Long Way Home

By | 19 August, 2014

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.

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