When Things Go Wrong — Epic Rides

Over the weekend, one of our riders had a blowout. Actually, two of our riders — it was a tandem bike. Anything that goes wrong automatically moves your ride into the EPIC category. It reminded me that a bicycle ride does not always go as planned and just a few extra items can go a long way toward keeping unplanned incidents from spoiling your fun.

What Do You Need To Get Started Cycling?

  1. A bicycle in good working order.
  2. An errand, event or job to get to.

OK, it can be that simple, but a little more thought and a few extras will increase your comfort and safety level.

3. Helmet

Helmets are controversial. In Europe, where there is much more bicycle use than in the US, many people don’t wear helmets. Most of them are only riding a few miles. Alabama only requires them for people 16 and under. I prefer to wear a helmet.

4. Lights

When I started riding, I noticed how much easier it was for me to see the cars with headlights on and that I was a lot harder to see than a car. Everyone recommends just buying quality lights and not wasting money trying to save money on cheap lights. I recommend that, too, because I did not heed that advice. Get a taillight with a flashing mode and a headlight (also preferably with a flashing mode for daytime). The ones I like, in the budget category:

  • Planet Bike Superflash taillight. Don’t bother with anything else. It’s BRIGHT.
  • Planet Bike Blaze 1 watt or 2 watt headlight.
  • 2 AA battery Maglite LED flashlight, mounted with 2 hose clamps.

    The above headlight solutions will get you home at night, but you won’t be entirely comfortable. A better headlight:

    • Magicshine. Around $90, delivered. This one is so bright that my husband said “I could do with a couple of those on the Miata.” For the price, it can’t be beat. My advice is: don’t try to save money with cheaper lights. You’ll wind up buying one of these anyway, after you’ve spent more money on lights that don’t light up the road well enough at night. Like I said, I did not heed that advice either.

      A hub generator is the most convenient setup. No batteries, and you always have light. Make sure they have a standing feature that allows them to stay on when you are stopped.

      I ride several bikes, one with a hub generator. Whatever bike I am on, I never ride without backup lights. Hitting a bump in the road at night with a bike loaded with eggs and milk is no fun!

      5. Mobile Phone

      You don’t NEED a mobile phone to use a bicycle. But a phone and someone to call to help you out when something goes wrong can really increase your peace of mind. After lights and a helmet (if you choose to wear one), this is the handiest thing you can have on a bicycle when something goes wrong. But leave it in a pocket while you ride! I know, I know, Europeans text and cycle, too. I’m writing for a North American audience.

      6. Repair Tools and a Little Skill

      Beyond the above five items, a spare tube, patch kit, multi-tool, tire levers and a little skill will go a very long way to making sure all your rides are low stress. I bought a bike in 2003 and didn’t ride a mile before I ran over a nail. Ian said “Awesome! You get to practice a roadside repair!”

      Practice removing your wheels and replacing the tube at home. Watch online videos. Ask a friend who is knowledgeable to help you. Check out library books. You can do the simple stuff, trust me.


      8 responses to this post.

      1. Nice post Lynne. Reminds me I need to get some spare tubes and tools to my bike. Another thing to bring on rides is a camera so you can show us pictures :). Hah!


      2. Great advice. The repair kit stuff can be daunting to a lot of people starting out. Instead of tools I carry a cell phone and a transit card. Of course, this only works if you live in a city or have a family member with a truck 🙂

        I also have Schwalbe tires on both of my bikes and have never gotten a flat on either in two years (knock on wood).


        • I’ve heard good reviews of the Schwalbe tires. My Batavus and my wife’s Gazelle both came stock with CST Traveller tires. We’ve got some rough patches on the roads and there’s usually a broken bottle somewhere. A friend with a truck is definitely nice to have.


        • I’m totally jealous of both of your bikes, Dottie. I WANT THAT BETTY FOY!


      3. I certainly hope that my post is encouraging, not discouraging. I would not want anyone to be afraid to ride because they don’t want to fix a flat tire.

        And yes, good tires/tubes are great insurance, too. The tire that blew out was approximately 75 years old and made by a sixth grader from old rubber bands (perhaps a slight exaggeration). My husband uses extremely good tires and latex tubes. He does death-defying downhill racing and street trials — flats are not acceptable.

        But back to point #1 — get on a bike and ride it.


        • Lynne, your post was a good one and it reminded me to get a spare patch kit. Since my commute is so short, were I to get a flat I would probably just lock my bike up, walk to work, and pick it up later. But it is good to be prepared.


      4. I have a Serfas SL-3 headlight which my husband recently got me (he’s the one in charge of the gear, I just use it). I was startled how bright it was when riding at night, illuminating houses on either side of the road about 50 yards ahead. It’s a 3 LED, battery powered, has a pretty cool (though questionably durable) rubber O-ring mount, and cost around $30. I’m not someone who rides every day, or very far, so for me it’s a good fit.


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