Long Way Home

I had cheerfully announced to my wife during the day that tonight I was going to take the “Long Way Home”. She was heading for the gym after work, and in an effort to feel a bit virtuous myself, I was going to extend my usual bike commute.

Having checked Google Maps and plotted a vague route for myself that encompassed some of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown’s excellent cycle paths, I set off from work planning to do about 20km – not a huge distance to ride, I’ll grant you – but far enough when you’re on an upright dutch-style bike.

And for the first 5 or 6 kilometres I was having a grand old time, enjoying the slightly smug feeling of skipping past the huge queues of traffic trying to get out of the city.  But then disaster struck.  I hit a huge pothole in the middle of the cycle lane, and within a few seconds my back tyre had fully deflated with a pinch flat.

Pencil Case Bike Tool Bag
Pencil Case Bike Tool Bag

Luckily, I always carry a few tools and a mini-pump with me (in a grubby old pencil case – works rather well), and so I was well equipped to do a quick puncture repair and be on my way – or so I thought.

On closer inspection I realised that my regular inner-tube patches had run out, and the only ones in my pencil case tool bag were self-adhesive ones. Now, despite the claims of the manufacturers, the self-adhesive patches are nowhere near as good as the ones where you have a separate tube of glue. But they were the only ones I had, so I figured I’d give them a go.

So I applied the patch, levered the tyre back on the wheel, and then spent a good 5 minutes trying to get up to a decent pressure with my mini pump. And I was on my way again… for about 50 metres, and then the tyre went flat again. The patch had failed.

I was stuck in the suburbs, about 8km away from home, with a flat tyre, and no clue about where the nearest bike shop might be. And with my wife out of contact on the cross-trainer (and me being too tight to hail a taxi), there was nothing for it but to walk the bike all the way home.

So in the end, my “Long Way Home” meant that it took a really long time to get home!

And what did we all learn from my adventure?

  • It’s always a good idea to know how to mend a puncture. If you don’t know, get a friend to show you, watch a few online tutorials, or go to a bike maintenance class.
  • The self-adhesive patches are rubbish. Don’t waste your money. In fact, don’t even both with patches at all. Carry a spare inner-tube, and swap it over if you get a puncture.
  • Actually, cancel that. Always carry patches as well, in case you get a second puncture, because who carries two spare inner-tubes?
  • Don’t feel too smug about whizzing passed queued traffic, in case they end up passing you a few minutes later as you’re performing a road-side repair.

In the end it took about an hour and 20 minutes to push the bike all the way home with its flat tyre. And, of course, once I got home – tired and annoyed – I then still had to repair the puncture (this time with a spare inner-tube) so that the bike was ready for the next day.

Richard Bloomfield

Richard is the founder of Dublin Bike Blog. He commutes to work every day by bike, come rain or shine, on his Dutch city bike. You can read more from Richard on his blog richardbloomfield.ie.

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