04 February 2007

A bit of a Joe Simpson moment

Earlier in the week I mentioned that I was taking a Water Bailiff's son down the Ribble in the Eskimo Topolino Duo. Well it never happened, mainly because there wasn't enough water in the river to make the trip fun[!] and also we didn't want to show the Fishermen that we are totally irresponsible, with no consideration for the environment, by scraping along a river bed and floating now and again. The response we got from the Water Bailiff was quite interesting, but I think I'll hold that to a future post.

So today, instead of getting out on the water and going for the usual low water alternative I decided to get out on my bike. It is a new bike so I might as well break it in a bit even though I've already done 11.98 miles (4.37 on Friday, 5.25 on Saturday and 2.36 this morning) on it. My route would take me from my house in Preston to Halton, where the low water alternative was, and hopefully meet up with the paddlers that decided to take the only available padding option. This is, by car, a 25.1 mile journey up the motorway with some bits on minor roads, so it would be a good test for the bike. Obviously I couldn't go up the motorway so instead I planned to get on the Lancaster Canal at the start in Preston and head north along the tow path and eventually come off the tow path by UK Canoes, before heading over to Halton. I'm not exactly sure on the mileage of this route as I never actually managed to complete it.

I was going quite well. I hit the start of the canal averaging 16mph and then my speed dropped considerable for the next portion of the ride as the tow path was severely clogged up with wet, sticky mud, which meant I had to drop the bike into the lower gears. I was still making good headway and in about an hour-and-a-half I had covered 11.6 miles. Another two hours and I'd be there. Then disaster struck. I was clearing some of the mud away from around the brakes and gears and then when I went to set off again the tyre on the front wheel separated from the alloy wheels. Bugger, I had a puncture and no repair kit. What now?

There was nothing for it. I would have to turn around and walk the bike home. However, I couldn't just walk and push the bike along side me as the puncture was that bad the tyre would not stay on the rim. This meant I would have to carry the bike on my shoulder as I walked along the tow path slipping and sliding in the mud I had previously negotiated. This is when it felt like I was having a Joe Simpson moment; it was like I had to get back, or it would be the end. I kept setting myself targets to keep spurring me on, just like Joe did when he got out of the crevasse and was heading back to the campsite where Simon and Richard were getting ready to go. I would not stop for a rest until I had got to the next bridge and then I would only stop for a couple of minutes before carrying on along the tow path. It was pretty bad going and I wasn't making that much headway, though after about two hours of walking I reached the Hand and Dagger, a pub I frequent every Wednesday night.

I stopped for a slightly longer rest at the pub and grabbed a drink. It was at this point the going got really tough. I was starting to tire and I had left the tow path and therefore I did not have the bridge markers for target setting. I was on the road, however this meant I could balance the bike on one wheel and push it in front of me. This was slightly easier on the shoulder but did not make the going any easier. On my journey along the road I stopped at least six times; twice for a rest, once to stock up on food, and then three more times to eat the food. I eventually hit Preston three-and-a-half hours after getting the puncture and still I had half-an-hour of walking in front of me before I reached home.

When all is said and done I had cycled and walked over 22.4 miles and just over 11 of them had been on the bike. Once the tyre had punctured it took me four hours to get home and the Google Earth map shows the route I took. I started cycling in the bottom of centre and went along the line, where it forks for the first time I took the right fork and carried on along the line until my tyre punctured. I then retraced my steps until the second fork and here I took the left one and followed this around until I met back up with my original cycle route.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

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