Whoosh 2021 Day One, Reading to Hayling Island. Distance 77 miles. Time: Six hours, 57 minutes

If cycle rides started from the tops of mountains and swept down into valleys before finishing against on mountain tops, it is tempting to conclude the past-time would be less popular.

Day one of 2021’s Whoosh ride – the, if you will, epilogue to Thursday’s prologue – started from nearly-sea-level Reading and ended at pretty-much-in-the-sea Hayling Island via 353m of vertical climbing.

But the space in between raised multiple philosophical questions.

One was why human beings so often fail to recognise when a problem has been solved. The many sections of Friday’s ride on tarmac made it clear that road surfacing is a solved problem. When Friday’s ride was on roads made of a sealed mixture of tar and stone, even when the climbs were steep and the weather muggy, the going was easy. When the route ran on loose stones, mud, tree roots and loose stone, I found myself sliding around – slipping, literally, behind the pace.

Yet, extraordinarily, some of the worst sections of track were relatively new, built to inadequate standards, presumably because someone thought a bad, hard-to-use cycle track looked better than an actually useable one.

That linked to another question – why the problem of punctures in pneumatic tyres remains unaddressed. The punctures started shortly outside Reading, after the Whooshers had ridden across a short section of horrifically loose stones on the south side of the town.

I repaired one of them, although the victim subsequently fell victim to a second puncture and another Whoosher dug out a still-embedded small piece of flint. No doubt anyone could have missed it. At least that’s the kind of thing I say because I think it’s enormously important to be understanding of simple human errors that are almost certainly my fault.

The whole experience made me particularly sceptical of the trend towards tubeless bicycle tyres as I watched one rider struggle with making the alleged self-healing magic of the system – where punctures are meant to repair themselves – fall spectacularly short.

Find yourself, meanwhile, someone who looks at you with the devotion I direct towards my Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres. These puncture-resistant miracles of German technology resisted all injury while other riders screamed in frustration as the air hissed out.

The grappling with punctures, poor surfaces and resultant delays meant that there was a slightly sombre mood by the top of the last steep climb over the South Downs, just outside Petersfield. If all rides ended in such places, fewer might start.

Yet there were to be rewards.

One was to see that supporters have pledged £1,531 towards the work of Tumaini Medical Centre, the ride’s overseas charity partner, and £1,180 towards the work of First Step Trust, the ride’s local charity partner. Pledges for Tumaini are well on the way to reaching the £5,000 target, while those for First Step are on the way to its £3,000 target. (You can find out more and donate here)

The more immediate satisfaction, however, was to sweep down from the Downs at speed towards the sea, the wind in our faces and the miles speeding by.

It was the kind of experience that brings back the simple joy of cycling – the feeling of freedom, of moving at speed under one’s own power and of having accomplished something at journey’s end.

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