I could not help but feel an uncomfortable forboding as I loaded the bike on the back of the car. After my puncture the previous week I had half expected to find that the tyre had deflated since the last ride. Although it was a relief to find the tyre still hard, something kept telling me that I was not yet out of the proverbial woods. Nevertheless I tried to be positive – at least the weather was fine and mild and I was looking forward to getting a few more kilometres into the legs before our Great Southern ride tomorrow.
Since I had a few minutes up my sleeve I made the decision to start at Wandin and have a brisk ride back up the hill to COGS at Mt Evelyn. I soon settled into a rhythm and tried to convince myself that I really had no reason to believe that anything would happen to spoil the ride. Arriving at COGS just before 1.00 I was pleased to see a good sized group of yellow jerseyed riders already waiting for a start. In the group was Henk, back for the first time since the 2008 China Ride.
I barely had time to catch my breath before we were heading back down the hill. So far so good I told myself. I tried to settle into the group and relax but every twitch of the bike and every small bump on the trail only added to my sense of unease. Somehow I just felt convinced that I was about to suffer another puncture and nothing I could do could shake the feeling away.
The group made good progress to Killara where a few started to increase the pace a little. Over the top of the rise we went, then down the slope towards the Woori Yallock bridge. Not wanting to hit the edge of the bridge too hard I slowed down but still winced as the bike hit the exposed wooden plank with a loud “thump”. I carefully wobbled across the bridge and made it to the other side without falling off. It was not until I had made it about halfway from the bridge to Woori Yallock station that my worst fears started to materialise into grim reality. My front tyre was rapidly going down ! Bummer and double bummer.
I finally made it to the station and proceeded to, once again, cover my hands and yellow jersey with grease and horse manure as I wrestled with the tyre. Since I could not see any of the other riders I assumed (wrongly) that they had kept going. (In fact they were all gathered just around the bend, faithfully waiting for me). I finally got the tight tyre from the rim and used my failing eyesight to vainly search for another glass splinter. I couldn’t find any. I retrieved my last new tube and struggled to get the tyre back on the rim. When it was finally time to pump the tyre up I, once again, discovered that my pump is totally useless when inflating a tube with a short stem. I was fighting to control my growing feeling of frustration when a couple of others came back from the group to see why I was taking so long. Fortunately one of them had a pump which worked and I was finally on my way again.
It would be good to say that I finally relaxed but that would NOT be the truth. In reality I spent the rest of the ride just waiting for another repeat performance to occur. I suspect that if another puncture had occured I would have just thrown the bike into the bushes and walked back to my car. Luckily I did safely make it back without another disaster. As soon as I got home I took off the tyre and tube and replaced it with another tyre and thick “thorn proof” tube. I finally felt that would be the end of the matter.
As a postscript to this story I took the bike along the whole length of the Great Southern Rail Trail the next day without incident. The puncture gremlin had been finally defeated.