Monday, 23 August 2010

Would you stop to help someone whose bike has a puncture? A London bicycling insight ...

I'm back. Forgive the blog silence but I've spent the last few weeks looking after my lovely kids rather than scything my way through London's mean streets. And for the record, it was a superb time though I am now far more tired than I've been in years and I've got a terrible cold I can't shake off. I never normally get them. Is there a connection between cycling inactivity and sickness? Yes.

Blob of jelly

Anyway, I was determined to get back on the LCM (London Commuting Machine for those new to the blog) this morning. The three weeks of inactivity certainly took their toll. I was like a blob of jelly on a bike and found it quite difficult to steer properly. I was (yet again) wearing too many clothes and started boiling pretty quickly. I found myself not really being bothered about overtaking anyone (normally I'm tediously but secretly competitive), and this pretty much applied to pedestrians.

The puncture moment

To add to the general indignity, after only 5 minutes or so along the canal, I felt the familiar sensation of the front wheel becoming unresponsive when steering and a quick look down revealed just what I suspected - the tyre was flat.

Always carry one of these!
I parked up on the grass beside the canal and started fixing it, pleased that at least I'd got the right tools. As I worked, I realised that I was feeling pretty relaxed, not caring much about how quickly I did it. And I started wondering, casually, if any other cyclists would stop to ask if I was OK or if I needed a hand.

The kind Brompton man

I would add that I probably looked at least half confident in what I was doing, so there was probably no need. But towards the end, a lovely guy on a Brompton slowed down and asked very nicely if I had everything - I told him I was fine, but thanks - and he cycled off. It made me feel great and brought a smile to my face. Then I realised I was being eaten alive by some really horrid bugs - possibly mosquitoes - and rushed to get through the job and the hell out of there. Guess that slow moving canal water, grassy verges and a sweating cyclist mean paradise for blood-sucking creatures.

Anyway - thought du jour, as they say - is this: even if someone looks like they know what they're doing, it can make all the difference to stop and ask if someone's OK if they're by the road or river with the old bike upside down. Spread that karma now, you know it makes sense.


Alex P said...

Are punctures a common thing for you? Consider getting some armoured tyres. I've got Continental CityContacts on my bike, and Shwalbe make one called the Marathon Plus that is considered near-impenetrable. They work really well; I'm not trying to encourage the puncture fairy but I get maybe 1 puncture a year now, if that.

KarmaCycle said...

Thanks Alex - good tip. Since upgrading my bike I've had quite a few and suspect the original tyres are a bit ... weak. I like the sound of your CityContacts. Think at one stage I had some Armadillos, but from recollection they weren't that great either. My last bike had Schwalbe ones and I must say they were pretty good. Perhaps time to switch! Are you a canal person, by the way?

Anonymous said...

Hi there.

I've used Vittoria Randonneur tyres for a while. In about 1800 miles of commuting on them I've yet to have a puncture, and they give a decent ride too.

Best of all, they aren't even that expensive. Good to hear someone stopped to ask if you needed a hand.

James said...

Refreshing to see I'm not the only person who offers assistance. I have to admit it's only occasionally, usually when I'm not in a hurry, and I see someone in a remote location such as the canal.

I can vouch for those city contact tyres. I check them for bits of glass each week and they seem to keep me running. They are quite supple too compared to the Specialized tyres which I used to use. They lasted for ever and almost never punctured, but the give a harsh ride.

KarmaCycle said...

Thanks Anon and James - sounds like I'm a bit spoilt for choice. But James you raise an interesting point - checking for glass once a week is the sort of thing we should probably all do. Another one for the checklist!

Anon - I'm not familiar with Vittoria tyres but I'll have a sniff around the web to check them out. Good tip.

Alex P said...

I'm not a canal cyclist, no. My commute is basically "Holloway Road, end-to-end" so it's roads all the way.

KarmaCycle said...

Ah - the Holloway Road - now there's some pretty unashamedly urban commuting! Think that might scare me ...