Sunday, 20 February 2011


One of the best parts about being a cyclist is the unspoken solidarity that has always existed among riders. From the friendly wave as you pass in the opposite direction to grouping up if heading the same way, there's an understanding that we all suffer the same pain and the same dangers and, equally, we all enjoy the same freedom and fitness benefits.

That's why what happened to me yesterday is both annoying and disappointing.

I was coming home via Malahide and came up behind a Swords CC rider at a set of lights. I acknowledged him and made the usual friendly remark on what a nice morning it was. His stilted reply made it clear he wasn't interested in chatting. Fair enough.

He went ahead of me but at pretty much my pace so I was able to get in behind him. I'd had a hard enough spin so was very grateful for a bit of a tow around the coast. He was aware I was there but obviously wasn't interested in any interaction, or sharing the pace. It also became quite clear he wasn't going to make any concession to my being there which meant several times I had to take action to prevent touching wheels when he changed pace, got out of the saddle or swerved a bit.

Coming through Portmarnock we stopped at lights. Again, not so much as a nod when I came alongside him. Then, approaching the roundabout for Baldoyle, he gave a sudden swerve and I just got a bief glimpse of the pothole as I hit it full on.

I knew straight away, from the sound of both wheels hittig, that this wasn't good and, sure enough, quickly felt rim on tarmac. Not just one, but both tyres were flattened!

That was annoying enough. Two punctures, 6km from home, is not what you need. But what really got my goat was the behaviour of my "companion". No shouted warning of the pothole, no hand down to his side to indicate which side it was on and not even a look back to see what had happened. I might be being unfair on that last one but I can't imagine he didn't hear the unmistakable sound of the impacts and he couldn't have missed my shouted, expletive-laden reaction.

Maybe my standards are too high but, to my mind, the unwritten code of the road dictates you look out for your fellow rider, whether you know them or not. We've all heard that crunching sound and felt the air rush from under us. We've all had to change a tube/tyre on the roadside with wet, cold and filthy hands. And, I thought, we all know that it's just the right thing to do to help each other out.

So my blood was boiling at the sight of Mr Swords riding off into the sun without a thought or a care for a fellow rider left marooned.

To make matters worse, I quickly discovered that one of the two tubes I had with me was also punctured! (Note to self: swap punctured tubes as soon as possible when you get home, no matter how tired you are, so as not to forget before the next ride). As I stood waiting for my lift to come and rescue me, it was a salutory experience to find that my friend wasn't alone in not caring. At least twenty riders, singly and in groups, passed me and only one, yes ONE!, stopped to see if I needed help.

So this is an appeal to all who ride the roads. If someone is riding behind you, whether you want them there or not, the least you can do is warn them of upcoming hazards, the same as you would if you were in a group. Plus, if you see a rider stopped with a problem, please check they are OK. It might cost you a few minutes, or a donation of a tube, but remember, it could be you someday.

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