Swiss Cheese with a Banana Sauce
The snowy Cumbrian mountains stared down
at me defying entry, and I thought of the time I had been to
Kentmere before. There had been three of us and torrential rain.
An easy stroll that should have taken about three hours but
ended up taking six. We all got a drenching.
This time I was determined for things to
be different. I had come with a mountain bike - speedy access
to the tops and back down again in case of trouble. A pink sun
bathed the snowy hillsides in early morning light and I knew
it would be a good day - the shortest day of the year. The trails
were perfect - low temperatures left the ground crunchy and
traction was good. Rocks are rare in my North Downs backyard
so it was good to feel them pounding through the bike into my
I dropped into Longsleddale and trawled the map for the bridleway
south down the western edge of the valley I noticed a sagging
feeling in the back of the bike. Puncture! Thorns weren't something
I expected to find in the Lake District rockfest so I was shocked
as the air escaped. Luckily the Cyclist's Best Friend had stowed
away in my pack and ten minutes later I was back on the grind
with a brand new tube.
But that day the mountains were in control.
The front flatted as I washed through a frozen puddle. A patch
was needed and as the glue dried I crammed a pork and mango
chutney sarnie into my mouth catching up on calories. But when
moved off the back tyre had gone down. That familiar feeling
of something out there being against me threatened to take over,
but I pushed it aside and searched for the thorn. There it was
- sticking through a block in the tread, its wicked grin spurring
a warm anger.
this is where it all started to go wrong, because instead of
snapping off the point I should have dug it out with the old
Swiss Army knife. But it was a bit cold for fiddling around
so I just patched the tube and got ready to go. But oh no, the
front had gone down. A look to the heavens and high snow covered
peaks brought no response, so I got on with the job and mended
the tube again.
But now that I was really cold and well
down the road to being cheesed off it would have been too good
to get going. Of course. I had another puncture. The un-dug-out
thorn was languishing in the warmth of my rear tyre, while I
stood around pumping air into a Swiss cheese. "Right, that's
it," I told myself. "Any more blowouts and I'm walking
back to the car and calling it a day." My prayers were
quickly answered and I was soon on my way.
But if you think that just because I'd expressed
some kind of sentiment to the gods above that they were going
to have mercy on me, think again. Blowout number five happened
on the least-thorny piece of ground I've ever seen. There was
nothing sharp there to cause it either, or hard. It was all
squashy moorland. My resident thorn was having one for the road,
and final it would be. I rested up behind a rock out of the
wind, and devised the Masterplan. I
needed something thick to place next to the tyre to protect
the tube from my little spiky friend. It was too cold to remove
any items of clothing, and I didn't have any thick tape or five
pound notes on me which would have done the trick. Doomed.
But wait. Surely a banana skin would provide
adequate insurance against another flat. Thick, spreadable and
easy to come by in the middle of the Cumbrian hills. I checked
my pack for said bendy yellow monkey food. Bullseye! I scoffed
the contents of the yellowed prophylactic and inserted the skin
twixt tyre and tube, pumped away and held my breath. Still holding.
Still holding. The tyre stayed firm.