Sometimes bike testing is hard work but this is the last ride of the day, the last of the test, nearly time to untether my own bikes again but this is still a job.
Winch up Jack Bridge. Tired. Bored. Meant to turn right for a quick hit but go left and longer, up into the low sun. So low it's setting and over the hill I end up unearthing kit to fix the pinch flat. One tube, no patches, and a few rocky miles to go.
I could head home down the road. It would be wiser.
Cruising down the hill there's a barn owl hunting over the heather and a stoat flows across the tarmac ahead. Two neat black ears poke up from behind the wall: hare. The sun is going, going, gone in a burning disc of pink and a fast clear run at Whirlaw clears the gnadgery bit for the second time today.
(all the while thinking without thinking, don't flat don't flat don't flat, don't pay it too much or too little attention, don't flat don't flat don't flat)
Lights on in the houses, yellow without warmth. Sky turning blue again. Everyone's indoors and resting, dogs dads kids and a fat line of geese flies down the valley at eye height from the second turn of Rodwell, melting into the gloom. The bridges in the water are perfect balls of brick, the canal cats are out for mice and the smoke from the stoves of the narrow boats rises like it's on a string.
The locks are overflowing, Stubbings is noise and street light. Chip shop's shut and the key's in the door like it belongs. The thinking stopped some time ago. No flat.