Dr Hutch: Helping the stranded is a thankless task

Not everyone appreciates a knight in shining armour. Or sweaty Lycra, as the Doc discovers...

I have long campaigned around the offices of Cycling Weekly for expansion of the letters page.

It is, by some distance, the best bit of the magazine. I have, however, been scanning it minutely for some weeks with a growing sense of disappointment.

The reason is a simple one. A regular staple of the page is the, “I was stranded by the road and was rescued by a fellow wheelman who stopped to help.”

Yet for the last two months I have done nothing but rescue the distressed, and not one of them has bothered to do the decent thing and write in to thank me.

puncture repair

The eternally ungrateful (according to the Doc) stranded cyclist

Would it have been so hard? “Dear CW, words cannot express my gratitude to your regular columnist, whose generosity and knowledge is equalled only by his bonhomie and rugged good looks…”

I mean, it’s not as if I’m asking for a golden elephant here.

The first beneficiary of my largesse was near Cobham in Surrey.

Stranded amid the spring daffodils and the bleating of baby Bentleys, his bike’s rear mech had hit the spokes and been pulled into the wheel, with much consequent bending of metal.

I suggested that if I took the mech off I could convert the bike into a single-speed to get him home.

“But wouldn’t that be sort of breaking it?” he asked.

“It’s sort of broken right now,” I said. “But at least you could be riding a broken bike home rather than standing here with it.”

Thankless task

I set to work. Chain off, mech off, cable tidied up, chain replaced on a suitable sprocket, wheel trued enough to pass through the brake blocks. I presented my work.

“You’ve got mucky fingerprints on it,” he complained.

“Don’t mention it,” I said. “You’re welcome.”

Strangely, only a few miles later I met a woman with exactly the same problem. I was quite a polished act — I did the same repair.

Just as I finished, a Volvo pulled up. “Oh good, here’s my husband,” she said.

I asked her why, if she’d phoned for a lift, she’d let me spend 15 minutes working on her bike.

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“I thought you were enjoying it,” she said. They loaded the bike into the car, and drove off.

I reflected that being the ministering angel of the multi-tool was a less satisfying calling than I’d expected.

A week or so later, my next client refused all offers of assistance with a broken chain, on the basis that since I wasn’t a manufacturer-approved dealer, it would invalidate his warranty.

Leaving the twit standing in his shorts, on an afternoon that was six degrees and getting colder all the time, cheered me up considerably.

Not a twit, but in need of assistance (Photo : Yuzuru Sunada)

It was number four before I felt appreciated. All he had was a puncture, but he had no means of fixing it.

In a perverse way I quite admire the blithe optimism of someone who sets out into the flint-strewn lanes on the relaxed assumption that a puncture will simply not happen.

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I gave him an inner tube, and waved away all reimbursement. I reminded him to check the tyre for whatever had made the puncture.

I lent him my pump. I pointed out that his chain needed a clean and a lube. I advised him at some length on the best training for his proposed Etape du Tour without him even having to ask me to do so.

Weeks later, and not a peep from him in the letters page, and not from any of the others either.

So should I ever stop to help you, I’m sure you’ll understand if I insist on you taking out your phone and emailing the editor about it before I so much as get my Allen keys out.

I’ll even help you compose your message: “‘Rugged’ has two ‘g’s, I think you’ll find.”

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