It’s been a fun 5 months of cycling. And I have pushed my frontiers to doing 18K consistently. (I know, I know, I need to push it further! But usually the early winter sundown hurts.) Today I started off in the evening on the usual route: Home to the NICE road bridge of Kommaghatta road.
Like with most vehicles the cycle is only as good as when it is running fine. The moment a problem hits you know you’re in for it. This gets progressively worse with the vehicle size. I dread the day the Bullet would get into trouble in the middle of nowhere! (Touch wood!) The car is somewhat better, but I’ve had my share of scares. The time when the battery almost died, or the months I drove around with a punctured tyre. But somehow car troubles are easier. At the very least you don’t have to push it anywhere. The problem is almost always with tyres, if you do due maintenance that is, and even that can be fixed as the spare is always there for the worst case. Most of the time, with tubeless tyres you can drive until the next “puncher” shop or a petrol pump who can air it up. If you don’t fancy replacing the tyre with the spare yourself, that is.
Anyway, the ride was going just fine and I was pretty close to my turn-back point. This was when I heard the first sound. Pretty soon I heard a second one, and then the sound of rubber being dragged on tar. The sounds oddly felt like something wrong with the chain. Hopefully won’t have to hear them again.
The nearest point where I could get the puncture fixed was 1 Km away, and I had no option but to walk. As I neared that place – Maruthi Nagar, many two-wheelers started signalling the direction to where the nearest puncture shop was. There was a lot of “swalpa munde, alle leftallide“(a bit further up, on the left). No questions asked as to why I was even pushing the cycle! The brotherhood of two-wheelers, united by shared experiences of pushing punctured vehicles!
Of course, the “puncher” shop was right there, except that he said he doesn’t do cycles! Now this was a bummer. I asked him why? “I can fill up the tyre with air, but I won’t fix the puncture”. He pointed me to another shop further away from the main road, saying that they would do it. I took that direction, found 3 shops, 2 of which were for motorcycles, not even puncture ones (one guy said he does only 2 wheelers, and I pointed out that mine also has 2. He wasn’t too happy and I beat a quick retreat), and the third was a house with some tyres displayed outside. The door was open, but there was no one inside.
I decided to activate Plan B and called the ever-dependable cousin, Anand. His house is usually the pitstop on the way back and is some 2.5 Kms from the place where I found myself. “Should I come?” he asked. “No, I can walk down 2 Kms, will take me only 20 mins” I said. Anyway, somehow we agreed that he’d come along and as I kept walking towards the direction of his place, I found another “puncher” shop. Again, he also refused to fix it. This time I asked him the reason and got some vague answer about not having the right tools. But he did one good thing: the neck used for air was pushed under the rim. This will prevent damage to the tube, he said.
Soon, I saw Anand coming along. The front wheel was dismantled. It’s almost laughably easy on my bike! The back seats were brought down and with the cycle fitted in snugly we drove on to the Outer Ring Road through Doddabasti road. A usual cycle shop was found, but he said only “sales”. There was a shop near Anand’s house that was remembered, and we drove on to that place. Only to find a long queue of kids with their cycles, getting them fixed. Considering my experience with other cycle shops, this was understandable. To quote RKN “One and only Padmavathi for a whole city, as the saying goes”.
Anyway, by this time it was already sundown and this being a power-scarce state, the power promptly went out, just as he had pulled the tube out. The phone was brought out and the flash activated in torch mode. Under that light a patch was put, and the water test was attempted. The bubbles floated up pretty soon. “I might not be able to fix this. This is a China tube” he declared. I kept quiet, maintaining a poker face. He tried another kind of patch. This one stuck. Phew! The water test was also passed. Now to remove the “cause”. The tyre was searched and promptly yielded a longish, thin nail, bent and twisted out of shape! Aha!
The whole thing cost Rs. 20! We then headed on to Anand’s place, me riding in absolute darkness as Power was still not back. Some excellent Chilli-cheese sandwich was made and had, and I left soon. Power was still on and off and I hoped I might as well get an “On” sometime. The bike does not have lights and it can get tricky in the dark.
The road was pitch dark, and I soon saw a car far away and kept going in that general direction. Soon that car’s high beam reached me and I could see the road to some extent in front. Soon he was passed and I was back in darkness. But this was darkness without any light piercing it, and my eyes soon got used to it. After some time, there were street lights. Whether power was restored, or I had ended up in a different BESCOM jurisdiction, I did not want to find out. Home was reached by 7:30 PM after an eventful evening.
Bigger questions remain. Considering that this was the first time in 5 months that I am facing the issue, the probability remains low. But what if there’s a puncture farther away from the city? How can it be handled? I remember hitting punctures on my old Suzuki. It happened thrice over 2 years. And has happened once on the Bullet in 2.5 years.
But with bikes, all these shops that said no would be willing to fix it. So the question is less about finding repair shops and more about the general non-availability of them. That’s something to think about! And if am really keen on doing longer distance ones, get cycles with tubeless tyres or carry a fix it kit! Ugh! Maybe it would be just about winging it like all these days and not worry about it. Cross the bridge when you get to it!