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Got a puncture? VecchioJo ponders riding on past

It’s happened more than a few times in my cycling around the lanes and trails, everyone I know has experienced it and I suspect you have too - coming across a rider by the side of the road troubled with a puncture and no spare tube or even a pump.

Of course I stop and ask if they’re okay and when they reply in the negative that’s when the angel and the devil appear on each of my shoulders, well, not angel and devil but cyclist and, um, let’s say teacher.

The kindly cyclist inside offers up the spare tube it has in their back pocket, checks the tyre for sharps, helps put the tube in, pumps it up and sends the other rider happily on their way. Good deed done. Warm and fuzzy feelings. It’s what every cyclist would do to help out another cyclist, we’re all in this together, we need to look after each other don’t we? But that little voice on my other shoulder won’t stop grumbling.

There is no real reason why I should help someone stood in the grass verge in funny clothes next to a broken bike just because we share the same mode of transport. There is an abstract notion that we are a vast community on two wheels, we’re encouraged to wave at each other and given short shrift if we don’t acknowledge it back. This vast peloton of supposed like-minded folks all out on bicycles enjoying themselves is all meant to be one happy family even when they don’t know each other. But I’ve met “fellow” cyclists I don’t like, at all, and I’m sure you know “cyclists” you’d rather not. Just because you ride a bike it doesn’t mean we’re friends. It’s an odd contradiction that there is this well-meaning belief in some sort of vast vague cycling tribe, and yet when someone using another form of transport complains that us cyclists are all the bloody same we’re quick and keen enough to proclaim our fierce individuality. Are we a friendly amalgam or are we a swarm of independent beings? An odd one that, but I digress.

Overruling all of this though is basic human decency, and a large amount of empathy towards a stricken cyclist, any ride it could be us stranded by the side of the road with a mechanical and we’d appreciate a passing rider to at least stop and ask if we need assistance, so we do the same. Karma or something.

If it’s a major issue then I’d do my best to fix or bodge it out (I carry a multi-tool, tyre levers, proper spoke key, spare chain links, a bit of gear cable, some gaffer tape, a tyre boot or two, because, you know…) but if it’s as simple as a flat tyre that’s when the inner monologue starts chuntering in my ear. How can someone go out on a bike ride without a spare tube and a pump? A puncture is the most frequent cycling break-down, it requires the most basic of bike related skills to fix (certain tyre and rim combinations aside), it’s the first thing you learn what to do, and taking equipment to deal with it should be second nature, a given, compulsory even. It is rudimentary essential stuff.

Expecting that you’re not going to puncture, hoping that someone’s going to pass by in your moment of distress to help you or knowing you can phone home for a lift are all ignorant selfish wishful entitled assumptions. That internal voice of mine is ever noisily grumbling that rather than being nice and helping out this particular spares-free cyclist needs to be taught an important lesson. The one that they need to be prepared. They’re not going to learn anything if someone holds their hand every time something goes wrong on a ride. Bit of tough love. What an old-fashioned father I’d make. Nothing allows the mind to casually ponder on the ease and practically of carrying an inner tube and pump like a 15 mile walk home. That’s a long way in carbon soles and road cleats.

I’ve not gone on my ride to be your domestique. If I lend you my inner-tube you might be polite and take my address and post me a new one, but in the few times this incident has occurred this has never happened, and so on a purely mundane wearisome level I’m down one inner-tube and £5. Karma can be costly. And if I get a puncture later on during my own ride then I could be a little stuffed. Luckily I always take two tubes, and patches. They’re not necessarily there for you to use though.

If you’re stood in the gutter looking at your bike then of course I’m going to stop and ask if you’re okay and help if I can. But if you’ve only got a puncture and can’t sort it out yourself then I may just have to ride on. You’ll thank me later.

Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.

25 comments

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Ogi [175 posts] 11 months ago
4 likes

On the spot man! Well done.

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don simon fbpe [2997 posts] 11 months ago
6 likes

The last puncture that I helped with came with a simple caveat of buying a new inner tube when they could and pop it into the Eureka Cafe for someone else to take advantage of. The lads that I helped were young and inexperienced and ultimately very happy that a) they'd had their puncture fixed and b) learnt how to get the tyre off without tyre levers. Whether they bought a replacement inner tube, I'll never know.

For me it pretty much stems from being asked, while on a stop, if all was OK by a passing pro-rider. We are in it together and a bit of help doesn't cost anything in the grand scheme of things.

Why wouldn't you ask?

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Mungecrundle [1647 posts] 11 months ago
5 likes

I don't know you VecchioJo, but it strikes me that if you are a decent enough human being to stop and help out a (self identified) fellow cyclist that you would probably stop and help any person in distress in circumstances where you thought you might be of some assistance. Cyclists just happen to be more helpable given your skill set and the equipment / spares that you happen to be carrying.

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janusz0 [343 posts] 11 months ago
2 likes

I always ask, always help if they want help. If they just want to borrow tools, that's ok. If they want me to do the work, then I treat it as a lesson. I don't mind giving away already patched tubes, but I expect payment if I only have a brand new tube. I'd say that more than 90% of the people I ask, say they have everything they need. After spare tubes and a pump, I'd say the most useful things to carry are tyre levers, hexagon wrenches and cable ties. I have never had problems getting tyres back on with just thumb power, but I'd like to know how to get them off without some kind of lever.

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nickW1 [16 posts] 11 months ago
6 likes

a simple " got all you need ? " sorts most out and it usually depends on what sort of problem they have and yes I have actually stopped and helped our a guy changing a spare tyre on a car who looked in need of a hand 

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froze [120 posts] 11 months ago
4 likes

I read this article and it is a interesing dilemma because I can't figure out for the life of me why someone would be out riding miles from home without a way to repair flats, I've heard stuff like "I don't how", fine then stay within a comfortable walking distance of home!  Or, "I have a cell phone my wife will get me", I'm sorry but my wife is not my mommy nor do I treat as my mommy thus I would never call her to come get me unless it was a dire emergency and a flat doesn't qualify as such, in fact in 40 years of marriage and riding I've only had to call her twice and each time I was in the hospital due to an accident, and I've had a lot of flats and few break downs but I fixed everything on the side of the road, even to the extreme once where I found myself stuffing my tire with weeds to get home after I ripped a gash in the sidewall (why I hate Continental tires and their paper thin sidewalls).

However, when I see someone on the side of the road with a flat I always offer to help, and if they accept I talk them through the entire process which means I'm taking about a 20 minute break from riding, I've done this maybe a dozen times with adults in the last 40 years, and about 4 or 5 times with kids...Kids I kind of understand why they aren't up to fixing a flat, while I will teach them in the process I know they aren't going to go out and buy a flat repair kit but it might help them at home.  I've also helped repair about 4 or 5 bikes both kids and adults, and one time a car!  Only once did I have to give someone my spare tire (which I started carrying after the gashed sidewall incident), this man had a spare tube but not a tire which he also ripped his Conti sidewall, so I gave him my tire and he asked for my name and address which I gave him knowing he had nothing to write with so there goes my spare tire, no big deal, but about 2 weeks later I received in the mail TWO brand new tires and TWO brand new tubes with a very nice thank you card!!  I wasn't expecting that by a longshot.   If necessary today I would still give someone my spare tube and not expect it to come back.

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Nick T [1355 posts] 11 months ago
1 like

I ride tubs so I sail past utterly guilt free in the knowledge that I don’t carry any inner tubes to assist anyone with

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roadmanshaq [64 posts] 11 months ago
5 likes

I work with a lot of people who are new to using bikes to get around town as foreign students. It is no problem to me to help anyone in my community with a puncture; showing how their bike wheel actually works (they have never seen the inside of it before) and how to change tubes and check for sharps, and reinflate. An inner tube costs £1.50 on planet X so if I'm bought a cup of coffee that day or the next I call it even.

 

I've made a few friends this way who've returned the favour with knowledge of their own.

 

We each have our specialisms and mine is fixing bikes, it is no trouble for me to share what I know.

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bigfatron [33 posts] 11 months ago
1 like

You and me both Nick T! I do normally slow down to confirm that I'm on tubs and therefore no help though, I like to feel righteous!

Although I have offered a gas canister to blast the tyre, and of course my riding chums always wait with me when I've flatted. It's part of being in 'the gang', isn't it?!

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Crashboy [93 posts] 11 months ago
3 likes

Entertaining article that quite closely aligns with my own thoughts on the issue....A couple of  observations from my experiences:

1 - roadies much less likely to stop and help than MTB riders.  Groups of roadies tend to just swish by.  On the off road trails, much more camaraderie in my experience. 

2 - Dog walkers never even seem to ask if you're OK, let alone offer to help, but Horse riders often chat.

 ...given the discussion about "tribal" affiliations - the "cycling family" etc - a question that comes to mind is....would you stop whilst on your bike to help a CAR on the side of the road with the bonnet up  / wheel brace out etc? 

Despite my inner tube being no good at all to a huge stricken  Ford PlanetShagga  4x4 (or whatever pseudo macho/geographic/fake hidden advenrture tribe name they have)  or even a little Micra, I would still ask if they were OK....

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DoctorFish [241 posts] 11 months ago
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I always stop and ask.  Last time the person needed help it was with a puncture.  The young lady had everything she needed to make the repair (which was good because I was in my car), but she couldn't get the tyre off the rim.  When I helped I really could sympathise with her.  I can't remember the combination now, might have been continentals on shimano rims, but blinking heck they were a dog to get off.

Her pump wasn't great, but another cyclist stopped with a better pump, so we got her back and cycling again.

 

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iandusud [193 posts] 11 months ago
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I always ask and always stop if help is needed. I have given inner tubes and refused payment. I not suggesting I'm some sort of saint, and I live on modest means, but the cost of an inner tube is nothing compared to sharing a bit of kindness in the hope that it rubs off and gets passed on.

I stopped one Saturday morning for a couple of ladies standing by the side of their car on road with plenty of traffic. They had a flat tyre and no idea how to change the wheel. They told me they had been standing there for half an hour and no one had stopped to help. What is wrong with people?

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rix [269 posts] 11 months ago
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road.cc wrote:

...I’m down one inner-tube and £5

That would be £10 in my case... as I like to carry tiny (and expensive) Continental Supersonics

 

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Yorkshire wallet [2428 posts] 11 months ago
1 like

Last time I passed a women who'd stopped on verge and was looking at her front wheel, i asked she was ok and you'd think I'd just asked for sex or something as i got some sarcastic reply. Left her to it hoping her chain snapped soon after.

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Grahamd [1060 posts] 11 months ago
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I always ask and would stop, help and share without hesitation. I was the recipient of a tube when I returned to cycling (and was ill prepared) a little bit of karma and common decency. 

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Dingaling [134 posts] 11 months ago
3 likes

Like the article. Pretty well covers my thoughts on the subject and a bit like Crashboy I have found pedestrians/dog walkers walk past and have never asked if I need help. I always slow down and ask and have helped out and twice have helped fix a chain. I was also helped when I had a second puncture on a 70mile sportive. I had used my spare tube for the first puncture and, despite carrying patches, the punctures were so fine I couldn't find the holes. A stranger stopped and was kind enough to give me a tube.

Stopping and helping, while you sometimes might not feel like doing so, can have surprosing benefits. Last Aug./Sep. I went to the US with my daughter. We were in Colorado near Grand Junction cycling Rimrock Drive to Colorado Nat. Monument when we come across a couple of cyclists at the side of the road. I asked if they needed help and though they said no I stopped and ended up helping out with my Lezyne mini floor pump because it is so much better for high pressure than the usual mini pump. We saw the couple later at the Visitor Centre and, a few miles further on, there they are again at the side of the road with another puncture. This time I help out with a tyre patch and the pump. During the course of the three chats we have explained how we plan to go to Aspen/Independence Pass and then to Frisco and he tells us he lives in Breckenridge only 10 miles south of Frisco. Furthermore, he is a retired prof. from Boulder Uni and has a condo in Breckenridge that he rents out but is unoccupied for the next 3 days and we can have it (for free) if we want. He was insistant to the extent that we felt it might seem rude to say no so we took him up on his offer and stayed three nights in a really nice, fully equiped flat in a nice resort town. We enjoyed two of the three evenings out with him in Breckenridge bars and restaurants. We didn't get to ride Loveland Pass but we did get to ride and see more around Frisco than planned. I think that whole experience was a surprising and welcome result from stopping to help.

(Just in case anybody is wondering, yes, we did pick up the bill for two evenings. It was the least we could do.)

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hdb [20 posts] 11 months ago
1 like

I almost always slow down and ask if they are alright. 90% of the time the answer is "Yep, I'm fine!" and I just ride on, but I have had a few times where things had gone pear-shaped and they really needed help. Broken chains, jammed derailleurs, brakes out of alignment, etc. Just because you might know how to fix it definitely doesn't mean every rider will. I carry extra patches and CO2 cylinders on my rides around Melbourne in case I do encounter a rider in trouble.

I'm always happy to stop and assist since I've had days where I was the recipient, like the time the valve on my spare tube broke as I pumped it up and I threw myself on the kindness of strangers (driving by, no less) to get me back to my car from a quiet farm road in New Zealand.

We condemn car drivers for being disconnected in their metal boxes and missing out on the way that cycling lets you experience the world around you  - why wouldn't extend that to not ignoring others in need of assistance who you may pass?

And Dingaling - it sounds like you ran into a good Boulderite - there were still a few around when I lived there  3 The ride through Colorado National Monument is amazing!

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BudgieBike [33 posts] 11 months ago
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Been on both sides here.  Early days I brought cheap and regretted it when mini pump broke.  Lovely lady stopped and gave me a gas canister,  we had to work out how to use it to get as she just got it. Lessons learnt. Don’t buy cheap and gas is easier.  Also given a cheap no brand inner to someone without. I carry two tubes. One a branded that I like and a cheap back up / giveaway.  Started to carry small puncture repair kit to give patches away to those who like to rely on others and have wrong attitude   Also helped with chain fix when guy put wheel back on wrong after puncture. Only had to call international rescue ( as I call the good wife) once when blew two inners and was bloody cold.

 

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Cyclax Maximus [38 posts] 11 months ago
1 like

I tend to ride past laughing at people on the roadside struggling with a black intestine hanging around their necks, and an array of puncture related paraphernalia scattered haphazardly about. It's what I love about cycling. Whether or not I would stop and help would depend on my mood at the time, or how fit the female is.  Other than that the World can get to fuck.

There's normally acouple of them making it look like some scientific experiment, looking all concerned and matter of course like they are just about to split the atom. Stop trying to look important by pointing at imaginary things in the sky, scratching your chins and arses; get your tube in, pump the tyre up, wheel on and ride off into the sunset.

Yes I get punctures too, normally after laughing at people who have them. I just hide away and drink up the Karma...

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alotronic [646 posts] 11 months ago
3 likes
Cyclax Maximus wrote:

I tend to ride past laughing at people on the roadside struggling with a black intestine hanging around their necks, and an array of puncture related paraphernalia scattered haphazardly about. It's what I love about cycling. Whether or not I would stop and help would depend on my mood at the time, or how fit the female is.  Other than that the World can get to fuck.

There's normally acouple of them making it look like some scientific experiment, looking all concerned and matter of course like they are just about to split the atom. Stop trying to look important by pointing at imaginary things in the sky, scratching your chins and arses; get your tube in, pump the tyre up, wheel on and ride off into the sunset.

Yes I get punctures too, normally after laughing at people who have them. I just hide away and drink up the Karma...

A fantastic and witty insight from a man who thinks the 'fit female' needs his special attention and hides in the bushes laughing to himself or telling the world to fuck off. How's that working out for you as a general approach to life?

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Nick T [1355 posts] 11 months ago
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Ooh, aren’t you edgy

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Cyclax Maximus [38 posts] 11 months ago
2 likes
alotronic wrote:
Cyclax Maximus wrote:

I tend to ride past laughing at people on the roadside struggling with a black intestine hanging around their necks, and an array of puncture related paraphernalia scattered haphazardly about. It's what I love about cycling. Whether or not I would stop and help would depend on my mood at the time, or how fit the female is.  Other than that the World can get to fuck.

There's normally acouple of them making it look like some scientific experiment, looking all concerned and matter of course like they are just about to split the atom. Stop trying to look important by pointing at imaginary things in the sky, scratching your chins and arses; get your tube in, pump the tyre up, wheel on and ride off into the sunset.

Yes I get punctures too, normally after laughing at people who have them. I just hide away and drink up the Karma...

A fantastic and witty insight from a man who thinks the 'fit female' needs his special attention and hides in the bushes laughing to himself or telling the world to fuck off. How's that working out for you as a general approach to life?

It's working out just fine for me thanks for asking. How's life for you in Sierra Del Snowflake?

Give me a 'Fit Female' over an unfit one every day of the week. It's all about aesthetics dear boy...

Extricate that scaffold pole which is firmly lodged in your rectum, and learn to take a joke when you see one...

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mike the bike [1275 posts] 11 months ago
1 like

 

A couple of years ago I stopped for a rather helpless chap and fixed a flat, giving him my brand-new tube and doing half the work.  He was vaguely familiar and it turned out we sometimes passed, and waved, on our journeys to work.  He promised to replace the tube and off he went.

Since then I have seen him on the road about a dozen times, but I've given up expecting the tube and, to cap it all, he now blanks me, staring awkwardly in the other direction as we draw near.

Was it something I said? 

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Simon E [3887 posts] 11 months ago
1 like
Quote:

They’re not going to learn anything if someone holds their hand every time something goes wrong on a ride. Bit of tough love.

Sounds like the Tory government's atittude to anyone not currently in full time work (the disabled, unemployed, those with long term mental or physical ailments but deemed by some faceless drone as 'fit to work'). Snowflake Remoaners too.

I don't care if it's the CEO of a multinational riding a £10,000 one-off* or a dumb kid with a skanky BMX, I'd still stop and ask. They may have already learnt the lesson about being stranded and don't need a 15-mile walk to take it on board; but if they haven't then I won't hold it against them.

* he will have the limo not far behind anyway.

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Nava87 [1 post] 4 months ago
0 likes

I do most of my cycling in France mainly Haute Vienne, Vienne and Charante, I've had a number of punctures over the last 5 years. Several motorists all French have stopped to offer help. I carry tubes, levers, patches, pump and canister. Two punctures on same day was a lesson learnt. I've never seen another cyclist when fixing a puncture. Although I've stopped a couple of times for others whilst out, but they were fine. I also cycle around Derby and find there's a difference in all road users in that drivers in France give more space and consideration, including a tractor driver help g me out the ditch I'd just fallen into. I've only called on my guardian angel twice, the double puncture incident and once on a one way trip with my son when we left the keys for the return trip car at home. The local authorities in my area of France use chippings that produce small sharp flakes that cause havoc unless you take precautions, more than one for me now.

I'd always stop to offer help, I'm a believer in Karma.