Sep 29, 2008

Self-Sufficient Riders

Last evening we were driving home from a friend's house in Kenwood.  We had gone up there to visit, help out with some yard work to get her place ready for winter, and help eat up some meat that she had thawed and wanted to grill. One of my errands for the day was getting a big load of wood chips from one of the piles the city puts out and spreading them on our friends flower beds, so we took my pickup truck, a wheelbarrow, a shovel and a soil rake.

On the way home, we passed a bicyclist on the side of the road on Portland Ave. around 42nd Street.  It was getting dark and the rider looked like they might need a hand; the bike was upside down, the rear wheel and tire were off, and he was rummaging through a backpack looking for something.  We have also had a rash of armed robberies in friendly So. MPLS lately, so Molly suggested that we circle around and see if he needed a hand.

When we pulled up, we saw an older guy with a very nice Scott carbon-fiber road bike. He had the wheel off the bike, and the tire/tube off the wheel, but the presta valve was stuck in the rim and he could not get it out. I unscrewed the valve from the rim for him and showed him how I worked that little bit of magic, then he asked for a flash light because he had lost the tightening screw from his quick-release skewer for the rear wheel.  Although we looked around with a powerful flash light for the missing nut, we could not find it.

It was not getting any lighter, and I could tell this guy was not going to be riding home anytime soon, so I asked where he was headed and if he wanted a lift to somewhere. He replied that he was trying to get to Richfield. I told him we would take him that far if he wanted, but when it came time to put his bike in the bed of the pickup, he balked at that since it might get scratched (it was a really nice bike, but still, I would rather risk a scratch than spend my evening on Portland Ave looking for missing bike parts in the dark).  We ended up leaving him out there and hope he is okay, but I have been thinking about the "self-sufficient rider" today.

TCBC has a decent description of what it takes to be a self-sufficient rider.  I ran into quite a few broken down folks during my Anchorage Trail Watch days, but often those were just people out for a quick spin - not riders on high-end road bikes planning to make longer rides.  I actually rescued quite a few downers in Anchorage and made phone calls for the ones that could not ride home.  Knock wood, I have only had to call Molly once to come rescue my non-self-sufficient butt.  I got a flat somewhere between the Mendota Bridge and Harriet Island in Lilydale or St. Paul. Everything was going just fine until I  fucked up inflating my spare tube with my one-and-only CO2 cartridge.  Based on that sorry experience, I got some Gatorskins, ditched the CO2 for a road pump, bought a light that can double as a flashlight and have never looked back.  

When we parted ways last night, the Scott rider's game plan was to replace the wheel (which could not be secured to the frame) and walk the bike to Chicago and then take a bus home. I hope he made it with no problems!


  1. Last week I came across a fellow on the Greenway that didn't have a wrench so he was riding his bike with the rear wheel nuts finger tight. I had a wrench and I sent him on his way, but I have to wonder about bikers sometimes...

  2. I hear you, Brother Yam. It freaks me out to think about getting broken down (probably related to my underlying "fear of failure" issues, no doubt). I have to admit, too, that while I generally like to help other people, it makes me nervous as well. One of the scarier crime alerts I got while I was on the Anchorage Trail Watch program was that two thugs were acting like they were broken down to lure helpful souls in and then strong-arm rob them. I pisses me off that I now think that way, but at some level I think you need to be careful and watch out for yourself at all times. I wish that was not the case, but with the recent robberies in my "nice" neighborhood and the ANC Trail Watch thugs, I get proven right just enough to make me conscious of this.

    Too bad.

  3. Most of the time when I offer help to a broken down cyclist, my offer is declined. Sometimes I can see that they have tools, a tube, a pump, and whatever else they need, but usually it looks like they are totally stranded. Why would a stranded person refuse help? I believe it's because they think the problem they're having is un-fixable. Usually when I reveal that I'm a bike mechanic, they change the tune, and accept my offer.