particular to one chap in Sonning who edged over to let me work my way down the middle of the road more easily. Pleasingly, he had his window open so I was able to thank him in person. On Sunday I inadvertently made a jogger jump – I just said ‘morning’ as I went passed him. I was going slowly enough for a brief conversation, something like:

‘Oh, morning! You made me jump then …’
‘Sorry! Nice day to be out.’
‘My fault – I was in a world of my own … thinking about the pain to come!’

And that’s it; totally inconsequential and fleeting. Nevertheless, that kind of interaction-with-smiles and a few pleasantries is strangely satisfying. Just a few hundred yards further up the same road I had another similar exchange with a cyclist I overtook. Just greetings and, on my part, a couple of words of encouragement as he was struggling a bit. That’s all.

Perhaps it’s just that humans are innately social animals, pack animals.

I also chatted to a cyclist making his way from Barnes to Cane End, which is a reasonable trek although in the main it’s flat. I passed him when he was stopped; he caught up with me to ask for directions and we rode together for a short while. Again, just a few pleasantries. Again, an easily overlooked ingredient going towards making a day a good day. I hope he made it to Cane End in time.

Perhaps it’s some kind of substitute for that sense of belonging, sense of community, that’s all too easily lost as we shuffle between our houses and our jobs.

‘Community’ – as knackered a word as ‘iconic’. Meaningless. Attributed far too freely.

On one ride I came across a cyclist stopped by the road side. The convention, if it can be called that, is to always ask a stopped cyclist if everything’s OK. It’s (perhaps surprisingly) well adhered to, particularly among so-called serious cyclists. I asked; he asked if I had an allen key; I did; I stopped; we chatted and he fixed his front mech. Is that evidence of a community of cyclists? We talked a little about helping out fellow cyclists; giving out inner-tubes and so on. It happens. What goes around comes around – that works for the good and the bad.