Last night, for the second time in a couple of thousand miles, I got a puncture. Now don't get me wrong, two flats in all that cycling is pretty good going and testimony to the robustness of my Michelin City tyres. I always carry a spare tube and repair kit with me and, as the Dahon doesn't have quick release wheels, a spanner for the wheel nuts. I do not fear punctures - I am prepared.
So after feeling the inevitable "thump, thump..." from the back wheel on the way to the train station, I pulled over expecting to have the inner-tube swapped over in a jiffy. I flipped the bike over, took the spanner from my tool-kit and set to work...
It is here that I should explain about the spanner.
I used to carry a good quality, six-inch adjustable spanner. However when sorting through tools at home one day I found one of those flat "multi-spanners" which you often get free with a new bike. "Wow!" thought I, "This thing is versatile and so much lighter than my original spanner! I'll pack it instead." In truth, the weight difference was probably only a handful of grams but we cyclists are a weight-obsessed crowd. The puncture last night was its first test in anger.
And it failed.
I tried to turn one wheelnut but and the spanner bent and slipped right off. I tried the other. No chance! Next to busy, noisy traffic I didn't fancy my chances at finding and repairing the puncture hole. Also mindful of the fact that I had a train to catch and becoming increasingly desperate, as a last resort, I pumped a load of air into the tyre and carried on. Unlike the last puncture I got, this inner tube did not have "slime" sealant in it. This is a shame as my ride to the station, even with a puncture, would have been a simpler affair. As it was I limped along stopping every quarter of a mile or so to pump the tyre up some more. Eventually even this stopped working and I ended up running and pushing the bike, making it to the train just in time. A quick emergency "Rescue me!" text to my wife and I collapsed, sweating into my train seat.
Later in the evening, I changed the inner tube in the comfort of my own garage and with a proper spanner. I found that riding the bike with the rear under-inflated had caused the tube to slip within the tyre partially tearing the valve out of the tyre. Result - one dead inner tube but fortunately no other serious wheel damage. Writing off the tube, cheap though they are, is a shame as the puncture itself was actually pretty small. It could have been worse though.
All of life's experiences, good and bad, serve to teach us something. So the lessons I learned were:
- Don't sacrifice quality kit to save weight
- Don't place your trust in cheap, poor quality tools
- Test out any emergency kit you plan to use before you need it
- "Slime" in your tyres is a good thing
And finally, stop to offer help to other cyclists! Three or four cyclists rode past me while I was attending to a broken bike and not one offered to help or even asked if I was OK. Maybe I looked like it was all under control but I'd have made a point of asking if the roles were reversed.
So lessons learned and bike back on the road. It ought to have been easier with better preparation and hopefully will be next time.
If all I have to fix in the next 2,000 miles is a couple of punctures, I'll be a happy man indeed!