This article is from Edition 12: Ride the Change - Cycle to COP26
Rosie Riley
Written by Rosie Riley
Published on 25th November 2021
3 min read

In the days that followed this epic journey, our WhatsApp group continued to build community, link riders together and facilitate sharing, communication and bonding. Shortly after our Ride, Matt Wood developed and delivered The Puncture Graph; a handy visual representation displaying two variables: ‘total punctures on the ride’ and ‘total punctures in one day', broken down by various riders.

We spoke to the Man Behind the Chart, and the Other Man... Kenny Lee.


So, Matt - who are you?

MW: I live in Bristol and enjoy cycling, building my record collection and drinking craft beer. In my spare time I’m also a freelance sustainable energy consultant, mostly supporting innovative social housing retrofit initiative Energiesprong. 

And you made the Puncture Graph.. What made you do it?

MW: “Day 5” was the longest and on-paper hardest day of Ride the Change. 145 km from Preston to Penrith,  with all the hills after lunch and an amber weather warning. We were prepared for it to be tough, but what we weren’t prepared for was lots of glass on the roads on the edge of Preston and for every farmer along the way to be trimming their thorny hedges. LOTS of people got punctures that day and I wanted to know how many in total and who had the most.

How many punctures did you get?

MW: Four

Was this the most in one day?

MW: I had three more over the next few days but that was the most in one day.

Let’s talk about That Day. What do you remember from it? 

MW: Despite the punctures, it was actually my favourite day! We had a loose “team” of about 7 people by then, and because I had three punctures in quick succession (glass on edge of Preston) I didn’t want the rest of the group to keep waiting for me with ~135 km still to go. Abi stayed with me and then we were joined by the ride mechanic Anna until “lunch” (about 2pm!). The afternoon was all about keeping the pace up as much as possible in order to avoid finishing the ride in the dark. About 1 km after lunch, riding along a country lane where the farmers had clearly just trimmed the hedges, Anna remarked that it was prime puncture territory, at which point I immediately got another puncture!

Fortunately I didn’t get any more after that, but we collected and met other people all afternoon who also had multiple punctures. Eventually we made it to the top of the last (and biggest) hill as it got dark, with 30 km still to go and several of the group’s lights out of battery. It was pretty sketchy going downhill on country lanes in the dark with water all over the roads, but there was a real camaraderie and when we met the BTC van that had arrived to rescue another puncture victim (too cold and dark to fix it), no one took the opportunity to bail out. We arrived at 8pm, about 12 hours after we started in the morning. 

Why the hell did you get so many?

MW: I shouldn't have! It’s a new bike and new tyres. I’m going to blame it on poor advice from a guy in my Bristol cycling group who clearly secretly hates me. Also, glass and hedge trimming season.

Did you think you might have had the most punctures on the trip, overall?

MW: I did start to feel cursed after That Day. I even managed to get a puncture on the train to Edinburgh somehow.

How did it feel to find out you didn’t?

MW: I’m happy for Kenny to have the crown, although I got so quick at fixing them by the end that it didn’t bother me too much.

Ok, I think now, it’s time to bring in Kenny Lee.. Matt, whether you’ve met him or not, can you please introduce him?

MW: This is Kenny. We didn’t talk much on the ride, but it’s clear he makes really bad decisions when it comes to choosing his bike tyres. Or he takes advice from people who don’t like him.

'The road to a sustainable planet is full of glass and thorns.'

Hi Kenny Lee.

You got the total number of punctures overall right?

KL: Not my proudest moment but yes, I have to claim the trophy and confirm I did top the table for the most punctures during the RTC2021

How many did you get? 

KL: Officially nine … Unofficially ten. The tenth puncture was from Kings Cross station to home. In my book the ride ended in Glasgow. Some are trying to argue the point, but the case is closed.

How does it feel knowing that? 

KL: Indeed not my finest moments but glad it was a topic of discussion and curiosity for other riders … I’m here to entertain when I can.

Which was your most memorable puncture? Paint the scene.

KL: Day four Stoke-on-Trent to Preston. After a fantastic lunch in Manchester, we set off with full bellies and caffeine-fuelled, ready to conquer the second half of the day and arrive in Preston before the rain set in. A few kilometres later, slop slop slop from my rear wheel again, my third puncture that day. The rain clouds were moving in quick, and I didn’t want the crew I was riding with to waste any more time waiting for me. I waved my goodbyes as they cycled towards the unavoidable rain clouds ahead. I set my ego aside and raised the white flag by calling for the rescue bus to get me to Preston. 

I didn’t have to wait long until I was in a warm van heading towards a Preston bike shop to stock up on new tubes and a new tyre. The rescue team was fantastic.

Any particularly traumatic ones? 

KL: The day four DNF was particularly difficult to accept. I’m not one to abandon a task and always aim to complete what I start, but sometimes pride has to be set aside. A huge positive to that day was the company and conversations in the rescue van. The only thing missing was a singalong ... plus I was dry and warm when we arrived in Preston.

How will you cope with that?

KL: Suppression is my go-to for this, and I won’t be speaking about it again … it is buried deep in my memory, and anyone who wants to talk about it will find the subject change swiftly.

Next question please!

Matt, Kenny Lee.. A puncture shared is a puncture halved.. Is there anyone you’d like to mention, thank or shout - out to?

KL: Anna #MsTheGrittyTriathlete, Charlie #MrNavigator&illhavethattube, Rob #MrSheen, Michael #MrLekker, Ian #MrDry&Warm and Ben #Mrisharemytubes

Many others provided moral support and words of encouragement, but the above got into the trenches to help me out.

MW: Anna! If you’re going to have a day full of mechanicals, make sure to have the team mechanic with you.

Matt, Kenny Lee Do you feel a strong bond and connection? A life-long tie? 

KL: From my perspective, for sure … to know we both suffered similar roadside traumas represents to me a kinship similar to rubber glue bonding a patch to an inner tube.

MW: I’m sure we have enough punctured inner tubes now to make a chain between our two houses (wherever Kenny lives!)

Why do you think you both got so many?

KL: I don’t question why the universe hands me lemons; I just use them to make my morning energising drink.

On a serious note, the bike I used for the RTC2021 wasn’t the bike I had planned to use for the journey ... I did no detailed prep or checks, and the tyres weren’t the most suitable for the conditions. The short story why, the afternoon before the event started I crashed the bike which was fully prepped and equipped for RTC2021, sadly I could not fix the damage.

Do you at all feel these ‘puncture experiences’ link to CoP26 and global climate action? What lessons, if any, transfer to the global climate movement. 

KL: For me they are linked. It was part and parcel of the whole experience. The end game was to arrive in Glasgow and show, for me at least, alternative forms of travel are possible and can be rewarding.

Yes governments and big businesses have a lot to answer for, but as temporary tenants of this earth, we all have our individual responsibilities. Just start and it doesn’t matter how small or large. Once you start you can build on it. There were a couple of days when the motivation to start cycling was low, but once in the saddle and the legs started turning over, we were soon munching up the kilometres. The same applies to making a change in how you lessen the impact on our climate, start and you will move forward … enough blah blah blah.

Oh, I’m pretty quick at changing tubes now.

MW: The road to a sustainable planet is full of glass and thorns. You won’t get to Premier Inn Penrith if you stay in Premier Inn Preston, you have to keep fixing the punctures and carry on riding. Unlike on Ride the Change, no one is going to rescue you in the van.