In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
I got to be a Good Samaritan today. I was within a half-mile of our apartment when I came upon a guy walking his road bike along on the side walk. A quick glance showed that he had a distinctly flat rear tire, so I slowed and asked if he needed help. Once he turned down his iPod (I could hear it from my position on the road — I cringe for his hearing) and ascertained that I wanted to help, he said that he had a flat tire. I told him I had a patch kit. He agreed to let me help, but added, “It’s the back tire. I hope that’s not a problem.” The word NEWBIE flashed briefly into my head, and I resolved to help him as much as I could.
I started by talking him through how to take the rear wheel off. The whole procedure was clearly new to him, so I kept up a running commentary on everything I was doing. Once I had the tube out, I decided to just use my spare tube rather than try to hunt down the hole in his punctured one. I pulled out my spare tube, stuck it in, and put the rest of the tire back on, narrating the whole time. The entire procedure took maybe 10 minutes, maximum, and I was feeling rather proud of my tire-changing ability.
That is, until I tried to use my handy-dandy brand-new, never-before-used CO2 canister setup. At that point, things kind of blew up in my face — literally. My spare tube seemed to have a particularly short valve stem, so it barely stuck out of the wheel rim. As a result, I think the canister connector thingy didn’t have a perfect seal, because instead of filling the tire up, the canister valve exploded, we had a rapid decompression of CO2 into the atmosphere, and the tire remained unfilled.
At that point I decided we should simply adjourn to my apartment, where we have an excellent floor pump. We walked the short distance remaining, chatting (I learned the guy’s name was Brian, that he works at the Wayside Racquet and Swim Club* in the aquatics department (he was extremely buff), that he lives on Stevens Street by “the high school,” and that he bought his bike at Landry’s this spring to start doing some commuting. He had never had a flat tire before, nor had he changed a tire at all, and he promised to get me a replacement tube and CO2 canister).
At home I retrieved our floor pump and filled the rear tire. Then I checked the front tire and the reason for his flat became evident: He had let his tire pressure get down from 115 PSI to 40 or 50 PSI. I would put $10 on the bet that his flat was caused by riding over a particularly bumpy stretch of road (I know just the spot, not far from where I saw him walking) on under-pressure tires: The perfect recipe for a snake bite. Before he left I cautioned him to check his tire pressure and refill his tires at least every week. I didn’t tell him to leave off the blaring iPod or put on a helmet — I’m not his mother, although I don’t approve of those choices.
In any case, I sent him on his way, having done my good deed for the day. I just wish I had had an experienced cyclist to show me the ropes of basic things like tire-changing when I first started. I remember my first flat — what a disaster. I went through three tubes and a great deal of misery and travail before we got it fixed. Now I’m just glad I could spare Brian the swimmer that misery.
* Small world — I think that is where Steve, one of the guys I met on the MS bike ride the first day, works. Steve is the guy who had a unicorn on his helmet, and told me that he recognized me from times he’s driven by me in Westborough. He told me to keep an eye out for a green Dodge Caravan with kayaks on the roof, because that’d be him on going by.