Irritation with my Bike for Life?

Today my lovely Bike for life let me down.

Sort of.

Well not really.

I was riding to the other side of Leicester just after 7:30am to catch a lift to Northampton when I got a flat tyre. In the end I had to ride/push the bike just over 3 miles fortunately I had been early so in the end was only 10 minutes late despite trying to treat the bike as gently as possible.

I was muttering to myself about getting a flat. However, this only makes 2 flats that have affected journeys since moving to Syston, Leicester in August 2010. In that same period we have had 1 flat tyre on the car as well so there is not a whole lot of difference between them. Still I was disappointed to get one so soon on my new bike.

When I got around to looking at it this evening I discovered that the flat was caused by a 7mm long nail. Maybe that would have even gone through that ultimate in puncture resistant Schwalbe Marathon Plus so it does not mean I am rushing to replace the Continental City Plus tyres on the bike at the moment.

So now I am less unhappy with my bike as it is not really fair to expect it to cope with a nail that would have caused a puncture for a car as well. In fact I am pleased that in the end neither the tyre nor the wheel seem to be very much the worse for wear after being abused by riding (very slowly) with a flat.

I don’t have a spare inner tube of the right size so will need to get one in the morning. So didn’t manage to reach my 10 mile daily target today.

PS Just realised how much bigger pain it would have been if I had been in the car instead of on my bike. Easy to forget how stuck a car with a puncture is.


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  1. Clearly we need to bring the evangelical mission of bikes in taxis to Leicester. When I brought 10 Bromptons up from London (on the train) I popped 11 of them (mine included) into a cab to get to the Phoenix Centre. But it isn’t just folding bikes, in London around 20% of regular cyclists are already using taxis to deal with breakdowns, and times when they decide it is better not to cycle, perhaps at this time of year an especially important consideration.

    There’s a project in the pipeline to make it clean and simple to pop your bike in a taxi, but meantime the ‘refusal rate’ is between 1 in 3 and 1 in 4 times you need to do it, and why not try the bus, as well? I suspect that a quick prayer might even work to will the odds in your favour for getting a picked up.

    Rural buses especially, often have to be big enough to cover the school or commuter run, and rattle around with a handful of passengers for the rest of the day, often subsidised by the local council. many drivers, and some operators have an informal acceptance of bikes on the newer low floor buses, and stack them in the buggy zone, a few local councils are now making cycle carriage a default condition on any supported bus service contracts. You can perhaps imagine how the option of getting on a late night bus out along unlit country roads to a village, might well tip the balance for someone happy to ride in to town in daylight, but nervous using a typical country lane late at night.

    PS You can tell a well balanced bike geometry, when pressure of time necessitates a ‘ride on flat’ situation, but reflect on the fact that in some parts of the world where the bike delivers a vital transport function, the non-availability of imported tyres, brake blocks, cables, and even chains will see this remarkable invention still delivering sans what we in the UK seem to think are essential. Water, medicines, and much more are being delivered by bicycles which continue to function as long as the wheels go round.

    • Dave,

      In Copenhagen every taxi is required to have a bike carrier for 2 bikes. Should be a requirement everywhere.

      In the US there are some places where all buses have a bike carrier on the outside although I agree taking them inside is a lot more attractive.

      Integration of cycling with public transport is a must for significant increases in the number of ordinary people riding bikes for ordinary journeys.

      Yeah agree that we take too many things for granted compared to many other people.

  2. And lets not even start on trains! :0)

    • Trains are such a mixture. Taking your bike from Syston one stop into Leicester or towards Nottingham is very easy, free and no problem.

      Taking your bike to London is not so easy, 1st you have to book but East Midlands only provide booking weeks ahead by filling in a word document (use another train company like Southern Railways to book the ticket to work around this). Until the train arrives you don’t know which end you need to put your bike in. Several times I have ended up running along a very crowded platform to get my bike on. Very stressful.

  3. Dave, although there can be no redemption for not carrying a spare tube, have you considered carrying a can of pressurised tyre sealant on those occasions when you are travelling to meet a deadline? BTW, I have been unlucky enough to puncture a Marathon Plus and given how difficult they can be to remove you would have been better off walking anyway:)

    • Chris,

      a) I often think the need to take tools and spares with you is exaggerated. Twice in 2.5 years I have had a puncture that affected my work. One time it was coming back from a meeting to go onto another and Jane came and picked me up in the car. This was the second.

      b) when the boys were younger and we went for a weeks touring I needed 5 different inner tube sizes. Keeping track gets hard.

      b) We have had bad experiences with a tube of slime in the past. It went everywhere apart from properly into the inner tube and didn’t really fix the puncture. I have not tried the pressurised kind. I quite like the idea of Stans No Tubes though.

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