Saturday, November 05, 2005

Ride to Windsor (okay, Weybridge)

A couple days ago, I sent a message to the CCC email list to see if anyone wanted to do a pre-dawn ride to Windsor today. I planned to follow the National Cycle Route 4 from Putney Bridge, through Richmond Park to Kingston, along the Thames past Hampton Court, to Weybridge, then through Windsor Great Park, and home on the train.

Surprisingly, I even got one taker, which was more than I'd expected. We met at South Hampstead station and set off to Putney via Hyde Park and Hammersmith. We maintained a good pace, and soon made up the time we'd lost due to a late (06.50 or so) start.

It was light by the time we got to Richmond Park, and it was a lovely ride through the park as usual. Not too many deer, though. It was a really chilly morning (45 degrees!), so our toes were pretty cold, but it was bright and the air was really fresh, so we didn't mind.

Everything was going really well until a dog ran out in front of me on the towpath near Walton. I've been trying to figure out whether he would have moved or not, but I'm quite sure that I would have run the little mongrel down if I hadn't slammed on the brakes. The path surface was hard packed gravel and normally pretty good, but I lost traction and the rear wheel slid to the right. My companion narrowly missed running into me but managed to stay upright, as did I.

Everybody heard the pop of my tire blowing but me, apparently - I was too busy trying not to crash and/or kill any dogs. The dog's owner was apologetic, and she went on her way. Then I noticed that my tire was completely flat. Which was really unfortunate and a big surprise, since the Panaracer Pasela Tourguard is regarded as one of the most durable tires around. From what I can gather, when I went sideways, a sharp rock poked its way right through the sidewall into the tube and that was that.

I had to think what to do just then since I'd never removed the rear wheel on this bike before. It's meant to be really easy with the Rolhoff hub, which may be the case, but I would have preferred figuring it out for myself with some time to spare - not on a muddy towpath two-thirds through an early morning ride.

So instead of taking the wheel off to replace the tube, I managed to patch it without taking the wheel off, but there was still the question of the slash in the sidewall. To prevent the inflated tube from popping out like a hernia, I sandwiched another patch between the tube and tire. Incredibly, that seemed to hold. Nevertheless, it seemed to make sense to cut our ride short and head back from Weybridge instead of venturing into Windsor Great Park, where any unrecoverable mishap would only result in walking out again.

It was still another seven or eight miles to Weybridge station (not in the centre of Weybridge, of course), but we took it easy and everything went fine. We got a cup of tea for the journey, then took the train back to Waterloo and arrived a half hour later.

I'd hoped to get some nice pictures in Windsor, but after the incident I lost my motivation. I did get a shot of the gash in my tire, though. The bit of the patch I stuck between the tube and tire is just visible.

Okay, not the ambitious ride to Windsor I'd hoped for, but it was a good ride nevertheless! Now the small matter of finding another Panaracer Tourguard and fitting it before my next ride.

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