Last evening the closest bike shop to my house Wildside (http://www.wildside-online.co.uk/) invited me to join them on an evening club ride. I’m always keen to get out riding with new people, find new roads and do a bit more group riding (as I’ve done very little) so of course I said “sure – count me in”. The weather’s been pretty ropey recently with lots of rain and I am most definitely a fair weather rider (I’m not big on riding in the rain). So, during the afternoon yesterday, I kept an eye on the weather as the forecast had predicted heavy rain. Over the few hours before the ride we had a number of heavy rain showers but after each one the sun came out so I thought it would be fine. Just as I was about leave another shower came down but I set off to the shop to meet up hoping for it to clear. I was riding my Alize as I have been trying to reacquaint myself with it after spending quite a bit of time on the Diablo.There ended up being about 10 of us there for the ride. The only blue sky we could see as we set out was directly north so we rode through the town up to the High Brooms area and it was pretty wet and horrible on the roads. As we descended down one hill before going right and under a railway tunnel I had a moment of genuinely thinking my brakes were so wet I wasn’t going to stop and starting to plan my run off the road. I just managed to slow down enough to get round but it made me take it a bit easier on the descents than normal but it wasn’t a race. As you’d expect, there were some faster riders and some slower riders with myself somewhere in the middle. We rode back to Pembury and then onto the A21 in the rain on a dual carriageway part – so cars were thundering past us at 80ish. Not where I would have chosen to go so I pressed on an rode as quickly as I could along there to get it out of the way. Fortunately it was only a short section. We then rode through to the back of Hawkenbury (and met up with where I normally leave town) through to Bells Yew Green. By this point the rain had stopped and we were on much quieter roads. The banter was good and it was a nice group of guys. We rode down to Lamberhurst and then turned onto Hog Hole Lane one I’d not been down before and I soon new why. The road surface was poor anyway even by local standards the heavy rain had really made it a mess. One of the guy was on full carbon Zipp 404s and he slowed down a lot and tried to pick his way through it. I took it easy but my Mavic’s are as tough as old boots and I never get punctures on a ride – well so I thought. As we got to the end of the lane one of the guys did have a puncture so we all stopped and waited. As we chatted away someone noticed at about the same time as I did that we could hear a hissing sound ….. like air coming out of a tube. It turned it was my front wheel – so I had a puncture too. One of the guys (Gary – thanks!) and I tried to do a quick change. I had a spare tube in my pocket and we got that into the wheel in good time and I started pumping it up – perhaps a little too vigorously (although I hadn’t thought so) as the valve tore out of the tube and I was flat again. I then had to borrow a tube as honestly I never get punctures and so I only took one spare. A new tube was in and Andy, Wildside’s owner generously loaned me a CO2 cannister to pump up with and we were on our way. We all got going again and rode back to Tunbridge Wells on Bayham Road which was good. The faster half of the group pushed the pace on on the section between Bells Yew Green and Forest Road and it was good to be able to keep up with them fine. We looped back through town to the shop and said our goodbyes etc and I headed home. This morning when I checked my Alize (as it needs a clean today) – the rear wheel was flat too – making a total of 3 for the ride. I’ve never had that many flats on a 25 mile ride – a dubious record to be sure. It was a good ride though and I hope to do it again (perhaps in the dry and on smoother roads). I had a great time being out on the Alize and I properly rain tested my Craft Performance rain jacket which was great (http://www.alwaysriding.co.uk/craft-performance-rain-jacket-258.html) Thanks to Andy at Wildside for inviting me along (not to mention the help with my puncture). If you’d like to ride with more people – do check if you’re local bike shop has rides like this. If you’re not a club kind of a person (like me) – they’re a really nice way to ride with new people. Thanks for reading.