Or Why I Shall Hitherto Always Check All the Bicycles My Own Self
I had this concert in a small town about 70 km from the end of the commuter-rail line out of Toronto, where I live. Last year, for another concert at the same festival, I took the train to the end of the line and biked up the motherloving escarpment and did my rehearsal and concert. It was fun. The ride was pleasant and rural. I felt like a badass bicycling soprano.
Later that summer my sweetheart bought himself a good bike (finally) and joined me on a flatter weekend tour, with no singing. The bike ride went surprisingly well. He completed his first 100-km day, with minimal complaining (after I adjusted his saddle so that it wasn’t putting as much pressure on some delicate body parts). So I concluded that we could, in fact, tour together. This being so, when the concert gig came up this year, I suggested he join me on my zero-emission concert adventure.
The plan was to get up stupid-early on Saturday morning, take the train to the end of the line, bike up the motherloving escarpment, stop in the neareast reasonably-sized town, at about kilometer 50 for lunch, get to the venue in time to find our accommodations, and for me to get shower and get to rehearsal on time, have a nice dinner, I could sing the concert, and we’d bike back down the escarpment Sunday, leaving a bit later and stopping in the same town in for lunch with friends. Get to the end of the train line and hop the train back home.
Google Maps told me it would be a 4.5-hour ride, but Google Maps does not believe in water breaks, lunch breaks, or riding very slowly up the mother-loving escarpment. It also believes that all cyclists are magically at the same fitness level and cycle at a constant average speed of an entirely reasonably 20 km/h. So I allowed about 6 hours for the cycling part of the trip.
I love being able to get to and from relatively far away places without relying on the car-machine. I recognize the utility of the car-machine, and sure, a person could drive to the music festival in an hour and a bit, rather than taking all blessed day to get there on the train and a bike, but that person would not experience the joy of going through several rural Ontario towns, rather than blasting by them on the highway. That person would not stop under a spreading tree for a water break and enjoy the breezes. That person would not see a hawk sitting intently atop a telephone pole as crows circled nearby waiting to clean up the hawk’s leavings. They wouldn’t say hello to the cows and horses, or pass the world’s cutest union hall. Cycling lets me travel at exactly the right pace to go through the environment, rather than to passing it by, and so, when I have a concert conveniently on a Saturday in the summer and the rehearsal isn’t until 4:30 in the evening, and the weather cooperates, I really love being able to eschew the fossil-fuel burning machine for self-propelled travel.
Last weekend on his first ride this year, the Fella’s bike blew an inner tube. He fixed it, but there was “one little thing wrong,” he said. He tried to describe the one little thing to me, and was all “the tube doesn’t appear to be seated properly, and it’s bulging out.”
I should have paid more attention to that. But he said it wasn’t a big thing, and that the tire appeared to be okay.
He didn’t check it on Friday night. On Saturday, he found his new inner tube to be flat. So as he was replacing the (newly replaced) inner tube, I looked at his tire and said, “Well, there’s your problem.”
The tire wall had a hole in it.
The reason I had not checked his tire before is that, when he told me about the blown tire last week, I told him to do a thorough check of the tire before replacing the inner tube. “Eyes and hands,” I told him, “Look for anything that might have caused a puncture, and feel carefully around the tire to make sure it’s not hiding.” This hole went right through.
Now, if you don’t bike, you may not know that if there’s a hole in your tire, then your innertube will blow, and your tire will be flat. You can’t patch a tire. You can patch an innertube, but not a tire. If you have a hole in your tire, you need a new tire.
At 9:00 in the morning, there are no open bike stores in Toronto. I did not have a tire to give him, as my bike has smaller wheels.
I was a good sweetie. I did not pout too much. I looked at our map, and checked bike-store times and came up with Plan B: we would put the bikes in the car, drive to a bike store in the city just west of our planned starting point, which was open, buy a new tire, change it there, drive to the starting point, leave the car, and continue with our plans. We would still have fun, and I’d just have to square our non-zero emissions with my conscience.
So, Plan B, You Say
For a wonder, we did not encounter traffic getting out of Toronto. For a wonder, we found the bike store. Getting out of the car, I said to him “Grab the wheel, so they can put the tire on for you.”
“Okay,” he said, “I’m also going to bring this inner tube, and i’ll buy a spare, because this one’s all out of the package.”
As he was describing his inner-tube plans, I opened the back of the car. There were two bikes. Four panniers. Two helmets. Four pedals. Three wheels.
He’d left the rear wheel of his bike in the back yard, an hour’s drive away in Toronto.
And Here’s Where We Just Become Carbon-Burning Monsters
So we bought a tire. Because he needed a tire in any case. And I had him drop me at the starting point for our ride, because I was now right on time for starting and doing the ride solo. I gave him the map, and we agreed he could catch up with me along the route, and we’d leave the car wherever probably in Guelph, and he dropped me off and kissed me goodbye and I only swore once (when I counted the number of wheels), and did not say anything mean.
I made it to Guelph, no problem, and phoned him just as he was 10 minutes away. So I had lunch and he came to find me. We parked the car at the home of friends, and biked the last 25 km together, arriving 10 minutes before I had to rehearse. Spent a lovely evening, explored the Gorge and the local bike trails, then headed back 25 km, to have lunch with friends and retrieve the car, having burned over twice as much fuel as we would have if we’d just driven to the Festival door-to-door.