Poll: Render aid?

I flatted this morning on Central Expressway. I carry everything I need to fix a flat and didn’t need the help, but the two cyclists who passed me didn’t even look my way or offer assistance. I was on my road bike; both of the guys who passed me were on hybrid bikes. What’s wrong with these people?

If I see a cyclist on the side of the road with apparent mechanical problems, I always slow to offer help, no matter what bike I’m riding or they’re riding. Twice in June I turned around to help a couple of guys who were on the other side of the road; in both instances it turned out they needed tools I carried (15mm wrench for a pedal with damaged threads that fell out, and chaintool for the guy whose chain broke).


Fixing a flat

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems almost unspeakably rude not to at least offer a hand up to a cyclist in distress.

What to you think? Are my expectations unreasonable? Is this a sport cyclist ethic only?

If you see a cyclist with a mechanical issue or flat tire, do you offer to help?

Do you slow or stop to offer help when you see a cyclist with a mechanical?

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33 Comments

  • Steve in Atlanta
    July 7, 2010 - 1:15 pm | Permalink

    i had a flat 4 miles into a road ride alone when i got a flat. I soon realized i'd forgot my tools and tube at home. so walked back in my socks to keep from destroying my cleats and carrying my bike to hopefully signal a problem. I got passed by a couple of groups of people on road rides and no one bothered to even look back as they went by.

    Furthers my resolve to stop and offer help. I've pulled over in the car and thrown bikes on the rack and given people rides home.

  • July 7, 2010 - 1:17 pm | Permalink

    I do think it's pretty rude to not, at least ask if help is needed when riding past. I too, can generally take care of myself. I can't think of a time that I hadn't stopped to see if a stopped rider didn't need help.

  • captainkickstand
    July 7, 2010 - 1:26 pm | Permalink

    I am with Steve; I usually slow up and ask if the stuck rider has everything he or she needs. Usually they do. I have more than once stopped while in my car to lend a hand, too, since I often have tools and a pump in the car.

    I will confess that I sometimes–maybe often–bypass people walking their DUI bikes, though.

  • July 7, 2010 - 1:33 pm | Permalink

    I generally stop to see if I can help, but if I happen to by riding without tools, I might not. I try and remember to keep a spare tube and/or a patch kit with me on my commute, but I don't always have either. Sometimes I've tried to help people out and found that if I only have a tube (no patch kit), I'm far less likely to be of help to anyone else. In that case I might not stop if it was obvious that we had incompatible wheels.

    Also, there are a surprising number of people (surprising to me, at least) who don't know how to fix their own tires. Those people really don't have any help to offer, so I wouldn't expect them to stop.

    But this is mostly hypothetical for me. There are just not that many bikes here. The last time I saw a cyclist pulled over to the side of the road was last year, I think. I did offer to help, but they were just taking a break. And I can't remember the last time a cyclist passed me while I was fixing a flat.

  • July 7, 2010 - 1:37 pm | Permalink

    On the bike or in the truck, I'll stop to offer help. Most times it's not needed but on those times it is, it's appreciated.

    A couple of times I've been on a bike and stopped to help change a car's flat. Karma's gonna get you if you let it.

  • Tal Danzig
    July 7, 2010 - 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Unless I see that a rider already has assistance or clearly has the issue in hand I usually slow and ask if I can be of any help.

  • Andy
    July 7, 2010 - 2:11 pm | Permalink

    I usually ask if everything is okay, and it usually is. I generally scoff at the roadies that don't carry anything, because they should know better, but apparently an extra 10oz of pump and tube is too much to expect. I'll help them if they look like they want it though.

    I'm usually only carrying small tubes, so I can't help out hybrids or mtbs in that way, but I can offer a patch and a pump up. It usually comes with some advice not to drop off curbs, because that seems to be why most people get flats on mtbs. They never fill up the tires and are surprised when they pinch flat. :/

    On group rides, I always carry 2 tubes because chances are someone's going to need an extra, and I carry a small trunk bag on nearly every ride, so it's easy to fit enough gear in there. Even at the local races, I still carry the bag and enough food and basic tools to make sure I can get home. Saving 0.5% effort in exchange for being stranded and walking several miles is just not worth it.

  • July 7, 2010 - 2:22 pm | Permalink

    You're a good man, and a great cyclist. In my experience I've almost alway encountered nothing but excellent cycling etiquette and ethics from other cyclists…..I've always slowed to ask if the person needs help when I pass someone at the side of the road as well. I haven't been taken up on my offer yet, but I sure do hope that if I ever need some help a rider like you passed by me.

    Darryl

  • July 7, 2010 - 2:46 pm | Permalink

    I almost always offer to help and I ride a recumbent. I generally don't offer if there is more than one person working on the bike already. In general I don't need help since I carry a set of tools, pump, patches, and spare tubes as well as a tire boot but I have had multiple offers to help when I have had a flat or other mechanical problem in the past.

    I helped a guy last year who was walking his bike. He didn't have any tools, patches, or even a wallet. He was preparing to walk home the 10 miles when I stopped and patched his tube so he could ride home.

    If I only stopped for those like me, it would greatly limit my need to stop and help since few ride such unusual bikes.

  • mtbJohn
    July 7, 2010 - 2:50 pm | Permalink

    I offer help if they obviously need it. I'm not a brilliant mechanic, so I can't offer more than basic assistance to someone.

  • Janice in GA
    July 7, 2010 - 4:33 pm | Permalink

    I stopped just the other week to try to help a guy (non-lycra) who had a problem. Unfortunately, he'd had a catastrophic bottom bracket failure that was beyond the tools/skill I had with me. The best I could do was give him a bungee cord to hold his cranks in place while he walked back home. :(

    At least it was a good bungee cord.

  • July 7, 2010 - 4:43 pm | Permalink

    What, you don't carry a crank puller with you all the time? :-)

    I had a catastrophic failure on a Halloween night in which I lost both derailleurs, my chain, and chainrings (long story). I rode my bike like a hobby horse about four miles to get home.

  • Adrian
    July 7, 2010 - 5:40 pm | Permalink

    I never carry tools, and have very limited mechanic skills. What help could I offer? Most people on bikes are similar to me in this regard, at least around where I live. I carry a cell phone and call a taxi if I have a breakdown.

  • gearinches
    July 7, 2010 - 5:57 pm | Permalink

    I almost always offer, but so far, never been taken up on it. One guy did approach me once asking if I had a 6mm wrench to tighten his stem, and I was more than happy to help.

  • saimin
    July 7, 2010 - 6:36 pm | Permalink

    I've gotten enough “if I needed your help I would have asked for it” replies that now I only offer help if the person makes some effort to wave me down. Then I will be happy to help if I can. If they're concentrating on working on their bike, then I won't interrupt them.

  • July 7, 2010 - 7:10 pm | Permalink

    The standard around here (Portland, OR) is to slow and ask if you've got everything you need. A quick yes or no is all that's required. Most people don't need it and are pretty nice. It doesn't hurt to ask, but can be a big help if they do need it.

  • Chester
    July 7, 2010 - 7:23 pm | Permalink

    It's definitely etiquette that one picks up as a sport rider, from what I've seen. People always talk about how chilly the Lycra set is, but my experience is that, if you break down on a Lycra-heavy route, you will get plenty of offers of help. One learns by example, especially if one rides with those in the know.

    Folks who don't ride socially in the same way don't learn the culture and are no more inclined to stop and offer help than a motorist would stop for a fellow motorist or ped for a fellow ped.

    I always offer help to any cyclist, regardless of what they're riding or how they're dressed.

  • devout absurdist
    July 8, 2010 - 12:34 am | Permalink

    i was in a similar situation last week. i got a flat on a bike path and literally a dozen cyclists were passing me per minute, and only one person (who was not a cyclist and had no bike knowledge) offered to help. i had everything i needed, and i knew what i was doing, but it was still frustrating.

  • Brian
    July 8, 2010 - 2:13 am | Permalink

    I usually ask if they need help, or if they're clearly in the middle of a repair, whether they have everything they need.

  • Matt
    July 8, 2010 - 5:46 am | Permalink

    I almost always ask, but have rarely been taken up. I actually don't see people with mechanical issues that often around here – streets and paths are pretty clean, and the areas I mtn bike generally aren't heavily populated.

  • Jeff_SCVTalk
    July 8, 2010 - 6:16 am | Permalink

    I always ask roadies and those with 700c wheels. If they're riding an MTB on a path or road, it's likely I can't help them because I don't have a spare 26″ tube nor does my pump fit schraeder, so I won't even stop.

  • July 8, 2010 - 8:58 am | Permalink

    If I see someone on the side with a problem, I'll yell out, “Hey, are you doing okay?” and slow down. Usually people wave and say they're alright. I haven't had anyone take me up on my offier, but I don't let it deter me from asking every time I see someone with a problem. I figure that at least it's nice for someone to stop and ask if you're okay, rather than just go right by without a second glance.

  • Steve Parkes
    July 8, 2010 - 9:49 am | Permalink

    Last year I was in the middle of nowhere having problems with the indexing on my gears. Another roadie pulled into view and I expected at least advice but he blanked me completely and left me at the roadside.

    To cut a long story short I managed to get things sort of working and had did most of the ride I'd planned. Got back to my car and put the bike in the back with the track pump that is always in there to help a fellow cyclist in distress when I'm forced into the car.

    At the bottom of a great hill with no pavements on either side and heavy traffic I saw that very cyclist using a little lightweight pump on his tyres. I didn't stop.

    I still feel guilty now but a bit of me thinks he deserved it.

  • July 8, 2010 - 9:52 am | Permalink

    That makes sense.

    After some thought, I realize the guys with the hybrids probably carry nothing in the way of tools, patches or pumps. It happens I forgot my cell phone yesterday so that could've been appreciated, but oh well.

  • July 8, 2010 - 9:55 am | Permalink

    You've one upped me on stopping the car! I don't recall if I've ever stopped while driving to help a cyclist.

  • July 8, 2010 - 9:56 am | Permalink

    Wow! Too bad about those people with chips on their shoulders brushing you off like that.

  • July 8, 2010 - 9:57 am | Permalink

    Hey all, thanks for the comments and for restoring my faith in humanity. You all are great!

  • Sean
    July 8, 2010 - 10:27 am | Permalink

    One morning, just around 6am, I went for a drive with my infant son in the back. Taking him for a drive often gets him to sleep and he had been up all night with collich. As I drove along one particular stretch I spotted a lone cyclist with a mountainbike, pushing it with a crank arm and pedal in hand. He had an enormous camoflage backpack on. Long story short, I threw the bike on the roof rack and gave him a ride to the nearby Army training centre. He was deplying to Afghanistan in two days and really appreciated the lift. I feel good about that one

  • July 8, 2010 - 10:29 am | Permalink

    I'm glad I read the comments. I'll slow to ask if someone (car/bike/whatever) needs help, but I don't consider myself mechanically-inclined to be able to offer much assistance. I always, at the very least, have my cellphone with me to call for help if necessary.
    Thankfully, most of my rides and commutes are only ever 1-2 miles from a bike shop (or sports store) so I haven't gotten into the (good) habit of carrying tools and spares.

  • July 8, 2010 - 10:40 am | Permalink

    Very cool story. Thanks for sharing that!

  • July 8, 2010 - 9:33 pm | Permalink

    I almost always at least slow and ask if someone needs help. A few times when I've been riding in to work and pushing it to make a meeting, I've ridden by. I've felt guilty the rest of the day though. It's not often that someone wants help but I've given my tube to someone that didn't have one. I just hope that my good deed keeps me from getting a flat and leaving me stranded.

  • July 9, 2010 - 10:17 am | Permalink

    I gotta confess: I've done the same when I'm in a hurry. I'm such a hypocrite. Mea culpa!

  • h2
    July 9, 2010 - 11:41 am | Permalink

    I got a flat about 6 miles away from town couple weekends ago. No one ever stopped to ask if I needed help. There were probably like… at least 50 people passed by on their bikes. It was one of those hot days, and I had to walk 6 miles to the closest bike shop (which was closed after I got there) then another 3 miles back home. errrrrr
    My friend told me when she was cycling in Boulder, there was a “bike rescue” dude who drives around and just give helping hands to people. Now I moved from a friendly community to this new place that people only care for themselves. Just so frustrated and really want to move back. :(

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