Riding the Suchdol Flats (or, If It Wasn't For Bad Luck ...)

My biking buddies and I having been plagued last year by what seemed like an inordinate number of punctures, one of the aims of this blog was to record the number and circumstances of this year's punctures and try to detect a pattern. Is it us, our bikes, our tubes, or just plain dumb luck?

I just never expected to have to get down to business so soon in the season.

I was out yesterday with Stewart. A beautiful day, around 54 degrees F. We decided to get off the beaten track somewhat and explore some new routes around Suchdol. It was my second ride on my new bike.

I was riding behind Stewart, talking and looking at the scenery. We'd ridden about 8 kilometers. I looked down at the trail, briefly. I saw two large stalks from a rose bush stretched right across the path. Massive thorns sticking up like the spikes on the back of a stegosaurus. Of course, I ran right over them. By the time I'd seen them, it was too late to react.

I rode for 100 meters or so and then called out to Stewart. I wanted to check my tires, just to be safe. Sure enough, in the front tire, one large thorn was sticking out of the rubber. Damn. What about the back tire? Hmmm, let's see. Oh, yes, two large thorns deeply imbedded in the rubber. Great. The front tire was definitely losing air. The back tire seemed OK, for now.

The damnable rose stalks in question.

Stewart pauses for a moment of silence over the fallen.

We rode down to a nice little pub on Pod Rybnickem in Suchdol to make the repair. I had a new tube with me, and all the tools. I took the punctured tube out of the front tire. Slid in the new tube. We pumped it up. (By the way, am I the only one who has trouble fitting the portable air pump correctly over the valve when I'm out in the field??!!! It always seems to take forever to get a proper seal.)

Also, it just seems that the tubes that you get here are crap. I don't recall having so many punctures when riding in the United States. Should a lowly rose thorn really cause so much trouble for a mountain bike??!! Stewart says you can buy tubes and tires reinforced with Kevlar (!) at our local bike shop. I think that's what I'll be doing this week.

Grant attempts to look like he knows what he's doing.

The new tube wouldn't seem to hold air. We tried a few more times. We took the new tube out of the tire. Pumped it up again. Guess what? My "new" tube had a puncture in it, right out of the box. I'm not sure how that happened. Bad tube from my bike shop? Did it somehow get punctured while I was replacing it? We checked the tire itself for lingering thorns, but nothing.

By this time, however, my back tire was obviously getting flat. Stewart didn't have an extra tube with him. Two flat tires, and one punctured replacement tube. It was time to call a taxi to take me back home. Stewart set off on his own.

I thought my riding was over for the day, until I came home and my girlfriend, Daisy, reminded me that I still had my old bike! Of course! How could I be so stupid. I called Stewart. We arranged to meet back at the Riverside School in Sedlec.

Old Bessie -- my trekking bike that is there when I need her.

We rode for another 27 kilometers or so. Mostly through Suchdol and Unetice. I was feeling a bit tired, still not totally well. We decided to head back to Koliba for a beer.

As we were drinking our beers outside (man, they tasted sweet), watching the carp jumping in the restaurant's small pond, basking in the late afternoon sunshine, a man approached us.

"Are you the guy with the biking blog?" he asked me. My first encounter with a fan. OK, a reader.

"Yes," I said. "That's me."

But I was communing with my beer, so I told him to go away.

OK, that's not true. I was actually very pleased to me someone who's actually reading this thing. We had a great chat.

That's James, left, and Stewart at Koliba.

His name is James Gogarty, and he's the web manager at provokator.org. A great guy (who also said he'd suffered a puncture from thorns while riding near Okor the other day). We exchanged phone numbers and promised to go cycling together soon. He lives in Roztoky and knows a lot of trails in that area that we don't. I'm still astounded that he recognized me and reads the blog. Cool.

My stats for the day:

Total distance: 35.72 kilometers
Temperature: Around 55 degrees F. (13 C.)
Total distance in 2007: 198 kilometers

All in all, a pretty incredible day. I wouldn't have met James if I hadn't had my punctures, or if Daisy hadn't reminded me that I had another bike waiting for me. Sure, I gained three punctures in one day (that could be a new Czech record), but I also gained a new biking buddy. And Stewart and I had a great time regardless.


Anonymous said…
Hey Grant, try Schwalbe tyres and tubes. Several good stores stock them here. They make some tyres specifically for thorns, or, rather, lack, of, thorns. - Todd

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