I finally admitted to myself that if I haven’t ridden my mountain bike off road in the last two years, I’m probably not going to do so in 2015 either. So today I bought a pair of slick tyres, because while super tacky downhill mud tyres are all well and good, they don’t make you go particularly fast when you’re commuting on flat tarmac. Rather than feel guilt about wearing my tyres out, I bought new ones to put on instead. Then I’ll have a quite ridiculous looking bike: six inches of travel front and back, designed for hurtling down mountains, on tyres designed for riding very quickly on very smooth roads.
But first, you have to get the old tyres off and put new ones on. This is my least favourite thing about cycling. After half an hour of skinning my knuckles, I’d wrestled the tyre off the back wheel and jammed the new one on.
I pumped it up. This is hard work, because my track pump has developed a leak and as soon as you stop pumping, the inner tube it’s attached to will deflate until you pull the head of the pump off the valve. I pumped and pumped and pumped, got the tyre to the recommended 60 psi, then began to contemplate changing the front wheel.
And then the rear tube went bang.
To be fair, the tube was old rubber from at least four years ago and could have been perishing for a long time. Better that it exploded inside our flat than when I was riding along. But still, my nerves were all of a flutter, terrified that by making loud banging noises, our child would awake.
Happily, she slept through the big bang, and my subsequent swearing. This may have been helped by the white noise of the rain, a near constant since 3:30 this afternoon.
The reason I’m messing around with rubber for my bike is that I’ve tried riding to the Parkrun again: each time I do that, I save a quarter of the cost of new tyres in taxi fares I’m not paying. (This is a fairly ridiculous piece of financial logic, I know.) Today I took about five minutes off my riding time, and about twenty seconds from my personal best (if you only count the times when I’ve ridden to the race – fresh, I’ve been 30 seconds faster). Thus if I can make the journey to the race quicker and more efficient, I can spend more time in bed, and run quicker in the race. So a pair of new tyres (and now, new inner tubes) seems justified, even if my bike ends up looking emasculated.
There were 59 runners today, a lot more than usual, as a Singaporean running club had turned up en masse. A lot of them were quick – they went past me within the first 500 metres – but I struggled on. I caught and passed one guy and then, in the last kilometre, somebody else drew level with me. I pushed myself to go harder, opened up a little gap. Then he came alongside me again. I surged a second time, feeling like I would explode, and somehow kept ahead to the finish line. Appropriately enough, I was second in my age/gender classification, while wearing my silver running vest. Maybe I would come first if I had a gold one.
Having people to race with really helps. I think half the reason I rode more quickly to the race today was because I was haring after a roadie, trying to draft them (I got a 100metre tow to some traffic lights, but that was all). If I put the big gear on my bike, slick tyres and fit my clipless pedals again, maybe I can catch somebody on a road bike, but then I wont be taking things easy like I’m meant to. Oh, the dilemma…
I dozed for the rest of the day but at least it was the relaxing sleep of somebody who’s exercised, rather than the fatalistic exhaustion of the merely knackered. Today, the third day of holiday, is the first time I’ve felt properly relaxed. Tomorrow I should be running again, although with the current miserable rain, I’m worried there wont be any chance tomorrow and I’ll have to stay in and eat cake. My fault for being in Singapore in the rainy season…