How to cope with 3 panic inducing bike commuter experiences

How you cope with life’s major and minor challenges is a mark of character. Or so the common adage goes.

Dont panic

The trying cycling events we usually encounter are related to road safety. However, there are a few things that will probably happen to every cycle commuter at least once that we don’t think about until they happen.

Here we look at three and hopefully arm you with knowledge to keep your blood pressure low.

Help! My bike lock is jammed!

The main consideration around locks is generally their ability to stop others getting into them. But what should you do when you cant get into it? Don’t Panic.

Current U-locks have a series of little individual discs which have notches that align to the notches on your key. There are more variations with this kind of mechanism and the locks are much harder to pick.

One downside of this lock arrangement is that the discs can shift independently, making it hard to get your key into the lock. One of my locks tends to do this a lot. When it first happened there was some panic. However, if you look into the barrel you can see the misalignment and use the key to jiggle it around until you can get the key all the way in. The wiggling can take a long time and it is a good idea not to force the key too much incase you break it.

There are things you can do to make your locking life easier. Keeping your lock well lubricated will make it much easier to realign the discs. When you lock your bike, keep the locking mechanism facing down. By doing this you limit water ingress and stop the lock getting rusty or frozen. Finally, taking your key out smoothly when locking, can limit the chances of jostling the discs out of alignment.

Agh! A puncture! Not now!

Flat tyre

This does not raise your blood pressure through panic as much as irritation. There is no easy fix for this, but changing an inner tube is pretty quick with practice. You have four main options in this situation: patch the flat, install a new tube, leave the bike for tomorrow or take the bike to a shop to have it fixed.

The quickest thing to do, provided you know how to remove and re-install your wheel is to just switch the inner tube. If you don’t want to remove the wheel, you can get access to the inner tube to patch. Depending on the puncture, this may or may not be quicker than replacing the whole tube.

Should you not wish to/know how to/have the bits to fix your flat, you can either leave your bike if it is past shop opening time, or take it to the nearest bike shop. This is the least dirty for you but potentially not the most practical option. Or the least stressful as you have to find a bike shop, take it in, hope they have time and pay extra.

Check out our Bike Doctor app for a good source of bike maintenance info as well as a directory of bike shops.

Changing your route or upgrading tyres can limit your chances of punctures. There are a couple of roads that I will avoid as I know they are always covered in glass due to being behind pubs and never visited be road sweepers. Puncture proof tyres tend to be heavier and have higher rolling resistance so it can be a balancing act of protection versus personal riding preference.

Wait? Where has my saddle gone?

Nasty thieves don’t always take your whole bike. No matter how hard you lock it down, and how good your lock is, there are people out there who are determined enough to take something from your bike. Sad but true.

Sad piranha-ed bike

Mudguards, wheel skewers, saddle, a wheel, nothing is beyond mean thieves. There are things you can do to help limit your chances of falling foul, but sometimes you just don’t want to attach extra cables to your bike.

Your biggest decision if you arrive back at your bike and something is not right is to make sure it is road worthy. Missing mudguards will result in messiness in the wrong weather, but the bike is ridable. A missing wheel skewer on the other hand is certainly not a good idea.

Again, you can hope it is early enough for a bike shop to be open for a replacement to get you straight back on the road. Depending on the state of your bike you might need to take it some place more secure, walk it home, phone a friend or just leave it for tomorrow.

Depending on the cost of the part stolen, it might also be worth filing a police report and getting a crime number. If your bike is insured, it may be worth claiming, depending on deductibles etc. However, providing police with crime figures may be helpful in the long run for improving cycle parking conditions. Perhaps.

Keep it zen

As discussed, there are things you can do to limit your chances of falling foul of commuting panic. However, one of these things will probably happen to you are one time or another. Hopefully, we have provided food for thought and preparedness to limit panic and think clearly about what to do. There are some situations that I encounter that just cause panic no mater how prepared I think I am. That’s life I guess.

There are other situations you will encounter which will cause equal, if not more stress that the ones above (such as your whole bike not being there at the end of the day). How do you cope with the potential equipment related stresses of commuting?

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11 Responses to How to cope with 3 panic inducing bike commuter experiences

  1. Anas 24/09/2015 at 3:40 pm #

    Here’s one from the victim of a broken arm due to stress. Doesn’t matter how late you are for work, DO NOT HURRY. I’ve learned it the hard way by crashing while riding at 45 kph.

  2. Dave 25/09/2015 at 10:11 am #

    For me it was a broken chain. Now I have a chain tool and master links

  3. Nori 25/09/2015 at 11:05 am #

    What do you do when a dog walker swore at you? Claiming that there are cycle paths for people like me? I mean, I see this man daily and sometimes, hard as it is, I tried not to cry!

    • PurpleSue 30/09/2015 at 7:31 am #

      Give him a sweetie next time you see him. Introduce yourself by name. Ask if ringing bell earlier will help.
      Kill him with kindness

  4. Dave 25/09/2015 at 12:15 pm #

    Nori there are always unpleasat people who want to vent. Try not to take it personally and it won’t be your problem but theirs.

    If it happens to me i say that I will if he takes his dog elsewhere to have a $h#t

  5. Phil 25/09/2015 at 1:11 pm #

    The easy fix for punctures is Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres; I have not had one in four years, riding nearly every day. I have had broken chains because I didn’t keep them clean enough- this is only my experience and opinion about myself, not a judgement on anyone else. As for rude dog walkers, that scenario has yet to occur on my regular routes; it sounds like a thoroughly unpleasant encounter. Pedestrians doing lemming impressions without looking, because they are engrossed with a phone or a selfie stick, tend to raise my blood pressure somewhat- a good bell helps, one of the 80mm jobs which can be heard from some distance.

  6. Gary Beaton 25/09/2015 at 1:57 pm #

    One time I came out of an apartment building late in the evening after visiting a friend to discover another cyclist had put his lock through the cabling of my bike when he parked his on the same sign post!

  7. Tony E 26/09/2015 at 12:33 am #

    If you do have to do an emergency repair while out on your bike don’t forget to properly fix it later.

    The gear hanger on my race bike snapped while powering away from the lights at a busy junction in Shepherds Bush one morning. It suddenly dawned on me that I had never replaced it after it had been bent out of, and then roughly back into shape doing the Etape du Tour some years previously. A stress fracture waiting to happen – and then it did.

    There’s nothing more humiliating, when decked out in go-faster bike gear, than having to push your fancy bike in stockinged feet to your destination.

  8. Johnny White 26/09/2015 at 3:22 pm #

    Not panicking is probably the least thing on anyone’s mind when they encounter any of these circumstances – especially if he gets piranha-ed. But you’re right, there are different ways to avoid panic.

    I just try to look at the law of averages. If something bad happens, something good will come out of it!

  9. MJ Ray 28/09/2015 at 9:40 am #

    Another way to fix a puncture if in a hurry is to use one of those foam reinflation and patching canisters, but still make sure the sharp object is removed from the tyre!

    • Henry 05/10/2015 at 1:26 pm #

      A few more “non-fixes” are to carry on cycling on the flat tyre if you don’t care too much about your wheel rim,
      to walk home pushing your bike,
      take the train,
      take a cab,
      call a friend with a car.

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