Ride report: Sunday 3rd March MTB The Wandle Trail, High speed punctures, drama and rescue by the boys.

Myself, Dave Elliott, Andrew Adams and Trevor Hughes our ride leader met at Cheam Station and Mick Curtis met us at Carshalton Ponds.

The effects of storm Freya were evident as we cycled towards Carshalton with us brave riders being blown along from time to time by gusty winds.

After meeting Mick by the ponds our route followed the usual trail along the Wandle to Mill Green, Ravensbury Park and through Colliers Wood and eastern boundaries of Wimbledon.

The trail along the river was quiet with most people it would appear deciding to stay indoors on such a miserable, blustery overcast day.

After crossing Plough Lane (the site of the old Greyhound Racing track now being rebuilt to be Wimbledon Football Stadium) the peace and quiet was disturbed from the back of the cycling group by a large bang! This I assumed would be one of Andrew Adams’ tyres as he was the only one on skinny tyres on his cross bike.

I was wrong; turning around to see who the unlucky rider was I found it to be Mick Curtis with a rather large split along the rear tyre wall right on the rim bead.

I knew as well as the rest of the group that it was the end of the road for that tyre and I also knew none of us were carrying a spare tyre. I was once a local Wimbledon boy, and also worked for Royal Mail in the area a number of years ago, so my memory immediately started chugging away working through all the last known cycle shop positions in relation to our current location. None of the ones I remembered seemed close by enough to be of help regarding the purchase of a new tyre.

I consulted the mobile phone internet with the question, ‘Closest cycle shop to me?’ Answers started to arrive and maps all seemed to point towards Wandsworth and central London. After consulting the mobile phone, it left Mick Curtis and us with two options, either to find a local cycle shop or direct Mick to Earlsfield railway station and the trip home by train via Wimbledon to Sutton.

The option was chosen by Mick to ride towards Earlsfield Station, whilst the rest of us rode ahead to see if we could find a cycle shop. Mick, an ex cross rider, showed us by riding at a good rate, regardless of a flat back tyre, that it didn’t take him much to keep up with us and he was soon in Garratt Lane.

I was some way ahead of the main group with Dave Elliott in search mode. Upon entering Garratt Lane, Earlsfield I started to look up and down the road for a suitable shop. After a few minutes with nothing in sight I asked a local fellow if he knew of a cycle shop? He replied, ‘Not here, but just before the one way system, before the Sainsburys, Cycle Surgery is on the right, in Wandsworth.’  I thought ‘RESULT!’ – option one is now viable.

I returned to Mick and the group with the good news that it was either catch the train home now, or wait there whilst I along with a few others cycled down to Wandworth and purchased a new tyre for him. Mick chose the purchase of a new tyre option and so off we peddled at what seemed to be an unusual high speed to Cycle Surgery. Upon arriving at the shop we found it to be closed until 11.00hrs, it now being 10.35hrs. Dave Elliott spotted a shop called ‘Decathlon’ and declared that they also had a cycle department and were open right now so we shot fifty yards down the road to them instead. Within minutes I had our goal and prize in my hand – a new tyre – and I headed with gusto for the checkout to purchase it.

It’s at this point in the story that we discovered some ancient law of the land doesn’t allow you to purchase any item before 11.00hrs on a Sunday and it was currently 10.40hrs, a whole twenty minutes more for poor Mick standing in the cold awaiting his fabulous new tyre! This law has probably always been around however most cyclists do something far more productive on Sunday morning than shopping!

I discovered or probably rediscovered this strange law after asking the assistant where I could find an open till to pay for the tyre. Upon finding out I would have to wait twenty minutes to pay for it at 11.00hrs I came up with a sensible alternative. I suggested to her that I could stand in the till queue with the tyre’s label/barcode and pay for it at 11.00hrs  whilst my friends took the actual tyre back and fitted it right now. She said she couldn’t authorise it but would call a manager.

After speaking to the manager I could not make him see the common sense and logic of my suggested alternative my standing in the queue with the tyre’s bar code (the important bit that pays for the tyre!) whilst the actual tyre was taken outside the shop, back to Mick for fitting and I admitted defeat.

The Manager’s eyes had glazed over by this point as if I’d tried to explain Quantum Theory rather than simple common sense alternative option to all of us waiting twenty minutes until 11.00hrs. I stood in the till queue for the said twenty minutes trying to entertain myself awaiting the magical hour to dawn where tills come to life on a Sunday. To pass the time I rang Mick and said the mission had been successful and would be back soon, to which Mick replied that the wheel was out tyre off and in the bin!

With the tyre purchased and wrapped around my shoulders, neck and back old style, we headed back down Garratt Lane to Mick. It was at this point I/we discovered why we’d had the unusually fast turn of speed in the other direction and it was called Storm Freya with her winds blowing straight in our faces all the way back to Mick. Upon arriving back to Mick the team set to work like a well oiled machine with some holding the bike up, Mick rolling the tyre on, myself providing co2 for a fast pump up and commentary on the strange ‘Rabbit in the headlights’ look I’d gotten from the staff in the shop at what I thought was blindly obvious piece of common sense to save twenty minutes queuing.

We were around an hour down on our usual schedule to the tea stop at The Rocket, Wetherspoons, Putney and so found it fairly crowded with what turned out to be football fans on their way to an afternoon game at Chelsea which if memory serves is in Fulham Palace Road about fifteen minutes walk over the Thames, Putney Bridge.

After a hearty breakfast Mick paid me for the tyre which as it turned out was a real bargain at £6.99, however I did mention that the delivery charge was £60! 😉

It’s normal at this point after breakfast for various members of the group to decide which way they personally wish to ride home. Now normally I’d go for either along the Thames to Kingston or up and over Wimbledon Common in the direction of Cheam, today before we’d even set out I’d already decided on the ‘back the way we came’ option due to the approach of Freya and the ever increasing wind speeds. Alas the lovely Andrew Adams had no choice living in Molesey and had to face the wind all the way home, poor chap. The rest of us retraced our steps in the knowledge that for at least some of the time we’d be sheltered from the wind gusts by the buildings alongside the River Wandle as it snakes through South London and beyond into Surrey.

Dave Elliott found a drawing pin in his front tyre upon leaving Wetherspoons and wasn’t sure if he’d picked it up naturally on the ride or someone had placed it there for a laugh. This required a little vigorous riding after its removal before the slime goo did its magic and sealed it. The trip back was pleasant enough with again the trail back fairly quiet with people hunkering down for the approaching second wave of Storm Freya. At Carshalton and Sutton various members peeled off for home, leaving me to tap back into the wind for the last couple of miles to Cheam where my car was parked.

An eventful ride with the ‘Thunderbird’ team coming to the rescue of a cyclist in distress and so a round of applause to:

  • Andrew Adams-Tracey (Thunderbird 4)
  • Dave Elliott-Tracey (Thunderbird 2, Pod Seven mobile bike shop)
  • Trevor Hughes-Tracey (Thunderbird 3)

Thanks crew,


Paul White-Tracey (Thunderbird 1 Mobile Command)


PS Mileage me 30.5 time 3h.44m including rescue!

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