Thursday, 19 April 2012


Last week I was embroiled in a saga named #puncturegate, did you hear about it? I’m not going to report on the difficulty I experienced because I have now buried the memory into a deep, dark place where other bad cycling memories go, such as when I got my shoelaces stuck in the bike chain circa '90 and the time an old man shouted ‘I wish I was your saddle’ to me in 2009.

As a regular cyclist, getting a puncture is like having your feet chopped off, it’s debilitating and just isn't fair. Sometimes I think punctures are caused by sharp objects purposely placed on the roads by evil car-centic people who hate cyclists. As much as I reason with myself, I can help but believe in this conspiracy.

My experience of #puncturegate has allowed me to evaluate how I manage and deal with the punctures I get. This reflection was sparked last week by the shop assistant in CycleSurgery telling me that they always try to encourage their customers to fix their own punctures. I guess he knows that £17 a pop for getting your puncture fixed by CycleSurgery is a tad bit overpriced and sometimes not that good.

Puncture kit ready? No WAY! Get it out of my bag will ya?

I seem to get a puncture about every 3 months, often when I am rolling up to work at the end of my morning journey. On these occasions, I will stick my bike straight into the shop. I know, I can hear you saying ‘Don’t spend £17 for a 5 minute job! DO IT YOURSELF!’ Well cycle friends, I just don’t want to! Well, not whilst I am at work that is.

I have come up with a list of reasons justifying this extravagant behaviour:

Reason 1: It’s not clever Trevor to be wearing business attire and rubbing my clean hands all over my wheel trying peel the slithery inner tube out, outside my workplace and on my lunch break.

Reason 2: I would rather read my book on my lunch break than do a chore.

Reason 3: Bike shop is only 2 minute walk from my office

Reason 4: My working day isn’t always that interesting, so why make it worse?

Reason 5: I don't get punctures often so can just about accept the cost of paying a bike shop to fix it, even if it's £17, I'm over it, I'm over it, I'm over it.

Reason 6: I like to uphold the illusion that my puncture never happened. Handing my bike over to the bike shop on my lunch break broken and then collecting it at the end of the day all fixed up and inflated again upholds this façade. Cycling for me is about simplicity.

Satisfied? Or would you just say I'm lazy? One thing I have learnt is that to avoid #puncturegate again, I am going to invest in a puncture resistant tyre (I already have one on the back wheel) so those malicius car crazies who strategically place the sharp objects on our roads as an attack on cyclists won't have the satisfaction of ruining my day again. Same goes for CycleSurgery.

What do you do if you get a puncture at work? Do you get down and dirty in your work clothes and fix it on your lunch break? Or would you rather get a bike shop to fix it hassle free like me?

Funnily enough, during the height of #puncturegate, Andreas from the London Cyclist Blog released the post called ‘How I learnt to love punctures’. I think I’ve still got a long way to go….


Yarrump said...

First time I had a rear wheel puncture on my Brompton I took it the shop to be repaired because I had made such a mess of replacing it myself. I learnt from the experience and I have been fixing punctures both front and rear ever since. I find it takes 30 to 45 minutes mainly getting the tyre back on after fixing the puncture. Yes, I do fix the puncture in work clothes with experience you learn to reduce the amount on your hands plus I have a scrubbing brush in my top drawer.

Love the puncture no. Live with it yes. Bromptons have small tyres with high pressures a certain recipe for punctures.

James W said...

FIxing a puncture may feel like a chore to some, but surely if you get the opportunity to do it during a period where you don't urgently HAVE to be somewhere, i.e your lunch break, then it's not so bad? To a bike enthusiast It can be quite relaxing, almost therapeutic. It is, after all, a form of 'tinkering with your bike', and if you aren't being forced to do it by the side of the road in the rain then it should be enjoyable. As far as I'm concerned; part of bike ownership is accepting the inevitable basic maintenance required, predominantly in the form of punctures. If you don't like getting your hands dirty every now and then, you should take the bus!

(Love your blog by the way...)

Sam said...

If it's a slow puncture I've got from bimbling about, sure I'll fix it myself. It's a sit-in-the-living-room-watching-Neighbours job.
If it's a puncture I've got heading into work, or somewhere in a rush (which is surely the majority of puncture events, by the universe's sheer bloody-mindedness) I go to a shop.
I have no problem taking my time and making sure I've got it right when there's no pressure - but I can't do it quickly enough and well enough to get me into work / to the movies / wherever clean, unflustered and not horribly late.
As an aside, it is possible to make huge holes in your inner tubes even with puncture-resistant tyres. You just have to confuse "maximum air pressure" with "high enough" and create yourself a blow-out on the Uxbridge Road ;)

Jemma said...

@James I'm afraid you still haven't persuaded me! I'm fine with fixing my own punctures in my free time on evenings/ weekends, but when it comes to the working day, there is no way I want to be adding another task to my to do list.

You mention taking the bus, but surely it's better that people cycle, even if it means they get the bike shop to fix it! I think cycling can be tailored for everyone, even people more high maintenance than me :-)

Adam Bowie said...

Even if you mostly continue to use your local bike shop for puncture repairs, I find that you sometimes *need* to know how to repair punctures.

Suppose you're several miles from where you want to get to? You're faced with either a couple of miles walking, or a few minutes repairing (and you get quicker the more you do it).

Plus you still end up getting there faster.

Even on a commute in London, you can end up in trouble. Shops shut out of hours.

Get some of those disposable rubber gloves and you don't even need to get your hands dirty!

Andreas said...

Was looking forward to this post! Needless to say it didn't disappointed. I wouldn't feel the need to defend yourself with your chosen strategy. Getting down and dirty with the bike isn't everyone's cup of tea - although perhaps you might want to investigate one of London's mobile bike mechanics who may be cheaper!

gareth erskine-jones said...

Latex gloves! They'll keep your hands clean, and you can stuff the rest of your repair kit into them. If you don't want to patch a tube, carry a spare, and patch the other one when you get home.
Changing a tube isn't a hassle - it's an opportunity to feel quietly proud of your competence, and to be able to buy a 17 quid bottle of wine knowing that you have earned it.
Tires make a huge difference to the numbers of punctures you have. The stock specialized tyres I had on my bike let everything through, loads of punctures. I replaced them with Schwalbe Duranos in October and haven't had one since. Marvellous. I still carry the spare tube though. Just in case.

david said...

Get the right tyres and punctures genunely can be a thing of the past. Cost a bit more, but they pay themselves off straight way if you're paying 17quid a pop for a fix.

The Schwalbe Marathon Plus are on my bike and my gf's and neither of us have had a puncture in a year. They have some tread on them too, my gf seems to find that reaassuring.

liz said...

If it's just a slow puncture, I'll just pump the tyre up at the start of my ride, and hope it lasts long enough for me to get home. Most bike shops have a track pump you can use for free. But it's worth having a spare tube in your repair kit to swap over just in case. I really can't pay a bike shop £17 to do something even someone as technically rubbish as I can do - that's £17 I'd much rather put towards something else for my bike!

Freddie said...

I have bought some armadillo all weather tyres, and have had so many punctures with them. They're only a few months old but I'm going to change to the Schwalbe's when I get my next service, I'm very disappointed in them (TBF I did have a pair of Armadillos before that went right down to the lining without a single puncture.)

I've fixed all these punctures by the side of the road, and it is a pain, but you get to be quite quick at it after a while. Self adhesive patches are your friend. Wish I hadn't had the experience to be so quick, mind.

Nathan Pierce said...

I got armadillos and the amount of punctures i get has gone down to maybe 1-2 per year. I think there is an element of luck involved!

Also i wouldnt waste money on getting someone else to do a puncture, but then i rarely bother fixing a puncture anyway. If it goes flat, i put a new inner tube in. This can be done on the roadside much easier than fixing a puncture, as long as you carry a spare inner tube around. You can fix the old inner tube later if you want, but i rarely bother.

Jemma said...

@Andreas, Thanks! Will check out those mechanics now that I've ditched CycleSurgery!

@Gareth - A good point about buying a bottle of wine for £17 instead. Thankfully, I have just bought a puncture resistant tyre today so hopefully puncture gate will be a thing of the past! Phewwww

liz said...

Having said all that, if I had a (non-slow) puncture on my rear tyre, I doubt I'd be bothered to take off the rear wheel in my lunchbreak - too much hassle! But then, I'd probably end up walking it home and fixing it there.

OneEye said...

Puncture resistant tyres - definitely.

I also try to check the tyres at least weekly:
deflate them, go over them to remove little stones and grit and whatnot (it's amazing how much rubbish gets stuck in there), then re-inflate. You'll get fewer punctures if you're not carrying around lots of potential culprits all the time.

Make sure to re-inflate to the maximum amount recommended on the tyre wall. Hard tyres actively repel little stones and fragments of glass.

As @Nathan said, why bother fixing a puncture? If you buy new tubes in bulk they're only a 3-4 quid each. Only time I fix one is if it's the second on a ride, I only tend to carry one spare ...

SRC said...

When my hub-geared bike got a rear puncture on a day already full of scheduled chores, I took it to my local bike shop (one man business), who charged me a tenner for a fitted new tube. I was seriously impressed (although I've since had a play with it so I know what to do myself next time).

Clare said...

I am totally with you. Everyone has their extravagances, that's yours (and mine!)

Kate said...

I wouldn't feel bad about getting a puncture fixed in the shop at lunchtime. And it's ane easy £17 for them - what"s not to like?

Seems like you and Cyclesurgery have decided that you don't need each other any more. Their loss.

Marthaamay O_o said...

Oh that's bad luck!

Each to their own, work days are hard enough without an additional chore.

I have had my bike for a week, and since I spent all the last of my coins on it, I have not been able to get a repair kit or pump yet.. I'm hoping I can last another week!

I also think that I saw your frog friend cycling with knees wide in N5 yesterday at about 6.15? Unless it was his frog brother!


Iainecg said...

Marathomn pluses are the way forward - the one on the back of my hybrid his on it's second bike and 6th wheel is getting close to 20000 miles (and that is not a typo) the tread's pretty much gone, there's a few cuts yet no puncture. I've hit glass, metal, destroyed a beer bottle [realy satisfying crunch as it went under the back wheel!] thorns branches and it's been fine.

I'm crap at fixing punctures, there's more chance of the patch sticking to me than the tube... I'd rather get the job done right at the shop than make mess of it myself, and if your LBS doesn't want the business... You can change the poil on a car yourself, doubt the garage will suggest you do it yourself though!

donna42 said...

I have tried to be prepared to do punctures anywhere, Fortunately, I have only had punctures on short leisure commutes & not on my way to work. I think I would just have to get down & do it whether I like it or not, as bike shops are not that readily available on my commute to work. Also with a half hour lunch break, I do not have much time to pop down to the bike shop

as for getting my hands dirty, I have popped a pair of latex gloves in my the end of my handle bars

BB said...

I absolutely loathe punctures! It is a hate/hate relationship that I will never become philosophical about. I do fix my own, but, since getting the Schwalbe Marathon Plus have not had a puncture in 2 years (and I cycle everyday as I don't have a car).

Just be aware though that there is a small price to pay. I think of these tyres as almost semi-solid. As well as the Kevlar lining, there is a huge wodge of rubber between the road and the inner-tube. This makes the tyres reasonably heavy and does reduce the comfort of the ride a little. Also these tyres are not amazingly fast, but, then neither am I :-)

Courtnee said...

My Globe Live 2 mixte came with front and rear puncture resistant tires. I haven't had a puncture yet and I've had my bike for 3 years--I truly hope I can avoid them for years to come. I've only become a regular commuter this year, but I ride on some crappy sidewalks and the occasional broken glass so I think your new tire will stand you in good stead.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to come acroos as one of those people who are positive and optimistic and full of feel good bollocks.
Mainly because I'm a cynical realist.
But, I can assure you, that if you do choose to roll up your your sleeves,
get your hands a little bit dirty,
and even break a finger nail or skin a knuckle,
fixing your own flat tyre will make you feel,
(and i can't believe I'm going to use this word)........Empowered!

You will realise that you are not a victim,
but a strong confident individual who is in charge of your own destiny!
I know it's only a puncture,
bit fixing it yourself will make you realise that you don't need anyone else to keep you travelling through life smoothly.
Unless, of course, you believe that you need minions to do menial tasks to carry you through your life?
In which case, just buy a Range Rover and plough through everything without a care.

John Romeo Alpha said...

I commute every day by bicycle in a city where a nasty little beast called a goathead thorn a.k.a. Tribulus terrestris is ubiquitous, yet I have gone three years with only one puncture en route. I use tires with kevlar layers along with Slime tube sealant and never have to change a tire on my way to work. My one puncture was a huge nail which nearly took out my rim as well, and there's nothing to be done about that except to stop and fix it.

Milady said...

I think my method involves trying to get tyres which don't puncture. I've got one at the moment and it's stopping me using it altogether! I am trying to work up the energy to walk it to the nearest shop, as blackmailing those around me hasn't worked yet.
Having watched the process, I really don't want to get involved. looks messy and I think I'm going to bang my hands on bits of the bike and get pretty cross!

Kara said...

I have a bike shop 1 1/2 blocks away from my apartment and I definitely go to them and pay the $10 to have them fix my flat. Yes, even though I took a class and now know how to do it myself. Yes, even though I always feel a little bit of "girl guilt" handing the bike over to the mechanic to do such a basic bike task. Yes, even though I know I could spend that money on a treat for myself instead, like cupcakes. But you summed it up perfectly, "I'm over it."

Just discovered your blog. You are a delight!

mark pelling said...

feel free to give me a call if you are in central london

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