Monday, August 4, 2014

Patches? We Ain't Got No Stinking Patches!

Went to go pick up my new Secteur right after work on Friday.  Guys at the shop said it would be ready, but (to my abject disappointment) Specialized had sent the wrong brakes to go with the new frame.  Sensing my despair, my buddy Jacob (or "Bojac" which is his biking nom de guerre -- click Here to check out his website), brought the bike out from the workshop so I could have a look.  

The bike was gorgeous!  Loved the silver and black paint job, and, especially, how it looked with my new Selle Anatomica saddle with gun-metal rivets.  Even better is that this newer model had "Zertz" inserts in the seat-stays as well as the fork -- something my older Secteur didn't have.  Awesome.  The experience was bittersweet, though, like visiting a beloved relative in the hospital.  So frustrating to have to watch Bojac roll it back to the workshop. 

So, Saturday morning, it was back out on the urban assault bike for my weekly long ride.  It always garners some odd looks and curious comments from club riders who haven't seen it before, but, once I get the heavy frame going, it performs perfectly well next to its carbon fiber grand-cousins.  As usual, I branched off from the peloton when we reached IB and headed around the bay to downtown.  After my usual espresso in Little Italy, I headed north, but only made it as far as Middletown, by the former Thomas Jefferson Law School, before riding over something that simply shredded a chunk of my rear tire, causing an instant flat.  Not one of those more subtle puncture flats caused by glass or something else sharp -- the air shot violently out of the tire instantly.

Flats are normally no big deal for me -- I've repaired dozens and dozens of them on road and trail-sides, and always try to have everything I need in my saddle bag ready to go.  Thoughtlessly, like the dad in "A Christmas Story, " I sprung 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 soon discovered that I had none.  I scratched and scratched at the glossy paper, hoping to find a clear (almost invisible) patch, but it turned out that I had given my last one away to someone I helped out on the Strand a couple of months ago.  Wish I had remembered that!  Damn!

Again, as an experienced rider, I wasn't too worried.  Just as I had given away most of my patches -- 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 non-chalantly sat down on the bench-like area pictured above, 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 saddle-bags (where one would normally keep a patch kit).  I just sat there -- staring blankly ahead.  Actively 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.  

After rider number 10 blew by, I decided to share my above photo and plight with my Facebook friends, to their amusement, of course.  At least their cajoling and second-guessing kept me company as riders continued to consciously ignore me.  Not rider #11, though -- I swallowed my pride and made imploring eye contact with him as he approached.  He stopped, but didn't have a patch.  He had a French accent and was riding his friend's (very nice) Allez which had an empty saddle-bag.  As he rode off, rider 12 blew by.  Rider 13 was kind enough to at least say he had nothing to help with as #14 impatiently passed him saying nothing.  

This was beginning to feel like a social experiment.  I decided I'd just 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.  That's when this guy came by:

This, Bikeist fans, is what bad bike etiquette looks like.  Notice how he specifically glances past me at my disassembled bike.   This is exactly what all his poseur friends did -- pathetic.  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 in to SoCal as my chosen home?  They remind me much more 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 San Diego Avenue on Saturday.

All told, I waited there, fruitlessly, for almost two hours before finally giving up (and, then, only because I received a text alert of a thunder-storm watch -- otherwise, I was willing to wait until dark to play out my little social experiment).  I don't mess with lightning, though (after a traumatic high school experience when the biggest dick in the world, Shop Rite manager Terry Litts, made me bring in metal shopping carts in the middle of a thunder storm at threat of losing my minimum wage after-school job) -- so, with my tail between my legs, I gave in and called my long-suffering-wife who came and "rescued" the mighty Bikeist from his desperate plight.  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 --

Oh, the shame of it all . . .

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