I am cyclist. Well I am, but more importantly I am human.
This morning I was reminded of an important aspect of cycling, and life, that I hadn't necessarily thought specifically about very recently.
I was on a nice Sunday ride around the southern Farnham fringes alonewith my thoughts. The sun was out and I was descending the Tilford Road from Hindhead after climbing up to it from the Frensham road parallel when I suddenly hit a pothole out of the blue. The shudder from the pothole caused the Garmin aero mount on my bike to shift about 15 degrees (even though to manually move it back to its original position took quite some force). It was quite jolt, one quick one after another, as each wheel hit the hole head on. For the next 2 minutes I tired to figure if any damage to the bike had been sustained, whilst I continued to descend, albeit at a slower speed, but still in excess of 20 mph. The wheels didn't seem to has been buckled by the force of the impacts (thank you Fulcrum) but I still felt weary, a sense that something must have been affected.
Sure enough, as I turned onto the road towards Thursley and Elstead, I stopped to inspect the bike in safety and my concerns were confirmed as I realised I had unsurprisingly got a slow flat on the rear tyre.
I took myself off the road and tended to the rear. At that moment I could swear I heard the knowing tell tale signs of the escape of air, but thinking it was the rear wheel I carried on and replaced the tyre on the rear, pumping it up as much as I could with my manual micro pump. Enough to get me home anyway.
As I took the bike back to the road again the reality set it. I had suffered a double puncture and the front was also flat. I took the bike back to my repair position and started to tend on the front.
It was at this point that I noticed a vehicle draw up on the nearside road and a gentleman got out. “You OK? Need a pump?” I heard him ask. I said I was fine, that I had my pocket rocket, but was grateful for him stopping to check on me. Undeterred, he pulled a track pump out of his car and asked if I was sure. Well now I was truly grateful. But it didn't stop there. He stayed with me for a good 10 minutes whilst I completed the patch and remounting of the front tyre, and then helped me pump up the wheels to the 80 PSI that would let me take my ride to its original conclusion.
I was terribly grateful. I couldn't be sure, but I am fairly certain that there is no way he could have seen me at the side of the road driving in the direction he was going (I was behind a fence, shrubs and tree), so in hindsight I think he might have driven past, u-turned, and come back to assist me, purposefully talking time out of his day and his own bike ride to help.
It got me thinking. Those thoughts I hadn't had in a while but were re-affirmed by this episode. When you “get into” cycling you are entering a community of people who share a passion and do take care to ensure other cyclists are OK. As a habit I always check on cyclists who are at the side of the road when I pass, enquiring if they need anything. I might not be as insistent as the gentlemen today, but I do hope that in the event someone might ask for the help I offer. It would be a pleasure and I would have no hesitation in doing so. However, when you are on the receiving end it does evoke such a positive feeling of support and for that you can feel terribly grateful.
So I thought about this some more.
In a world where the debate on cycling is centered around the “US” and “THEM” of cyclist and motorists something else struck me. The gentleman who assisted me was driving. Sure, he was trailing his (awesome) phat tyre off road cycle and was clearly a knowledgeable and keen cyclist, but he was still driving. And I have a car, 2 in fact. And probably the majority of cyclists are also drivers at times when they are not cycling. So when you think about it there is very little “US” and “THEM”. It’s just “US” in different scenarios, and situations, and times, and we can and should choose our actions as one human being to another, not as cyclists to motorists, or pedestrians to cyclists or any other combination.
What seems evident is that we seem to take on different persona's when we get in our cars, or get on our bikes, when we cross the road, and we let the road channel and dictate our emotions. If things go against us, we like to lash out at the easiest possible recipient, automatically assuming that the offender has done something wilfully against you. It might actually not be, and probably isn't in most cases, the case. However, for some reason blame seems to make everything justified and gives reason and meaning to situations.
So in the spirit on community, the one where we ALL co-exist and co-operate, I’d like to thank the gentleman who stopped his car to help me out today for which I am very grateful, and for reminding me that good-will can be offered at any time, by anyone to anyone, and not just when we are urged to do so around a certain winter Christian celebration.