Saturday’s ride was always going to be a little interesting. The weather wasn’t great, with rain falling fairly constantly early on. I prevaricated a bit, but decided to do 100km or so circuit around Hertfordshire.
So fully layered up in Gore-tex and waterproof shoe covers (which never stay fully waterproofed), I headed out.
All was going well, and I was looking forward to a café stop at Spokes CC in a few kms time, when I heard a massive bang. It sounded like my tyre had blown out – always the most spectacular of punctures.
I had my GoPro running at the time as it happened, and although the microphone on my older model isn’t great, you can hear the noise of it in the first few seconds of the video above. You can also hear my exclamation as I heard it.
I pulled over to the side of the road in the small village I’d just entered and set about fixing the puncture. Typically, the rain started to fall a little heavier as I did it. When repairing a puncture, it’s always wise to find the hole in the damaged tube first of all, and then check the tyre to ensure that whatever caused the damage in the first place isn’t still lodged in the tyre. I couldn’t feel anything, but I did notice that the hole in my original tube was pretty severe – beyond fixing with a regular patch.
I replaced the tube with my [sole] spare one, and then used a CO2 cannister to rapidly inflate the tyre. All looked good, and I was about to replace the wheel when I noticed a bit of my tube bulging around the edge of the wheel.
That’s not good.
Closer inspection revealed that the replacement tube was bulging through the tyre itself, because the tyre’s sidewall, near the rim of the wheel, had split.
Split tyre sidewalls are not great, and tend to be terminal for the tyres involved. So now it was a question of seeing how far I could get, or determining if there was a way to patch up the tyre sidewall.
The easiest thing to use is a Tyre Boot. These are temporary tyre patches that you can use to get yourself home. Frustratingly, I used to have one of these in my RidePac, but when I lost my previous RidePac a few months ago, I neglected to restock one in my replacement that I now carry!
I had previously read that a banknote would do the job in a pinch. The Bank of England has changed over to a form of polymer banknotes over the last few years, and they’re super-tough. I always carry a little cash in the form of a banknote on me, for cafés or shops that either won’t accept cards, or have card minimums that I’m spending below. That might be a solution.
But I thought I’d check first how close I was to a cycle shop. I didn’t hold out too much hope. I was in a small village and while I was heading in the direction of café-repair place, I knew I was still a fair distance from it.
But opening Google Maps, suggested that I was close to another bike shop. Very close. In fact 200-300m away from one!
This was extraordinary.
You do need to be a little careful with Google Maps sometimes. Occasionally it will suggest there’s somewhere where you know there isn’t, or it’s a mailorder place operating from a domestic premises.
But I walked around the corner, entered a small courtyard, and there was a little bike shop, the door open. Apps Cycle Works at the Bike Bay is only open on Saturdays during the winter, although they have a sister premises a couple of miles away that’s open during the week.
The chap there happily sold me a new Gatorskin tyre to replace the one that had split, and picked up a new tube as well just in case I had problems on the way home. We had a nice chat while I fitted things myself. I honestly couldn’t believe that there was a shop there at all. But it’s a popular area for cycling in the summer. What’s more, there’s an adjacent tea shop – Emily’s Tea Room. So after I’d got myself up and running again, I warmed up with an Earl Grey and a tasty chocolate brownie.
By the time I set off again, the sun had even come out. For a bit anyway.
This is perhaps my “luckiest” bike mishap in terms of location that it’s possible to have. Although it comes close to the time some years ago when I buckled my wheel badly on a pothole during Ride London, and was fortunate to find an open bike shop right there on the route who sold me a new wheel, and got my old one trued back up for me.
On the other hand, while Gatorskin tyres are pretty hardy, and I don’t think this one is quite two years old. So quite what caused that sidewall split isn’t clear to me. It has done a lot of mileage though.