An Early Bath

I miss my own musings on the blog site so have decided to write something about 2 interesting days in January (in 2 parts) even though it does not include Gandalf. Gandalf being currently parked up on the drive having a well earned rest.

So, cast your mind back. It’s Thursday January 17th and myself and two friends have decided to ride to Bath along the Kennet & Avon canal from Twyford, near Reading.

82 miles along a tow path. How hard can it be?

We set out at 05.45 with train tickets pre-purchased for our return.

Oh my word it’s early.

All went smoothly if rather muddily.

The tow path was pretty user friendly and we made it to Newbury in good time for a well earned cup of coffee.

The only coffee shop before Devises

The trusty steeds of our merry band of 3 comprised 1 Mountain and 2 cyclo cross bikes. Our problem would be our choices of tyres. Mr MTB had tubeless, self sealing, knoblies (good choice), yours truly had cyclo cross knoblies with all the puncture resistant qualities of a peeled and silk wrapped soft boiled egg (bloody awful choice). Mr blue cyclo cross had puncture resistant road/trail tyres (a better but far from perfect choice).

All smiles on a beautiful day

For a while things went our way…

…we even found a sunny spot for lunch..

But soon things started to go awry with the first puncture of the day…

It wasn’t to be the last. 11 punctures over about a 20 mile stretch! Some tyke (stronger words are available) had been cutting the hawthorn bushes that run alongside the canal towpath for the whole of the 20 mile stretch. I did get rather cross at about puncture number 8.

At about the 50 mile mark we had only 2 puncture stickers left, zero spare tubes, zero air cylinders and only one rather poor pump.

Something had to be done…

Our plan was to ride to Devises. Find a bike shop, buy lots of tubes and look to arrive in Bath at about midnight.

Mr MTB and fate however had other ideas…

…at 52 miles Mr MTB was negotiating a narrow section under a bridge when he caught his handlebars on the bridge allowing him to create the kind of almighty splash that only a a 6 foot 95 man mountain can create as momentum and gravity sent him headfirst into the canal closely followed by his bike.

Mr MTB takes an early Bath

I was following him at the time so saw what happened. Cognisant of the danger I sprang into action. As follows:

  • Check he has surfaced in a conscious non panicky, floaty not sinky kind of way
  • Grab bike and hoik it out before it does a Titanic
  • Say to our other friend; “You haul him out. I’m taking a photo.”

When he looked at me in an accusatory kind of way I (rightly I feel) said, “One day you will thank me for this. Smile for the camera!”

We couldn’t continue. Hypothermia would have done for the poor boy. So, we headed 1 mile into Pewsey where fortuitously there is a main line train station.

There was an hour before the next train so we shivered our way to a marvellous little cafe where MTB boy was able to replace much of his wet clothing with dry stuff.

My how we laughed

Now MTB boy did us a favour. We would never have made it. Our 2nd attempt the following week revealed that the hawthorn detritus continued for at least another 20 miles.

Turns out if you smell of wet canal you get the whole carriage to yourself

Lessons learned?

  • If anyone has to fall in make it the biggest one
  • If you are likely to have/get hypothermia and you have access to a bath or a shower the shower is NOT the right choice (muppet!)
  • Always fall into canals near main line railway stations
  • Some cafe owners are ridiculously understanding
  • Ignore all of above and don’t fall in in the first place.

Tune in soon for the second attempt the following week. Find out if anyone goes swimming, count the punctures and see if we ever get to Bath.

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