The misery of a puncture

Not quite the A23 but another pinch flat for DA

Punctures are the cruel mistress of cycling. You can go months without one, but when your day comes (and it will) there can be no more miserable an experience than having to pull over to the side of the road and deal with the flat tyre.

I’ve been quite some time since I last punctured, during RH’s annual autumn tour in fact. So when I punctured on my commute to the RCUK office this morning, the complacency that had gradually set in and established itself in my mind was quickly shattered.

Going at quite some lick along the A23 just past Brixton, I was catching a slower cyclist, dressed head to toe in reflective clothing but moving at a decent pace. I sucked into his slipstream and within a couple of metres of his rear wheel I moved to the left to pass him, and as I undertook this swift manoeuvre I caught sight of a medium sized pothole, about 5in across and a couple deep.

But I had spotted it too late. My reactions kicked in and I just managed to loft the bars a smidgen but there was no avoiding the rear wheel from slamming into the hole.


It was an instant flat. With the back of the bike squirming all over the road as I quickly decelerated from over 40kph, I pulled over to the side of the road, dismounted and leant the bike against a wall alongside the pavement.

Slightly dejected, I quickly tore out the tube, slid a new one in and with my frame pump set about inflating the tyre. I was counting the seconds. I was going to be done in two minutes. I allowed a smile to break out across my face.

But my satisfaction with my quick handiwork soon changed to utter dejection. For some reason the spare tube wasn’t holding the air for long. I just couldn’t believe it. But worse luck was to come my way on a morning that was rapidly taking a downward spiral: my puncture repair kit and second tube were in my other, smaller backpack that I use when I go training in the evenings after work.

So there I was, stood on the side of the road in London (thankfully it wasn’t raining!) with no way of repairing this flat tyre.

I rattled through the options in my head, but it didn’t take long to settle on the only realistic option: a 2 mile walk to the nearest bike shop just down the road from the Waterloo train station. So I started walking, and my day, which had started so happily, took on a rather more sombre feel.

This was an unfortunate incident that should never have happened. But happen it did. For readers who might learn something from my endeavour, here’s a couple of tips to help avoid the pitfalls of being unprepared:

1. Carry at least two tubes that you’re 100% certain are good to use

2. Have a puncture repair kit as an emergency backup, with enough patches and good supply of glue

3. To ensure you don’t have to gather these items up everytime you go for a ride, pack them all in a small saddleback and leave it attached to your bike – that way you’ll never forget

4. Buy a frame pump – sure a compact mini-pump might get some air in your tube but you can’t beat the ease with which a frame pump inflates a tube

I eventually reached the bike shop after the most depressing long walk I can remember. With a clutch of brand spanking new tubes acquired, I was able to complete my journey into the office. A 30 minute commute had today taken 1 hour 35 minutes.

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