In Which the Downhill goes Uphill

OK It’s no secret that, with my weight, I am not a natural hill climber. I also don’t really like excessively hot or cold rides. And headwinds I could certainly do without. While on the subject I could also add that I don’t enjoy getting wet on the bike. But one thing is certain – that all these factors pale into insignificance when compared to the cyclist’s worst enemy (and I’m not talking about flatulance). Nothing can spoil a ride more quickly than that dreadful first realisation that you have suffered a puncture. Not only are you faced with the prospect of covering your hands (and usually your jersey as well) with copious quantities of road filth and grease, but you often also face the sight of your peloton disappearing into the distance without you. If that wasn’t bad enough there is also the lingering doubt for the remainder of the ride that you may not have discovered the origin of the leak and that there is still some miniature splinter of glass lurking within the walls of your tyre, just waiting to cause a repeat deflation. All in all I can safely state that all punctures are bummers.

Actually I have been fortunate over the past couple of years that I have been virtually puncture free on the Warburton Trail. So much so that I had been lulled into a sense of “puncture complacency”. It is easy to sail along thinking that the one or two millimetres of rubber between you and the jagged rocks is mre than enough to guarantee your well being. On this particular Thursday everything had been going so well, the weather had been perfect and we had a larger than usual group of riders out for the regular ride. I felt good and was enjoying myself immensely. So much so, in fact that I decided to ride straight past the Milgrove coffee shop and partake in a fiercely contested sprint up the hill to Warburton.

With the cranks flying, the speed in the low 30s and the wind whistling through the remnants of my hair, I could not help feeling that the trail belonged to me. I should have known better. It was just as I was accelerating for the final few hundred metres to the Warburton crest that I rode straight through a huge pile of broken beer bottle glass. There was no chance to swerve. All I could do was wince as I heard that horrible crunching noise of rubber on glass. For the next few seconds I held my breath waiting for a pop, but to my relief it never came. I safely made it to the top and turned back towards the coffee shop.

I had not travelled far before I had that unnerving feeling that the bike was handling differently. The front wheel became spongy and my spirits sank. I had no choice but to dismount and confirm what I already knew – I had a %*#$% puncture ! Since I felt (mistakenly as it turned out) that I was close to Milgrove I decided to walk the bike down to coffee shop and repair it there. Twenty five minutes later I finally arrived at the shop and tried to enjoy my lunch.

After lunch we removed the tyre and discovered not one but two glass splinters imbedded in the wall. Unfortunately the repair time was extended by the fact that one of my spare tubes already had a leak and my pump didn’t work. Apart from that I was well prepared. About 30 minutes later the tyre was finally repaired and I headed back to COGS. Since I no longer had any spares I was on tenterhooks the whole way back, worrying that each bump in the trail could signal another disaster. It was NOT a relaxing ride.

Fortunately I did make it safely back to the start but I did not actually relax until the bike was secured to the back of the car. I could only hope that would be my sole puncture quota for the next twelve months or so. (I was wrong).