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Part two. Made it to the start
 
Introductions and a refreshing beer later, and we were ready to leave. Things were finally going well. The “well” is as in “well until I started pushing the bike”. My front tyre was nearly flat.

Mutterings and cursings later, I’d pulled the wheel out and, much to Valiant’s astonishment pulled the tyre off before the offered Speed lever had even been found. I pumped the tube up to pressure, and could find no leak. Assuming a failed valve, a result of no use for months then pumping it up, I re-fitted the tube. I could get no pressure at all. In fact the pressure seemed to be fluctuating, first the tyre went up to soggy, then flat again. In desperation, and knowing I was causing a delay to people who had decided to wait, I ripped the tyre off again.

This time I found the hole. It was at the base of the valve, and only leaked when the valve was pushed in one direction. That explained why it had been so tricky to find. This is also the point where I discovered mistake number three. I had two spare inner tubes, both of which were 700C for the other bike. I was tubeless.

Amazingly, a rider who had stopped to see what we were up to and had no prior knowledge of the ride offered me his bike. I couldn’t accept this as I really didn’t fancy riding the distance on somebody else’s bike, I had no way of getting it back to him as I wasn’t going back into London.

TimC suggested trying superglue as an emergency repair. I wasn’t happy about riding 120 miles in the dark on it, but as I had no choice we gave it a go. It failed. Dismally. The tube wouldn’t inflate and then the valve fell off altogether.

As I was trying in desperation to stuff a 700C tube into a 26inch tyre salvation arrived in the shape of the “things”. They had packed a spare 26” tube and kindly donated it to my plight. By now I was tired, hot, sweaty and grumpy. I also thought my pump had failed as I couldn’t get any pressure in. A team pumping effort ensued, with TimC and another kind chap (either his friend or Vince, I can’t recall) inflating the tyre with a borrowed pump, while I packed away the mess.

Finally, with a loud roar of deeply treaded mud tyres against tarmac we were off! The group I was in, maybe forty or so, decided that as we were last we should set a pace to overhaul the other riders. I had my doubts, but decided to do my best.

As we rounded the first bend a cry went up from the front. “Puncture! Stopping” and a bike swerved into the kerb. The rider jumped off and had the wheel out by the time I was there. “Keep going, I know my way and I’ll catch you” he said to us. I felt guilty, after all he had waited for us, but he had told us to go and we did have 120 miles ahead of us.

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