The bikeist distress signal
  • The bikeist distress signal

Post Title: Patches? We ain’t got no stinkin’ patches!

Post Date: August 4, 2014

After my usual espresso in Old Town, I headed north but only made it as far as Middletown, by the former Thomas Jefferson Law School, before riding over something that shredded a chunk of my rear tire, causing an instant flat.

Flats are normally no big deal for me — I’ve repaired dozens of them on the road and trail-sides and always try to have everything I need in my saddlebag ready to go. I sprang into action, removing my back wheel and levering the tire from the rim in no time.  

The hole in the tube was easy to spot, so all that was left was to apply a clear, glueless, patch, reassemble, and pump to get on my way. But when I unfolded the paper backing from the tiny “Flat Boy” case that was supposed to have my patches, I discovered that I had none. It turned out that I had given my last one to someone I helped out on the Strand a couple of months ago.

Again, as an experienced rider, I wasn’t too worried. Bike karma would surely take care of me, since basic bike etiquette dictates that you always ask a stranded rider if he or she needs anything (such as a patch) as you bike past. In fact, in all the situations where I have previously had everything I needed to make a repair, I have had to constantly turn down assistance from concerned biking brethren and sistren. Riders are usually so good about this that the offers become almost annoying after a while. Not Saturday, though.

Instinctively wanting to preserve some of my dignity, I didn’t jump into the adjacent bike lane and start waving down riders in a fit of desperation. Instead, I nonchalantly sat down, fully expecting an offer of assistance to come shortly. My upended, disassembled bike spoke for itself (a veritable bikeist distress signal) and couldn’t be missed by riders coming from either direction.

As I was sitting down, a dude in full “kit” on a racing bike zipped by with nary a word. Hmm, that was odd, I thought to myself. Guess he was in the zone — or something. Then the parade continued — one rider after another, many looking directly at my bike as they pedaled by without offering anything whatsoever. All of them had saddlebags (where one would normally keep a patch kit). I just sat there, staring blankly ahead. Trying to make eye contact seemed like a desperate act to me; shouldn’t have to. So many riders in the past had shouted “need anything?” to my back as I repaired my bike myself.  

For rider 11, I swallowed my pride and made imploring eye contact with him as he approached. He stopped, but didn’t have a patch. As he rode off, rider 12 blew by. Rider 13 was kind enough to at least say he had nothing as 14 impatiently passed him, saying nothing.  

This was beginning to feel like a social experiment. I decided I’d wait it out and see just how callous America’s classiest city had become. After several more mute poseurs rode by, I decided to go stand right out next to the street, leaning against a street sign where riders couldn’t possibly ignore me. But ignore me, they did.

What is happening to our society — or, more importantly, bike culture within that society — especially in San Diego? What I have always loved about this place is how open, helpful, and friendly its natives are. Who are these self-involved schmucks on multi-thousand dollar bikes who have displaced the casual “dudes” who drew me to SoCal as my chosen home? They remind me of the riders who used to ignore me in DC when I got flats, but that was to be expected there, and, truth-be-told, a much higher percentage of those type A+++ spring-butts actually offered me assistance than did the heartless riders on Saturday.

All told, I waited there, fruitlessly, for almost two hours before finally giving up. With my tail between my legs, I gave in and called my long-suffering wife. Over thirty riders had passed by, with a mere two even acknowledging me. Probably just bad luck, and statistically anomalous, but it sure felt like an indictment from where I was sitting.

Title: The San Diego Bikeist | Address: sdbikeist.blogspot.com

Author: The San Diego Bikeist | From: Coronado/Embarcadero | Blogging since: Sept. 2013

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