Yesterday I had one of those rides where everything goes wrong. Almost everything. I set out on my ride around 11:00, planning to ride for an hour, shower quickly, gulp down lunch, and make it to my mid-afternoon class. But 45 minutes into the ride, I got a flat.
This is never good, but today it was only in the mid-40s outside, so I was worried about cold. And it’s hard to change a tire when your fingers are a bit numb. But I got started. Another rider from my racing team rode by and stopped to see if I was okay. I said yeah, no problem, I’ve got all the equipment I need. He stuck around for a while, suggesting that he could wait until I finished so we could ride into town together, but I urged him to go on – partly because I wanted to be nice and keep him from getting cold but mainly because I’m slow at fixing flats and would have felt embarrassed to have him hanging around while I fumble with the tube and the tire levers. So he rode on.
I got the tube in the tire and was ready to use my CO2 cartridge to fill it up – those cartridges are so much easier to use than a regular old bike pump and are easier to carry – but it wouldn’t work. I tried, but in the process of trying, I let all the CO2 out into the air, where it did me no good.
So, I was stuck 4.5 miles from home without a way to fix my flat. I don’t carry a cell phone on these rides, although even if I had one, I didn’t have anyone to call. The Hobgoblin was in class and couldn’t come get me, and I couldn’t think of anyone else who would be home.
So I walked. I watched what felt like hundreds of SUVs pass me and construction vehicles and pick-up trucks, and I thought oh, why don’t you stop and ask if I’m okay! Because I’m not! I thought about hitch-hiking, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I kept hoping a police car would pass me so I could wave it down and get a ride, but no luck.
I ended up walking 2.5 miles. Walking 2.5 miles isn’t normally a big deal for me, even with a bicycle at my side, but I was wearing those fancy cycling shoes that don’t bend in order to get maximum efficiency as you ride and that have plastic cleats that snap into the pedal. So basically I had horrible walking shoes. I didn’t have a normal stride with the stiff soles and the cleats get slippery on the pavement.
At mile 2.5, though, things got better – I came across a group of men working on a construction project, just hanging out next to a couple of trucks, and I said any chance you can give me a ride? One of the guys put my bike in the back of his truck and drove me the rest of the way home. He told me how his secretary rides also, and how she’ll be thrilled to know he helped out a cyclist because normally he gives her a hard time about her riding. He doesn’t understand the point of it.
It turns out I didn’t mess up with the CO2 cartridge, which I thought I had, since I’ve had trouble getting those things to work in the past – the trouble was that I had the wrong kind of tube. I needed one with a longer stem. Even with a bike pump, I wouldn’t have been able to pump up that tube.
I did make it to class on time.
I can’t have great rides without having some terrible ones, I suppose. And this one wasn’t so bad. If I lived in a different time and were a man, I think I’d get a kick out of hitchhiking – there’s something about traveling and not knowing exactly what’s going to happen that I find appealing. And that’s a little bit true about every bicycle ride – most times they are uneventful, but other times, I have no idea how I’ll get home.