Working full time in a bike shop we get to see a lot of people and some customers you see more than you care to. Tommo is one of those customers. Don’t get me wrong, I like Tommo, as does everyone else in the shop but when we see Tommo our heads hang and the groans are audible. Let me explain why.
Tommo lives in the Massey area of West Auckland and works in the city. Being an environmentally conscious person who enjoys a bit of fitness this would be the perfect commute into town that would appeal to both aspects of his conscience. He started his cycle commuting journey about 18months ago with an old banger of a bike and really enjoyed the cycle in, who wouldn’t!
– pedalling down beside the north western motorway watching all the cars stuck in traffic
– beautiful fresh sea air every morning
– getting to work with a bit of an endorphin high that makes for an extra productive start to the day
– not having the usual stress of having to deal with other bad drivers on the motorway.
A few months later, deciding this was the right way to go he purchased a full on road bike, something about old ladies passing him on the causeway was not sitting well. He had a great summer of cycling, especially the summer we just had (2012/2013) with long sunny days and no need for random storm protective gear.
Around rolled the winter and Tommo headed into the bike shop to make sure he was ready for winter. Making sure he had
-the right clothing to deal with the rain
-new tyres put on to deal with riding it the wet
-lights on the bike for riding in the dark.
A few weeks later we saw Tommo come back in with a flat tyre. “Riding along the causeway and got a flat”. No big deal!
New tube, check the tyre and send him on his way again.
Next week, Tommo’s back. “Another puncture on the causeway”
Ok, check the tyre again and sure enough, another piece of debris causing the puncture.
Replace the tube and send him on his way. “I hope that’s the last we see of you mate” said I, with my cheeky grin and a wink.
Another week and another visit from Tommo, and this time there were no smiles. After a silent inspection of the tyre we again find another offending piece of debris. “How can I make these tyres bulletproof” the question came to us. Dylan (our mechanic) was great, checking all the sites for the options. We came up with Kwickseal tubes and puncture protective strips from Weldtite as well as the super-dooper Schwalbe Durano Plus (which I had ridden for all of my ironman training 300+km’s per week with only 2 punctures in over 6months)
“If that’s what’s going to work, put it on both my bikes” said he. Later that week we had both tyres on both bikes as bulletproof as we could make them and Tommo back into believing biking was good again.
Well, yesterday at about 4pm, our heads hung low again whilst Tommo dragged his flat tyred bike through our doors. That was actually 5 times in 6 weeks and we are all at our wits end.
It didn’t take much investigation to see what had caused this puncture. There was enough glass and metal to start up our own smashing glass jewellery store.
We are back to the drawing board for Tommo and I am sure we will come up with a plan that will work for him but his situation really got me thinking.
How many punctures actually happen on the causeway, well any cycle way really. I have to admit, the only punctures I had during my training time were actually on cycle lanes.
Tommo obviously comes in to see us
1- because he likes us 😉
2- because he hates fixing his own punctures
But he had said that he passes people stopped in the causeway on a daily basis in the winter fixing flat tyres. That’s insane!!
Imagine you called up your work on a daily basis telling them you were going to be late because you were waiting for the AA to come and fix your flat tyre in the car. You would be sacked after a couple of weeks. Yet cyclists have to make that call regularly.
How do we fix this.
Long term there needs to be a way cycle lanes can be set higher than or level to the road so debris from the road doesn’t get washed into cycle lanes and sit there waiting for those unsuspecting 700x23s to pick it up.
Short term there needs to be a planned cleaning and maintenance program set in place and on a weekly basis especially on our most used cycle ways.
This may sound like a lot of work but there are a massive amount of cyclists out there and the future of getting around this city is going to be alternative transport, if we keep going the way we are with cars on the road the North Western motorway will become a very expensive car park, much like the M25 in London.
I have seen more people getting on bikes to get to work in the last few months than I have ever seen before and the regular commuters have mentioned that the cycle way has gotten a lot busier over the last year. If we can keep the cycle way clean and puncture free we will have an Auckland that’s a lot fitter and Eco friendly as well as having a motorway that keeps moving.