Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Unsupported? On Rescue Missions, Their Politics, Planning, and Etiquette



Sheltering under a bridge in the rain last week, I found myself beside a group of club cyclists on their way back from a training ride. The rain was coming down hard and they were soaked to the bone, wearing only shorts and short-sleeve jerseys. After a brief discussion, they decided to phone their spouses for rescue lifts. The result was an amazing thing to watch. Within minutes, a fleet of cars pulled up to the curb, like a line of taxis at an airport. With the orchestrated precision of a well-practiced military exercise, rear doors were flung open. Front wheels came off. Bikes were slid into the back. Wet cyclists jumped into the passenger seats. And within what seemed like 60 seconds, tops, the entire fleet of cars was gone again. I could just barely catch a glimpse of women's faces in the driver seats, some annoyed, some amused.

I had just witnessed a Rescue Mission Extraordinaire, I realised. But the speed and efficiency of the whole thing also left me wondering: Was this something that happened on a regular basis? And if so, were these women by default "on call" any time their spouses went cycling?..

There is nothing, in theory, wrong with being supported when involved in a sport, or activity, that might require support. But I don't like to think of cycling as such an activity. To me the bicycle means independence, self-reliance, the ability to spontaneously roam and explore. This is at odds with the idea of family waiting on me, centering their entire day on the possibility that I might need a rescue.

I have always liked the term "unsupported" when applied to cycling: Unsupported touring, racing, brevets. Because, strange as it might sound, I actually prefer to feel that, should anything go wrong, I am on my own. That does not mean leaving myself with no way to make it home in the event of an emergency. It means, for instance, planning ahead by learning about the public transport/ taxi/ hostel/ hospital options in the areas I will be traveling through, having enough cash on hand, etc. I am generally all for having a plan - just, ideally, a plan that does not involve disturbing the people in my life.

Then again...

"Disturbing?! You know what's disturbing," my husband says, when I try to walk home in the dark 7 miles last winter after my headlight fails. "Disturbing is to know that you won't ask me for help if something goes wrong!"

And in this I know he is right. I also know that, as far as spousal rescue involvement, I can't take what I dish out. As a glider pilot, my husband specialises in cross-country flights. Every time he does one of these flights, there is a possibility he might need to execute an emergency landing far from the home airfield. Not that this ever happens, but there's a possibility. Which means that when he flies cross-country, a support crew back home needs to be, in theory, prepared to come and tow him - and the aircraft - back. And while it's not expected of me to take part in this, I sure as heck want to if anything does go wrong. Every time he flies I am prepared to come and get him. And it's not a bother; it's a given.

I suppose the truth of the matter is, when there are people who care about us, there is no such thing as "unsupported." We may think that we go off on our bikes and leave our families in peace to do their thing. But chances are, they are thinking of us. Worrying. And yes, even ready to come and rescue us at the drop of a hat, despite our insistence on self-reliance.

What are your thoughts and experiences with regard to rescue missions - when it comes to yours and your loved ones' cycling pursuits?


75 comments:

  1. My wife made it very clear to me a while ago that I am on my own if something goes wrong and I get stuck. (She may have eased up on this over the years, but I haven't had to test and I don't intend to.) Partly because of this I'm interested in alternative rescue options, like AAA for cyclists--though there's been some press that AAA itself is offering pickups and transportation for cyclists who suffer mechanical failure. There are also cyclist insurance policies you can get that will pay for a tow truck (the only real option for transportation for a lot of rides).
    It would be nice if, say, a network of bike shops offered this as an option. Ideally, you would call a number, and get a pickup in somebody's car, along with transport back home and delivery of your repaired bicycle later.

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  2. Have never needed a rescue mission, but if I did, I'd just call a taxi. I carry raingear if the weather looks damp, and tools enough for most minor mechanicals. Like you, I ride for transportation and pleasure, but I have never got into "training." I'm a modestly fast rider sometimes but don't really care whether I am fast or not, so I don't feel the need to ride a stripped-down kit that can carry but few resources. I'd rather ride more than ride fast. I certainly wouldn't drag my wife out of the house for a flat tire or a bit of rain. If it were a dangerously hard rain, I'd wait it out. Those are dangerous to drive in as well, so why risk two?

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    1. Call a taxi! In what parallel universe do I reside?! I tried that once a few years back when my rear hub failed halfway to work. It was about 5AM, so I wasn't about to call anyone I know for a ride. The (only) taxi company was not interested in my offer to trade money for a ride home. "No bicycles!" was the reply. It was a long walk back...

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    2. Indeed this greatly depends on the culture in your area.

      In Boston I too had trouble finding a taxi service that was physically able to *and* willing to fit a bicycle into one of their vehicles. In rural Ireland it's been no problem so far.

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    3. In Boston I found not one but two taxis that were station wagons and willing to take me to my destination in Salem after the train I was on arrived 12 hours behind schedule. But that was back when there were station wagons....

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  3. Perhaps were I not single mindset would change, but calling for help owing to weather or even a breakdown is not something I could ever see myself doing.

    If ever (knock wood) I suffer a serious injury, sure I'll seek help. Short of that the suffering chalks up as a learning experience handled myself.

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  4. When I travel with my wife (who has a slight heart condition and doesn't cycle much) I take my bike in a bag on the plane so that it will fit in the back seat of whatever little hire car we have. Every 2 or 3 days, I take off early-ish and she has a chance to get up, pack her stuff, visit the local bakery, and drive after me. When she catches me after a 3-4 hour ride, I stop right there and get changed by the side of the car into street clothes, and we get back to a driving tourism thing. It works for her, and I get to choose some nice roads to ride up. I might smell a bit of sweat for the day!

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  5. And I should have added (about the tourism post a few minutes back) I don't ever call her to pick me up back in Australia. I think I've only once called for help, to one of my sons when I hit a wombat late at night and bent my frame and fork.

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    1. "...hit a wombat..."

      Do I have your permission to use that excuse if I'm late for work?

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    2. ..."bent my frame and fork"...

      Can't believe that's all you damaged. Must have been a little wombat!

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    3. I thought "hitting a wombat" was a euphemism...

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  6. Even in gliding this is changing, a reason why self-launch and self-sustainer motors have become popular. In cycling I expect to get myself out of most situations unaided, and pay attention to preventive maintenance as I often ride alone and far.

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    1. Quite a few people in our local club fly motorised gliders, but they are viewed as a separate category of glider - especially when it comes to cross-country flying.

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  7. There's a difference between an emergency glider landing and getting caught in the rain....

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  8. I'm happy to see that modern gliders use similar design features as the classic Guillow's balsa model gliders you can buy for $1 and assemble in 30 seconds. I can't see the nose of the plane. Is there a big metal clip pinched on to get the COG right?

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    1. There's no metal clip on the nose, but yes the design remains very basic. The big shift in performance, as I understand it, came when they switched from wood to glass fiber sometime in the 1970s, but since then there have been only minor advancements. The glider in the photo was made in 1976 and remains competitive by today's standards.

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  9. I look at it like this: "I'm going to get out and go for a ride, and leaving my spouse with the kids. If anything happens, I'll fend for myself since she pretty much has her hands full." And my bike won't easily fit in her car with all of us in it too.

    When I was brought to the emergency department, it wasn't clear when I'd get out, so there was no need to for all of us to waste our time there. I actually got out pretty quickly, but that time, she was at a restaurant, so I just got a cab home. I didn't have to worry about my bike that time since the fire department kindly brought my bike to the station since it wouldn't fit in the ambulance. I did call my spouse for support to pick up the kids since I wasn't going to be able to.

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  10. If I had help available I wouldn't walk 7 miles because of a mechanical problem, but I also wouldn't call for help because of rain or a flat tire. Folks need to be a little more self sufficient and hardy.

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  11. We don't own a car and my partner doesn't even have a driving licence, so there is no one I could call who could come and pick me up.
    Having a breakdown in the middle of nowhere is always a worry, but so far I have been lucky. I pretty much always go out on my own, and I don't always carry a full repair kit and pump. I try to make sure my phone has power and know where I'm going. My support is pretty much strangers. I have been offered support from other cyclists many times even though it's not needed (just when I am stopped by the side of the road to check my route or take a photo) so I am hoping someone will materialise in my hour of need. Its a bit Blanche Dubios but whatevs

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  12. Last week I had a flat. I am not good at changing them so decided I could walk home faster than change it and ride the rest of the way. I had severely underestimated the time it would take and had to rush to work. I never thought to call anyone and bother them and when I later told my story to a few people, they all said they would have picked me up.

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  13. In the recent post involving power washers and bicycle cleaning, I kept wondering about the purpose of that long, low trailer. I figured that it was either a stock trailer designed for pygmy goats, or a way to haul spare telephone poles. Finally, the mystery has been solved.

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    1. Ah yes : ) Glider trailer. He was power washing it after the winter's ravages.

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  14. I've often gotten the sense, reading this blog, that you can be a bit on the stubborn side. Also guessing walking seven miles in the dark was a good three hours, or more! Did you carry a cell phone and call your husband to give him a head's up or is that not allowed in your thinking of unsupported?

    It's odd that a group of riders all went out wearing only shorts and short sleeve jerseys, especially in an area that you describe as very volatile, weather wise. Also odd that they each had their own ride home and their spouses were so quickly available in a non emergency situation. Oh well, to each his own. If you were in that group would you, too, call or bum a ride or wait out the rain?

    I'm in an unfortunate situation (or it is what it is) of having no car and no smartphone and no family so if something happens on the road I'm on my own except for the kindness of strangers.

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    1. No no, sorry - I didn't actually walk the 7 miles. I was in the process, when he rang me, alarmed that it was so late and I still wasn't home. He then came to get me. I only walked 2 miles tops. Weeping with terror the whole way, as it was pitch black out.

      Yes, I thought the roadie rescue-ballet was odd too. Never seen anything like it.

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    2. You didn't answer my question. What would you have done if you were in that group?

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    3. Oh I would have waited/ cycled home. Then taken a hot shower and drank copious amounts of tea.

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  15. There are many different levels and nuances to this question. Touring cyclist, recreational cyclist, transpirational cyclist, mechanically handy or not, alone or with others, time constraints, or just one's personality all come into play when making a decision about gutting it out on one's own or getting assistance.

    Out of curiosity, when you had to walk seven miles home I'm assuming you had platform pedals and walking shoes. If you were in your cleats would you have called for assistance?

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    1. See above about the walking milage, and yes I was wearing normal shoes with platform pedals.

      That said, my clipless shoes are MTB style/recessed and are actually pretty decent for walking, even hiking.

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    2. Mine are, too. But after having to walk my bike only three miles home with them I now carry walking shoes, just in case. The discomfort was too much!

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    3. This conversation has gone on forever. Whenever one leaves the house for any reason, and leaves behind loved ones, there is a reasonable expectation of trust and a fall back for emergencies. Figure it out.

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  16. You're newly weds, and there is also a difference among relationships. I think the unusual issue regarding what you witnessed under the bridge is in fact the uniformity of what you saw - before you continued your trip on your own,

    Would my wife come "rescue" me if I was in that predicament? Maybe, but after 20 years I know her well enough not to ask. I'd hate to put her in a position where she wouldn't exactly say no, but would have constraints expressed sufficiently for me to withdraw the question. It's better for me just to "deal", and knowing that - "dealing" is easier.

    Everyone finds an equilibrium that works for them.

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    1. I like this comment.

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  17. Ha! I don't ride too far but it's usually in the evenings after the four young kids are in bed, so the thought has been in the back of my mind - if the bicycle failed then I couldn't call my wife, but I might just call my dad!

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  18. When I first began commuting to work on bike, I didn't know anyone else who did such a thing. Many of my friends were confident that I was nuts. I was determined to show them that it could be done, and that I would not need to be rescued. Nevertheless, it was wonderful to have a contact list full of friends who were happy to come to my aid if the need ever arose. It never has.

    I never go out for any kind of ride -- even a commute -- without letting my spouse know at least roughly where I'm going and how long he might expect me to be gone. It's a simple thing to send a text as I leave work saying "heading your way." He does the same for me when he heads out for a day of photography. I don't think either of us has ever felt bothered in the least to know that we'll be called for help if help is needed.

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  19. I tend to be a bit stubbornly independent in general, and that remains true when cycling. It doesn't generally apply to my situation though, as I don't go for terribly long rides and remain in a city with bus routes close at hand. Still, I fell off my bike the other year just a block or two from work and broke my hand, and rather than seek help, I walked my bike the remaining distance to the safety of the underground bike cage (priorities) and locked it up with the functional hand, then grimacing through the pain, called co-workers up to let them know I wouldn't be in as I was taking a bus to the hospital. Those poor fellow passengers getting on for their morning commute were treated to a pale faced lady gritting her teeth and holding a bloody hand aloft for the half hour journey. The bus driver was nice and didn't make me rummage for my transit pass and without my asking, let me off directly across from the hospital rather than at the official stop two blocks further away. Guess I accept help when offered but rarely request it. ;)

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  20. As a singleton with no kids, no partner and no family within easy reach, I'm on my own out there if I run into problems. I do ride a Brompton which does mean I have options as to bus / taxi home (or tucking the bike into a hedge bottom until I can rescue it later). I always have it in mind, however, that most of my rides are pretty rural where buses may not run regularly, or even daily. I carry the essentials for roadside repairs and trust the bike not to let me down too catastrophically. So far, so good. On the plus side, I don't have to worry about someone at home worrying about me!

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  21. I had this same discussion with my wife a while back after I got two pinch flats simultaneously and with no patch kits and just one tube and one CO2 cartridge, I had to walk 5 or 6 miles home. She works nights so I didn't want to disturb her sleep. She couldn't believe I didn't call her for a ride.

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  22. It is one thing to call for a "rescue" if you are hurt or in a seriously dangerous situation. But rain? A mechanical? Are you a child that needs to check in with Mom and Dad? Get a grip. Walk home. Figure out something on your own. Let them know you've got a problem and you'll be late getting home. Then get there on your own.

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  23. Had an old Repco Superlite that suffered a frame fracture on a morning commute. Only option was to hop on a tram to get back home. The connie was not entirely happy but fortunately the tram was almost empty so he grudgingly accepted me and bike and only charged a fare for me!

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  24. Spindizzy ducked out from under the shelter of the bridge as Brandeen pulled up in the Delta 88, "Thanks ever so much for coming for me Precious, I don't know WHAT I would have done without you...", "Weren't nuthin Baby, here, lemme' get the door for ya so's you kin getcher Bye-Sickle in". As he settled in and buckled up, Brandeen, still in her pajamas, looked over and asked sweetly, "Djew like fall down or sumpthin? I was expectin you to be all busted up an s#&t." Oh no, nothing wretched like that, thank goodness!" She looked over her shoulder into the far back of the station wagon at the vintage powder blue Ellis-Briggs with an eye accustomed to trouble-shooting everything from washing machines to hay balers; "Don't look broke from here, why the helled you need a rescue?" "Oh, well, it was just the WORST downpour ever and I just didn't see the sense in risking life and limb in such conditions... of course it does seem to have eased somewhat since I called you but, ah, how is one to know what mischief the weather is going to pull next? Eh, my Luv? Hmm?"

    "Yew mean you aint' fell down or busted up yer Bye-Sickle? Yew just called becuz it started to RAIN?" Spindizzy squirmed uncomfortably and chuckled awkwardly, "Well,it WAS pretty squalid there for a bit and the other fellows all thought it best to phone home for a lift, seemed the only responsible thing, to, uh, to do...in the, uh circumstances..." his voice trailing away to a subdued murmur. "We never even made it to the Cafe for scones...maybe we could swing by and pick up... some... on our, uh, way ba..."

    Brandeen glared stared straight ahead, knuckles white on the brown vinyl steering wheel of the Oldsmobile. When it came, her voice was quiet and tense, like the hiss of a propane torch, "Yew woke me up becuz you wus gettin WET!?" "You wuz 4 MILES from home and you CALLED ME TO COME GET YOU BECUZ YOU WUZ WET!? N yew didn't even have the common sense or DECENCY to fake a concussion? The hells wrong with you Spindizzy?"

    "Indeed" wondered Spindizzy in a painful moment of self-awareness and shame, "Indeed, just what in the Hell IS wrong with me...

    Spindizzy

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    1. Still in her pajamas at 8:00am on a Sunday morning?!....

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    2. Jennifer in ScotlandJune 1, 2016 at 7:55 AM

      This might be my favourite Spindizzy story ever.

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    3. I'm pretty sure to lose my kitchen pass if I called my wife to rescue me from the rain ;)

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    4. As my wife would say "better you know" And if I had to explain that? well . . .
      -Mas

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  25. Like others here I am also very independent - I have walked many kilometres when my bike had a flat tyre when out in the forests and I couldn't imagine calling anyone for that situation - I likewise couldn't imagine calling anyone because of rain, how kind that brigade of wives were to come to the rescue, personally I would not be impressed.
    However, walking home in the dark is another matter and I could see myself calling for help in that scenario. I think most of us who ride for transport tend to think and act independently and enjoy self-sufficiency - the 'roadies' ride for a different purpose and therefore, huddled under a bridge in the pouring rain, they would think nothing of calling for help, poor darlings. A transport cyclist will just wait it out and get on with it - it's just another day on the bike.

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    1. I once got a flat on a vintage track bike with tubular tyres, which I'd misguidedly taken - where else - into the forest. I then rode it, with the flat front tyre (which you can sort of do with tubulars, if you go slowly) 6 miles home from the outskirts of Vienna, growing more intimately familiar with the meaning of "bone shaker" with every mile!

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    2. Oh no - it's annoying enough pushing a bike with a flat tyre, but riding would have to be just so uncomfortable. I now have the 'slime' in my mountain bike tyres and carry a small pump when going any distance. By the way, it would not be possible to ride a vintage, or otherwise, track bike in the Australian forests - strictly mountain bike territory.

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  26. Rain, really? That was my first thought upon reading this post. Perhaps we are just a hardier bunch in the district of Iveagh but I've never actually heard of such a thing, especially when it comes to club cyclists. In fact, to even admit to such antics would be an acknowledgement that you have opened yourself to the proverbial 'banter' that would so surely follow. Of course there are occasions when problems arise that are beyond our control, a mechanical issue that simply can't be fixed without specialized tools that are hanging in a garage or worse still, a few broken bones. Yet even then there are options. On a cold January evening I was out on a training ride when the elements conspired against me and the temperature dipped below freezing, even though I was taking things cautiously a fast descent caught me out, black ice proving my downfall. Lying on my back with a what would later transpire to be a fractured humerus and missing lots of skin from my leg and arm, calling my partner was the farthest thing from my thoughts, if I was in diffs at that point a single phone call would have put me in even deeper water. I had two options, get back on the bike and cycle home or call one of my club mates, I mean what is the point of joining a club if not to be there for each other when the need arises? However, I choose option one, lets be honest, I'm a cyclist, not a footballer...

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  27. The incident is entirely dependent on cellphones. Amazing but true, humans somehow managed to ride bicycles before cellphones! Before GPS!

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    1. Well, can't say this was the case in rural NI, but pay telephones were once surprisingly ubiquitous in NA and England at least.

      Our slacker forebears may have had to ride a bit longer in the rain than we today, but so long as they brought a few coins (or had a significant other who would accept collect) bail outs were possible.

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  28. I never go anywhere without what I regard as a full tool kit, a patch kit, and a spare tube. (This includes a chain tool and a spoke wrench, plus I keep a scrap of old tire casing in the tool kit in case I have a casing failure.) And of course a pump, not one of those wee little toy ones but a full size frame pump. In 40 years of riding I have not yet had to call for a bailout. Once I had a front fork steerer tube fail, and I thought I might have to call, but then I realized that I could shove the stem further down and ride even though I didn't have a top headset bearing; one time in the woods I got a stick caught and broke off my rear derailleur, so I had to shorten the chain and ride the bike as a single speed.

    I think riding a bike anywhere without at least a basic tool set, patch kit, spare tube, and pump - while relying on someone else to bail you out, is just immature - unless you are a sponsored racer with a support vehicle coming up behind. Same with getting out on the road and not knowing how to fix a flat. And as far as riding home in the rain, that's what you have skin for. Trust me, you won't melt. Actually one of my best rides ever was a double century where the first couple of hours were a heavy downpour. It kept everything cool and I found it quite refreshing. The only thing about riding in the rain is that I have to stop and put a plastic bag over my leather saddle. But since I always carry one of those, too, it's not a problem.

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  29. Next time please take photos of these sorts of incidents you describe. I've motorcycled across country three times now and often find myself seeking temporary shelter under bridges to escape fast moving storms or downpours. Often I find other cyclists doing the very same thing (mostly the motor bike kind but on occasion the pedaling kind, too) and we always chat and share stories. These guys must have invited you into their conversation (you're always quick to meet a new cyclist) maybe even offered a ride, but at any rate photos would have been fun to get a sense of this rescue operation.

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    1. They did not talk to me, which is actually pretty unusual for here. The whole thing was in fact pretty weird; never seen anything like it before.

      As for photos... I don't like to photograph people without their awareness and permission, especially for use on the blog. Wouldn't want someone to do that to me, hence I don't do it to others. Now, if we *had* been chatting, I would have asked and snapped some photos.

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    2. They didn't talk to you, and you were riding a Seven?

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    3. Not many here know of Seven Cycles. The fellows at the closest bike shop thought it was some 90s touring bike first time I came in with it.

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    4. I absolutely agree with the ethics of photography however it would only be right to describe the colour & pattern arrangement of the jerseys so that locals may get an appreciation for those caught in that unfortunate situation... :)

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  30. My wife and I have an agreement that we will bail one another out if one of us is riding and the other has a problem. But sometimes we're both riding different routes, and sometimes one of us is at work and can't leave.

    We do have friends on whom we could call, but we would prefer not to bother them unless absolutely necessary, so when we joined the Better World Club (like AAA without the pro-automobile lobbying) for car towing service, we added their bicycle service too: they'll send a car to pick up a stranded cyclist and bike and take them up to 30 miles from the breakdown location. That covers all but the longest rides.

    Since I'm often riding in the boondocks, with dubious cell reception, I also carry tools and spare parts to fix broken brake or derailleur cables, broken spokes (FiberFix replacements), broken derailleur hanger, broken chains, and of course flat and torn tires. It adds a little weight but takes a lot of weight off my mind.

    There are two times when I've had to get assistance. Once, my wife and I were out for a ride and I had a flat: unfortunately I was on a bike with a full-size frame pump that fit under the top tube, and I had removed the pump to put the bike on a workstand and forgotten to reinstall it afterwards. (Since that incident, she has a mini-pump in her rack bag too!) The other time was when a friend and I were out for a ride and one of his spokes broke. He had a Madone with a modern low-spoke wheel. My FiberFix replacement wouldn't work, and there was no way to get the wheel true enough to avoid rubbing on the brake. There was no cell reception, so I left him, rode 3 miles until my phone got reception, and then asked my wife to pick him up. She was a good sport about it. I, on the other hand, needled him about having a newfangled wheel that couldn't easily be repaired on the road.

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  31. When I was a student and my only transport was a bike, I guess I was fortunate that I rarely got flats, because I did not use Heavy duty tubes, or tire sealant, etc. and they did not have Mr. Tuffy's yet. Generally, the punctures I would get would be of the slow seeping thorn type and I would manage my pace and generally ended with a mile or so trudge pushing the bike. My commute was mostly on country roads so on those occasions when I did pancake a tire, generally some friendly old guy would ease up beside in a truck and motion me to throw the bike in the back. I'd jump in the cab and we'd have a nice discussion which generally started with "I see you out here every day, not sure how you do it!"
    My wife rescue me? Well, it's happened a couple/three times, but only once when I was on a bike, (the other times involved motor vehicles). Yeah, I could tuff it out, but why? Additionally, I have a very small riding window generally and no time to walk for an hour or however long, that would inconvenience her more than grabbing the keys of my truck and coming to get me! Additionally, I am twice as likely to bail her out than she is me! I can't count the number of times she's killed the car battery sitting in the Sonic with the car turned off and the radio on!!! - Mas

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  32. I was working away from home in Connecticut and rode 2 full brevet series and an R-12 (200km ride each month for 12 months) all over the Northeast, alone, with no rescue rides available. On the New England Randonneur website they even tell you before a brevet that the roads are often isolated and there could possibly be someone to rescue you but you should have a way to get back on your own if you can't finish. I (probably very unwisely) ignored the warnings. There is always the chance of a mechanical or physical failure that can't be overcome, when you will need a ride. I figured that if I came across a cyclist in such distress, I would happily help them out and there are others who would do the same. There was one 200km permanent that I rode in New Jersey when I was feeling particularly bad and wiped out. I had a cue sheet but beyond that I had no idea about how I might get back to my truck (I'd driven about 75 miles to the start of the route) and I was a little concerned. But that ride taught me a lot about how to finish. Pedal, eat, drink, rest. I finished only about 20 minutes shy of the 13 1/2 hour time limit (a slow 200km for me previously had been around 11 1/2 hrs) and was better off for the experience. But, truth be told, had I felt that bad at home in Kansas, or had my fiancee happened to have been within 100 miles of where I was, there is a good likelihood that I would have pulled out the old iPhone and called for a ride back! I know this because during a particularly hard stretch of last years Vermont 400km brevet, I called back home to KC just to whine about how there was no way I could finish this stupid ride. Then, after dramatically complaining, I rested, ate, drank and rode another 175km or so to the finish.

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    1. Funny. On the last New England brevet I tried, I actually had to "shoo away" an over-eager rescuer who followed me in a car during an overly difficult stretch asking if I was sure I didn't want a lift back along with the other guy who abandoned (the driver had another available space on the bike-carry rack). Not joking.

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  33. I cannot imagine not being able to depend on my spouse if I were in need of a rescue while out riding. I don't rely on or expect to need a rescue (meaning I try to be prepared), but I know no matter what, he'd come to get me. I'm saddened by the number of people who wouldn't call/text/etc their partner if something went seriously awry. I don't know that a flat tire is necessarily serious (depending on the situation/individual), but I've had mechanical failures that did not permit me to even roll my bicycle. Of course, I've also been caught in heavy hail and managed to wait it out to keep riding.

    I suppose every relationship is different, but I wonder if it has something to do with partners who ride versus those who do not? When you've experienced the panicked moment of not knowing what to do though, I would definitely not wish that on someone I love. Then again, I'd also go to pick up a casual acquaintance, if that need arose, so I may not be the best representative for this matter. I've just always figured if someone is looking for help, why would I refuse to do what I can?

    Regardless of whether I rode a bike or not, I would pick up my spouse wherever was needed because to me that is part of having a partner in life. Sometimes we do things we don't necessarily want to do or feel like doing. I try not to abuse that relationship, but I think he'd be more disappointed if I didn't call for help than if I did, and like Velouria, after a certain length of time, I'm sure he'd be calling, wondering what had happened.

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    1. G.E. - I was one of the above you refer to. Every relationship is different, and I've found what works for me. In honesty - it IS not symmetric. My wife will (and has) called me (flat tire, dead car battery, a few this and that's).

      I won't call her (and she kind of expects me not to). It seems weird to someone on the outside, but that's OK. Maybe it's individual. Maybe it's gender cultural - and I'm all in that mix just like she is. Men are notorious for not asking needed directions after all......

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    2. I do think that, despite changing gender roles, there remains a deeply ingrained Damsel in Distress cultural script at play. Usually when I am out on my bike, if I as much as pause by the side of the road to snap a photo, eat a snack, check my phone, whatever - inevitably someone going past will slow and ask if I am all right. My male friends say this never happens to them, unless they are in very obvious trouble.

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    3. As a male, this has happened to me several times. I just nod and say all is good, but am grateful for strangers kindness.

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  34. Another vote for the versatility of the Brompton. I ride for leisure and transport. The bike runs Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres for reliability. I carry appropriate tools and, on longer rides, a Brompton bike cover. If the worst should happen it allows you to travel on public transport, use taxis or hitch a lift. An economical substitute for the official cover is the IKEA Dimpla bag (about GBP 3.75). A black dustbin sack is the lightweight solution. Cheaper than a divorce. Bromptons pack small and will even fit in the boot of a Smart 2 seater or VW up!

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  35. Sometimes there is no feasible way of getting back home without help, although weather has never been a deciding factor for me. But I've had to call wifey to come pick me up when I went too far and there was no physical way for me to get home. That said, I don't expect her to wait around "on-call" when I go out. That's why I have a few people I know I could call if I needed it. Fortunately, that's only been once where my legs were not going to turn another revolution no matter how much I yelled at them to "shut up".

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  36. To go through life unsupported is a myth, no matter the actively. If that is your goal, you're missing the point.

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  37. I thought that you got married specifically to *always* have someone bail you out! til then, I suppose there's Uber and boots for walkin'. (jm)

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  38. I agree that cyclist should try to be independent but a back up plan doesn't do any harm. The first time I cycled across the USA my cousin who sells equipment to farmers told me if I was stuck to call him and in most parts of the USA he'd know someone that could help.
    Which was a nice idea. Though in the USA I've found in general almost everyone will help someone who has suffered a real emergency. Not packing waterproofs in the UK climate though? Maybe not so much.

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  39. re: not being able to get a taxi with a bike
    I see that UberBIKE is available in some very limited places if you want to summon a car with a bike rack.
    https://newsroom.uber.com/netherlands/uberbike-does-amsterdam/

    Or take your chances with a taxi or rideshare not equipped with a bike rack- my friend has been able to bring his bike on Uber after taking the wheels off. A coworker plans her route to work close enough to bus routes to be able to make it to them easily enough. Most public transit around here can accommodate bicycles.

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    1. I've had pretty good success fitting bikes with front wheel off into the back seats of standard sedans. Owner allowing it is the main issue!

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  40. A good many of my rides put me 30 or 40 miles away from home at the turn-around point. Mountain roads being what they are it could take my wife over an hour to reach me, assuming I could explain where I was. But of course I can't because there is no cell phone coverage on most of the route. Consequently, I don't carry a phone, but I do carry rain jacket, warmers, and two tubes.

    Last February I crashed during an icey gravel event and suffered a separated shoulder and a non-displaced clavicle fracture. Rode 20 miles to the emergency room and checked myself in. Got "rescued" the following day when they decided I was no longer bleeding internally and let me out of the ICU.

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  41. "Yes, I thought the roadie rescue-ballet was odd too. Never seen anything like it."

    The vignette is a comic masterpiece.

    I've commuted in and otherwise ridden around big cities since 1967 (when I was 12), and thank the gods I've rarely been stranded, despite my best efforts.

    About 4 or 5 years ago, ante Orange Seal and Stan's, I got so many serial goathead flats (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tribulus_terrestris) on a 20 mile ride that I used up my 2 spare tubes and all my patches in the first 10 miles. I stuck out my thumb and was quickly picked up by a friendly driver in a large pickup truck -- the vehicle of choice here in New Mexico -- who dropped me off at a convenient bike shop.

    On another occasion, while walking home after exhausting my puncture kit, I was picked up -- somewhat to my consternation -- by an insistent driver in a small original issue VW Bug, but I was able to cram the bike into the back seat.

    10 years ago, while riding home across town after work, I was knocked over at slow speed at an intersection by a right-turning driver (US -- drive on right; suffered multiple but relatively minor cuts to my face). My custom Rivendell accompanied me in the ambulance to the ER/A&E, stood beside me during my interminable wait on a gurney in the corridor, and was wheeled with me into the treatment bay where the ER physician praised it before abandoning me to the lower paid ER techs, who sewed me up. After discharge, I called a friend from church who gamely drove downtown at 10 pm and took me home.



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  42. I've been picked up twice by my wife. One time was when an electrical storm was heading in my direction and she noticed it and called me and asked me to tell her where to pick me up (under a bridge that carried Route 2 in Lexington, MA). The other time was when I got caught in a heavy downpour. Both were within 10 miles of our house. The former was worth getting a ride, the latter was absolutely unnecessary.

    That said, I've been on many rides and tours before the age of cell phones and easily available weather radar. Getting caught in a storm and riding it out or seeking shelter was necessary and never too scary. But once I did ride in an electrical storm that just wouldn't move and I had to catch a twice a day ferry. I survived intact, although next time I will hitch with my bike.

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