Knights of the cycle path

cycle-pathWhen you get a puncture and you start repairing it on the side of the road it’s always a little heart warming when someone stops to offer assistance. A reader recently shared this experience:

I have been visiting your site for more than a few months now and
really enjoy your articles but was wondering after my experience last
night if you would consider writing about one thing that does make a
difference in a cyclist’s life is a fellow cyclist.

I’ll be as brief as I can but yesterday I was on my usual evening
ride along the grand union Canal just before Ladbroke Grove (going
into Paddington) when my rear derailleur got caught up in my back rear
wheel.

All I had to do before the ride was adjust the limit screw but
thought "oh I’ll fix that when I get back…"

Anyways, while attempting to fix it a number of cyclist’s shot past
me, one ninja thought it would be fun to swerve in my direction, oh I
laughed.

When almost done with a temporary repair to get me home, a cyclist
stopped and offered his help, I did not require it at this point but I
have to say just the fact he offered brightened up the ride back and
will make the pain of buying a new derailleur, cable and truing my
rear wheel a lot less painful.

So yeah never leave a small repair till later but also I thought you
might like to "give a shout out" to those unknown cyclists who bother
to help a fellow cyclist when they seem in need, it is always
appreciated.

Have you ever stopped to help someone or been offered help when you are stuck on the bike path?

Image via AntPhotos Flickr licenced under Creative Commons

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37 Responses to Knights of the cycle path

  1. Toby Field 25/03/2011 at 9:04 am #

    I’ve had a few people ask if I need help whilst fixing a puncture but the most memorable are the two times when drivers have pulled over and offered me a lift. On both occasions I’ve declined but it’s nice to know people care.

    I’ve once pulled over to offer help to a cyclist too. What goes around comes around.

  2. MarkjAlder 25/03/2011 at 9:34 am #

    Likewise; once got a puncture 5 miles into my 10 mile late-night cycle home. No repair kit and no bike shops open so I trudged the rest of the way through the rain.

    About half a mile from my house a cyclist stopped and offered me his repair kit. It was a bit late by that point and I just wanted to be home in bed so I politely declined, but it’s the offer that I remember, not the walk. Now I always try to help out people having difficulties. It’s good to pass it on…

  3. JimF 25/03/2011 at 9:38 am #

    No but I stopped to help a young pedestrian who had been knocked over by a car. Another cyclist just went past. Charming. At least the car driver stopped, but they were in shock too.

    Called an ambulance, kept her warm and didn’t move her. Kept her talking. Not much else to do.

    I still see the other cyclist who didn’t stop on the towpath. Secretly wish she’ll fall in one day.

    JimF

  4. JimF 25/03/2011 at 9:41 am #

    I posted too quickly before remembering another incident. I saw a female cyclist go flying over her handlebars in Bishops Park. A big-ish stick got caught up in her rear wheel, jamming it and sending her over the top. She was a little shaken, with bad grazes on her hands from skidding along on the tarmac and the bike needed a bit of fixing, which I managed with a bit of brute force

    I encouraged her to keep cycling as she was a little shaken and had only recently taken it up.

    For the record I don’t just stop for females, it’s just the two stories I’ve posted!

    JimF

    • chris 25/03/2011 at 12:56 pm #

      Are you sure you’re not just a “White Knight” of the cycle paths? ;-)

  5. Dan 25/03/2011 at 9:45 am #

    Last year I had an accident that didn’t look serious but was bad enough to justify calling an ambulance. I was overwhelmed at the number of cyclists (and non cyclists) that stopped to ask if I was ok. Including one who rode back to her house and got a blanket and Jumper to keep me warm whilst waiting for the ambulance. I genuinely felt like I belonged to a community.

    Whenever I see a cyclist in trouble – mechanical or otherwise, I make a point of stopping to offer help.

  6. Guilherme Zühlke O'Connor 25/03/2011 at 9:52 am #

    Last year I was cycling from London to Rochester with a 30-odd group to raise funds for schools in Malawi I had a puncture and a problem with my spare inner tube. Some of the guys stayed behind with me trying to help me find a cycle store to buy new ones but we couldn’t.

    I decided I’ll get the train back to London, buy some new ones, go back to the puncture point, cycle solo and meet them at the end.

    Some 30 miles before getting there, a fellow cyclist has had a puncture and I stopped to offer help and have a rest.

    He didn’t need any help, but he decided to cycle with me. He had to return and left some 10mi before getting to Rochester but it was quite pleasant to have company for that stretch.

    So, offering the other side of the story, stopping to help also has rewards.

  7. Diana 25/03/2011 at 10:09 am #

    I had a puncture heading up Camden Road last summer and a lovely guy stopped to help me fix it. I know I *should* be able to fix one without help but I hold my hands up and admit I’m useless at it, so he really saved me a long miserable walk home. I always stop if a fellow cyclist looks like they need help – I carry spare inner tubes in my bag so even if I can’t actually help them fix it, I can offer supplies! Its cycling karma!

    • whitey 25/03/2011 at 12:54 pm #

      Cycling Karma, like it! That should be actually the tittle of the post ;-)

  8. botogol 25/03/2011 at 10:09 am #

    I reckon that EVERY time I have fixed a puncture roadside, while commuting, cyclists have slowed and asked if I need help. In fact – it’s almost distracting !

    Likewise I frequently offer to lend a hand. Most recently I rescued a cyclist with loose handlebars – her bike was unridable, but two turns of an Allen Key and she was cycling off into the sunset… aaahh.

  9. Andrew 25/03/2011 at 10:19 am #

    Two heros in one day. A couple of weeks ago I was cycling down Cable Street in Limehouse at the start of my 14k commute to work. One kind lady cyclist pointed out my rear tyre was nearly flat, and as I struggled to get my rubbish old pump to do its job, a knight in shining hi-vis jacket stopped and lent me his pump. He even did the job of pumping the tyre for me!

    I now make a point of looking out for other cyclists in distress on the off-chance I can lend them assistance and pay back the kindness paid to me.

  10. botogol 25/03/2011 at 10:33 am #

    Mind you it can work the other way.

    One evening I was fixing a puncture in the dark and the rain (it’s always raining!) outside the Tower of London… and NOT in a good mood.. finger bleeding after a tyre lever slipped… and a pedestrian approached me.

    – Puncture eh?
    – yes, but I am OK, I am on it
    – do you have a phone?
    – thanks! yes I do.. but I am OK I will change the tube and keep going
    – great can i borrow it to make a quick call?

  11. Murray 25/03/2011 at 10:37 am #

    Yes, I have stopped to help cyclists on a number of occasions – I keep basic tools in my pannier all the time – because I can imagine what it would be like if it were me stuck somewhere with no tools. One you guy’s saddle had become loose and he needed an allen key. Another guy had a gear problem. It didn’t take much time out of my day and it made their day a whole lot better. Love makes the world go round, people!

    The strangest help I’ve ever had was not to do with a mechanical problem but simply being lost – I forgot to pack my A-Z when heading into West London (I’m an East End boy). I was looking at a map on a bus shelter, trying to figure out where I needed to go. A bus pulled up and the driver called out to me, “Where are you trying to get to?” I told him and he said, “Hop on and I’ll drop you off somewhere useful.” I got a few funny looks when new passengers got on – it’s not often you see someone with a non-folding bike on a bus!

  12. JonF 25/03/2011 at 10:41 am #

    I stopped a cyclist on the Lower Richmond Road in Putney a couple of years back to explain that the forks were fitted the wrong way round on her new bike. “Eureka!” That might explain why the brakes don’t work she said.

    I’ve also heard the tale of another rider going to a FreeWheel event who got a puncture and was asked by about 150 people whether help was needed? I think they got very frustrated with it and said through gritted teeth “I DON’T NEED HELP. JUST LET ME GET ON WITH IT”

  13. Steve 25/03/2011 at 10:43 am #

    I always a carry some of the large TfL cycle maps in my pannier. When a Danish tourist pulled up alongside me at lights and asked for directions I had to think about it so we pulled to one side and I pointed him in the right direction. I found the best cycling route on the map and was pleased to leave the map with him. I feel we are like brothers & sisters… ok there can be the odd problem sibling… but generally we are like a big family.

  14. ind 25/03/2011 at 11:43 am #

    I always stop if i see another cyclist having problems.

  15. Gaz 25/03/2011 at 12:40 pm #

    I carry a lot of tools and bits and bobs on me. Including several C02 catridiges to quickly pump up tyres. I allways stop when i can to offer assitance, even if it is to just hand the fellow cyclist a pair of mechanical gloves to keep there hands clean :)

  16. Jacqui O'B 25/03/2011 at 12:40 pm #

    I often stop for those on the side of the road, especialy those who look a bit lost. I carry can of instant puncture repair and have helped a few cyclists get to a shop especially when the tubes strikes are on and peep are cycling for the first time!

  17. Peridot 25/03/2011 at 1:28 pm #

    I came off my bike on Cable Street the summer before last and although I didn’t require hospitalisation I was badly shaken and bloodied. A man just in front of me turned round and came back to check I was alright (I think I must have made a racket coming off!), sluiced my bloodied elbow with his water bottle to remove the gravel and propped me against the fence when I looked like I was going to faint. I’m really grateful for his help and kindness – witness that it was almost 2 years ago but I’m still thankful!

  18. Andrew 25/03/2011 at 2:09 pm #

    I think offering assistance to a stricken cyclist is core to cycling!

    I have been offered assistance many times and have helped/given inner tubes/tyre levers many times too.

    Isn’t this part of what cycling is all about?

    • Tom 26/03/2011 at 10:16 am #

      Isn’t it part of being human is all about? :)

  19. Jules 25/03/2011 at 2:39 pm #

    I had just started my commute home from Queens Park to Dorking when I saw a cyclist hunched over their bike. As I approached they stood up and kicked their upturned bike. Knowing how that feels (and I suppose because I had not yet got in the groove of a long ride after a hard day at work) I stopped to see if I could help. Because my commute was quite long I always have a pump, a few self sticking patches, two spare tubes and a Cool Tool. I also had a tiny iron adjustable spanner which my great grand father gave me. More of a lucky charm that a vital piece of kit. The cyclist turned out to be a woman with no tools or even any means to repair a simple puncture but then again her “commute was only about 4 miles”. Would it only be 4 miles when she gets a flat on a rainy winter’s evening?! Her bike was very old, no Allen bolts. A nut was loose and she had no means to tighten it. I did it for her but it did not feel capable of going really tight. So I “lent” her the adjustable so that she could get home. It was getting dark and I felt she needed to make sure she could get home without stopping in dark streets. I gave her my business card as we agreed that she could post it back to me because it was so small. Of course she never did. I have stopped for broken down cyclists since but I don’t get any tools out unless I see that I can affect a road side repair. I figure if someone gets caught out once they will make damn sure they head off prepared in future. I have helped two people do their first puncture repair. They were chuffed and it cost me nothing but 10 mins of my time. Ancient London Proverb: Fix a man’s puncture, he get home once. Teach him to do it and he gets home many times with a smile on his face born from self-sufficiency!

    • Amoeba 25/03/2011 at 4:32 pm #

      I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t trust a tool to a stranger to take home on the basis that it’s to be returned at a future date. I’ll let them use them, if I think they’re competent, but only while I’m present, but while I’ve helped-out cyclists – let them use my pump, or tightened a wheel, sorted-out a chain or adjusted a Dérailleur, but my tools aren’t cheap and they stay with me. After-all, I might need them on the way home, or in the coming days while it hasn’t been returned. I could be stranded miles from home with an un-rideable bike.

      If they want tools to keep, they should buy their own.

  20. EKB 25/03/2011 at 2:44 pm #

    Only this week I had a bit of a tumble, having swerved to miss the van helpfully parked in middle of a cycle superhighway, only to hit the curb and crumble to the ground! Nasty gash to the eyebrow (I now have a matching black eye which is going down well at my new job) and a couple of people stopped to make sure I was OK and one even lent me a hankie to try and stop the bleeding! was pretty shaken up and have only just taken up cycling so was very grateful!

    So thank you!

  21. Amoeba 25/03/2011 at 4:39 pm #

    There are some people who don’t know how to use Q/R hubs. They don’t realise that the lever operates a cam and tension bolt / skewer. Some use the lever as if it were a spanner. I first encountered this on the last London Skyride. A young lad’s rear tyre was rubbing the chain-stay, because he hadn’t tightened the Q/R hub properly. I only realised the problem when I tried to loosen it.

  22. Andi 25/03/2011 at 6:16 pm #

    I came off my bike in the rain outside London Bridge station on Duke St Hill a couple of years ago – one minute I was cycling along and the next sprawled in the road. Lots of passers by stopped to help me and check I was all right. Luckily I wasn’t badly hurt, but hurt enough not to carry on. I hailed a black cab and put my brompton in the back. The cab driver could see I was hurt and tried to persuade me to go to A&E, but I asked him to take me home. He flatly refused to accept payment when we got to mine.

    Unfortunately, because I was in a bit of shock, I didn’t get his reg number and so was never able to contact the PCO to thank him again. But if he’s reading this, THANK YOU!!

  23. Maria 25/03/2011 at 7:18 pm #

    Not sure if this counts but a pedestrian walked out in front of me on CS7 once, leaving no way to swerve or time to stop. I just yelled ahhhhh!!!! and he turned, saw me and opened his arms, I came to a hugged standstill both of us unharmed and it was a rather nice start to the day!

    • mary-go-round 25/03/2011 at 8:10 pm #

      That made my day Maria!! :)

    • Peter 25/03/2011 at 8:31 pm #

      Lol, that’s awesome!

  24. Peter 25/03/2011 at 8:38 pm #

    I always make an effort to check that fellow stricken cyclists are ok, it is great for the karma and you never know when you might be on the other side of the situation.

    On one ride to work I stopped 3 times to lend my pump to people because they either didn’t have one or theirs had broke.

  25. Charlie J. 25/03/2011 at 10:34 pm #

    I always slow and ask “Do you need any help?” whenever I see a cyclist alongside the road or trail. I believe in paying it forward.

  26. David 26/03/2011 at 9:13 am #

    When I took up cycling again a few years ago, I had a p*ncture on a cycleway just after leaving work. I had all the right gear with me to deal with it, but I knew it was going to take some time to remember the tricks of the trade. Just then, a passing cyclist on a mountain bike stopped to help me. He’d fixed it within a couple of minutes and I couldn’t have been more grateful. From that day on I’ve always stopped to check if a stricken cyclist needs my help, and on more than one occasion I’ve actually been of some use!

  27. robbie craig 27/03/2011 at 6:25 pm #

    One time cycling near Caen on one of my first trips abroad au velo, I had a bad luck with my wheels in la France profonde.

    I stopped in a village called Conde for the night. I discovered that I needed my wheel trued up because of the punctures and other issues on this trip. I did not know the French for “true it up” (its Devoile la Roue). With mutual misunderstanding at the max, the owner of the hotel in Conde actually drove to the next town to buy me a replacement!

    Next day, in Bretteville – the problems persisted and the owner of a local sports shop who had no tyre patches, marched me around various people and shops to try and find some, eventually, persuading some guy cycling through the village on his own big tour, to actually fix my puncture for me!

    I love the French now, you will be surprised to know.

  28. skippy 27/03/2011 at 6:31 pm #

    Jules was obviously being generous in lending his spanner , smething that i would be reluctant about . LBS rarely let you use their tools other than the pump let alone allow them out of sight .
    Vuelta last year , i had a slight problem that meant going to the “specialist bike shop “in Tarragona , no luck there “we are not insured to allow you to use our tools” and in good english . Found a hole in the wall guy , no english but only too happy to lend the item needed .
    Problem solved i was able to ride off to join a team on their “rest day ride” further up the coast i caught up with “saxo guys ” having their coffee break . All were the guys now with Leopard , so must have been a “team meeting” in progress as the next day andy and stuey were on their way home .
    On the way back into Tarragona i came across a touring type guy needing help but did not have the spanners to fix the problem and was unable to send him to a team hotel since the bike was so old AND the LBS was certainly not worthy of a recommendation !

  29. nicolep 28/03/2011 at 2:06 pm #

    A few weekends ago I was out cycling in Antwerp and I came across a Lycra clad roadie whose bike was in bits and he looked like he was having a hard time. I was pootling along on my old hybrid and to be frank he looked like he was kitted up and knew far more than me but I thought I’d stop and see if he was ok. Bike karma and all that…

    I asked him if he was ok and he said it was his third puncture of the day and he was more pissed off than than anything. He said that he was nearly done and when I asked him if he had everything he needed, he said, with a definite twinkle in the eye ‘For my bike, yes’.

    Never had anyone try to pick me up on a cycle path before. I laughed and rode on but it made my day!

  30. James 31/03/2011 at 1:44 pm #

    I’ve twice had people stop while fixing flats at the roadside. Once was another cyclist and the other was a group of pedestrians heading for the nearby trains station. Unfortunatly in both cases they only stopped to poke fun at my situation – but hey – it’s London. Don’t get flats on Friday nights!

    I did have a busker offer me a foot pump while I was helping someone else fix a flat at Trafalgar square once though. Random but nice.

  31. dexey 03/04/2011 at 5:58 pm #

    I’ve been stopping for folk since I was a motorcyclist in the early ’60’s; it was a normal thing to do then, as I recall.
    I’ve never needed mechanical help but on returning to cycling four years ago I bonked at the top of the hill out of Bridgnorth, Shropshire. As I sat on the kerb feeling lonely and sorry for myself an exceedingly old cyclist stopped and gave me his banana. It was a lovely gesture. I never go out with a banana now :0)

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