Go! No, stop

I have learned a few things today, but I’ll get to that at the end…

I got up at 6:15, got dropped off at Duncansby Head Lighthouse (actually 2 miles further north east than John O’Groats) and started peddling.

The weather was crap, but I was warm and dry, the sheep moved out of the road to let me by and in under an hour I was back at the hotel in Sinclair’s Bay for breakfast.

After filling up I set off south again while my mum headed north. I was aimed squarely at Inverness and tonight’s campsite.

I went through Keiss, Reiss, Wick and a host of other little Scottish villages that aren’t much more than a few houses huddled together for warmth in a landscape that is undoubtedly beautiful, but also very bleak.

Then I ran into trouble at about the 30 mile mark.

I didn’t see them coming because they just looked like standing water, but there was a line of about four or five potholes in the space of as many meters. I hit them all pretty hard, but the front tire took it the worst, I guess because it’s pushed into them (whereas the back tire might have more weight on it, but it’s pulled over). I tried to miss some of the last holes and I stood up on the pedals and relaxed my knees and elbows to absorb the shock, but the first few were ‘uncomfortable’. I could clearly hear the wheel rim hitting the Tarmac, then the front brakes started to rub so I pulled over to see if the wheel was bent.

I picked up the front end, spun the wheel and to my surprise it was fine. But when I put it back on the road I could see the tire was flat.

The fact I could hear the wheel rim hitting the Tarmac was the answer. They weren’t at the same pressure as your car tires – about 30 psi. That tire was at 110 psi, so to compress by two centimetres is reasonably impressive.

Anyway, flat tube, torn tire (both of which I managed to fix), reinflated to a slightly lower pressure to make up for the bodged repair on the tire. And a slight twinge in my back.

As I carried on, that twinge got worse. So I played it safe, had a break, ate, drank, took some photos and carried on. It still niggled.

I should probably take some time out to explain a few things to those not already in the know.

Several years ago I ended up off work with horrific back pain. I’ve broken bones that didn’t feel as bad – one night nearly passed out trying to make it 20 feet to the toilet. The wife said my lips went blue… Several trips to the hospital later and following an MRI scan I had an appointment with a consultant. By this point, about two years after the initial pain I didn’t expect the MRI to show anything. I wasn’t in pain when they got around to scanning me.

But they did. Three ruptured discs and in between them, two crumbling vertebrae – looking all gnarly and black on the scan.

Consultant’s advice? Don’t lift anything heavy, take it easy and although they wouldn’t operate then, they would the next time it went – not ‘if’ but ‘when’.

Oh, and don’t cycle anything that hasn’t got suspension.

So a year to the day after that appointment with the consultant I started a 200 mile cycle on the same bike I’m using today. My single concession to his advice is the sprung seatpost you might be able to make out in the photo.

My back was fine on that 200 mile ride. It was fine on every ride after that, including the 100km at the end of June. I guess there’s nothing like a false sense of security to make you do silly things.

Like a JOGLE.

I made it to 48 miles before ringing the ‘support mum’. I reckoned I could make it to the next village but 3 miles down the road even that looked silly and I ended up coasting towards the car on what should have been a lovely downhill stretch in tears. It should hurt going uphill, not downhill.

So. 51 miles in, and feeling like a complete dick about it, I had to call it a day. I dosed up on painkillers, gingerly placed the bike on the back of the car and settled into the back seat.

I’m so disappointed I could cry. I know it’s the right thing to do – but there you go.

Waaaaaaay back at the start of this, I mentioned that I had learned a few things. They are.

  • False hill crests are awful things.
  • Slime tubes are worth the money and the tiny little bit of extra weight, buy them, fit them, love them.
  • Sheep are your friends.
  • Potholes aren’t.
  • Consultants have probably reached their positions by knowing what they’re talking about and you should listen to their advice.

I’m gonna have a think about things tonight, see how I feel in the morning and then decide what to do.

I’ll let you know tomorrow.


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