Tag Archives: hazards

Marv’s Law of Bicycle Punctures….Revisited



Dear Roulers,

I had intended to write a wrap up of the Giro 2015 and list of where all the surviving Australians placed.  I will digress briefly to contgratulate Luke Durbridge for his second place in Stage 21.  However, this blog is about the new clause I’m adding to my eponymous law of bicycle punctures.  For the record this is second one in 3 weeks.  Its winter, its wet and there is all sorts of crap on the roads at the moment, so therefore its not unexpected.

So this morning I’m keen to do a medium paced, for me at least, 30km. The conditions are cold, wet and windless, in other words perfect for an early morning ride. I set off slowly, I’m still getting used to the SPD-SL clip in-action.  They are super-slippery in wet conditions.  I arrive at the second most irritating traffic lights in Port Melbourne, on the corner of Beaconsfield Parade and Pickles St, when I notice that horrible ride feeling of quickly deflated rear tyre…..sigh.

I’m still a bit sleepy and still warming up.  Consequently I’m mildly annoyed, however as I said before, its not unexpected. After a fit of the fumbles I managed to swap the inner tube over.  I start pumping air into the tyre when I realise …horror… nothing is happening.  I recheck the pump and its seal on the valve.  Then I realise that my new replacement tube has a faulty valve and that I do not have another spare or a repair kit.  Now I’m cold and really irritated.  I trudge back 1.5km back to my house, no doubt mangling the SPD-SL cleats.  I have no choice.  Its this or bare foot which on a wet, cold morning was unthinkable.

So lets go back to the law:

Clause (i) If you are going to get a puncture, it will be at most inconvenient time – Tick -> early morning was very irritating.

Clause (ii) It is inevitable that you will have more punctures on your back wheel – Tick -> back wheel it was.

Clause (iii) It more likely that you will have rear puncture when you haven’t cleaned your rear running gear and/or are wearing new clothing – Cross -> I had just cleaned by gears and I didn’t have new clothing on.

Clause (iv) It is more likely that you will get a puncture when it rains – Tick -> Yep it had rained heavily overnight.

Clause (v) It is more likely that you will get a puncture and then have the weather turn bad with heavy showers making your machine’s parts that much harder to handle. Tick -> It was wet and cold.

Clause (vi) It is more likely that you will get a puncture when you are riding alone when there is no one to help you. Tick -> Yep, I was alone.

Clause (vii) It is more likely that you will get a puncture, if you are stupid enough to boast about never getting one.  Cross -> Nope, I never thought this or said it out loud.

Not bad validation so far, now for another clause,

Clause (viii) It is more likely that you will get a puncture when you have a dud spare, for example one with a faulty valve and no other way of fixing the puncture. Tick -> Yep, this was very F%&#king irritating.

Until next time,


Tips for cycling in Melbourne’s wet weather



Well Roulers,

April has been a really crap time for riding and blogging. The combination of bad weather and an early Autumn cold has me off the bike and off my game. I wasn’t able to do the MS Melbourne Cycle weekend either.  Bother…

This morning was the first longish ride I’ve done since returning from holidays and it was a sodden and cold 34 km, with the last 7 km into a driving headwind. I don’t know how the Dutch and Belgians ride in these conditions in the lowland classics.  Breakfast at Balderdash has never tasted so good.

Notwithstanding a pretty slow and miserable ride it made me thing about my personal safety and what I should be doing while riding in the wet.  I figured that would be a good topic for an Autumn blog entry.  It is also revisiting a topic I wrote about back in August last year after seeing Chris Froome bow out of the Tour de France.

So here’s some on tips on wet weather riding:

  1. Your tyres only provide traction for one activity at a time: braking, steering or accelerating. Don’t risk losing traction by braking or sprinting around bends. Brake on the approach, flow round, ride away.
  2. Avoid riding through puddles, particularly if you can’t see the bottom of them. They could conceal shards of glass, potholes and slippery surfaces like painted lines or ironworks.
  3. Your brakes will be a lot less efficient in the wet, especially if you have rim brakes and are on very wet roads. This means your stopping distance in the wet is greatly increased so you’ll need to leave plenty of room to slow down and stop.  You may need to “pump” the brakes a little to dry the rims. In addition, don’t forget to give your brakes a really wipe to remove all the grit that’s splashed up during your ride.   An old toothbrush is perfect for this.
  4. A back wheel slide under braking can be controlled with practice.  However, a front wheel slide isn’t quite as easy to recover from.  So take it easy on that front brake and use more emphasis on the rear brake.  If you’re on very slippery surfaces keep pedalling while you use the back brake to prevent the wheel from locking.
  5. Drivers may have problems seeing through wet or steamy windscreens when it’s raining. This means you need to take extra care to be visible with front and rear lights on your bike and helmet.  Bright clothing high visibility clothing and pannier covers will also help.
  6. Pedestrians are doing their best to get where they’re going in without getting wet.  They may have rain hoods up or have visibility shielded by umbrellas.  This will means they may not see you coming so you have to be extra vigilant (and visible) and be prepared to avoid them.
  7. In low light, clear or yellow lenses for eye protection are critical. When riding in the rain, normal sunglasses cut out too much light and can make road obstacles hard to see.
  8. Warm and waterproof clothing will make you much more comfortable so you can concentrate on riding safely. Wear good gloves and overshoes as well as a waterproof jacket.  If you wear glasses consider wearing a hat with a peak to help keep the rain off of them.
  9. Newly laid tarmac may be greasy and slippery so you need to be extra cautious on new roads.
  10. If you’re a regular commuter consider fitting mudguards for the winter season. They will stop the spray into your face off the front wheel and the wet strip up your back from the rear wheel.
  11. Avoid these slippery things where possible: Painted markings, metal drain covers and manholes, metal studs and cats eyes, rainbow coloured oil splotches, wet leaves, wooden surfaces, mud.
  12. Even when running good tires, traction on wet roads is hard to come by. An easy way to increase traction on wet roads is to lower your tire pressure. A drop of just 5-10 psi could improve traction noticeably.
  13. When riding with others, it is best not to ride directly behind the rider in front as this throws up spray and grit. Also, stopping distances will be affected in the wet so it is best to keep a safe distance apart to avoid collisions.

See you on the roads.


Dealing with obstacles on the road

The Breakaway

While Australian roads don’t resemble the cobbles of the European lowlands, there is no shortage of cracks, road side debris, pot holes, grates and worst of all slippery tram lines, to navigate.  Fortunately you can learn a few skills to deal with them.

The Leadout

I was watching a time-shifted copy of the 2014 Paris to Roubaix and kept hearing, care of Phil Ligget, what great bike handling skills Peter Sagan has. No doubt on the cobbles in French roads, you need them to stay out of trouble and in the race. That triggering me to think what bike handling skills should the average commuter or amateur have to deal with the hazards of the road.

The Peloton

Skill What to do
Pay Attention The best obstacle on the road is the one you see and avoid. Steer smoothly, check behind you and indicate which direction you are moving.  Its good etiquette to point out the obstacle you have seen to other behind you.
Float on Just like the lyrics of the Modest Mouse song ‘Float on’, once you’ve identified an obstacle try to hover on your saddle, keeping the pedals level and your body weight towards the rear. You are then in good shape to negotiate what’s coming up ahead of you.e.
Go faster and apply power This is exactly what the pros do on the cobbles, lower your gear, reduce your revs and apply power. This should enable you to ride over cracks and disintegrating road surface.
Be a shock absorber ‘Float on’ the bike but let you knees and elbows bend with the impacts.  This will hopefully stop pinch flats and buckled rims..
Pull a small ‘wheelie’ Just like the lyrics of the Modest Mouse song ‘Float on’, once you’ve identified an obstacle try to hover on your saddle, keeping the pedals level and your body weight towards the rear. You are then in good shape to negotiate what’s coming up ahead of you.e.
Jump, Jump, Jump Respect to one hit wonders Kris-Kross. I have to admit I’ve never tried this, but I’ve seen the pros do it, particularly over branches and street furniture.  The theory goes, bend down at the knees to compress your calves and thigh muscles. Do the ‘small wheelie’ but a fraction of second later uncurl your legs, causing you weigh to move upwards.  This should lift the rear wheel off the ground and over the obstacle.  Sounds hard and probably is.

How to avoid the cycling equivalent of buying the farm

More advice on dealing with traffic hazards

The Lead Out

Following on from my last post about riding in the rain and not becoming traffic accident statistic, I thought I would cast the net wider and consider what other scenarios, you as a cyclist and a road user should be aware of.

The Breakaway

As a cyclist, the math of car/truck/bus tram vs you should be bleeding obvious to you.  Thus the burden of keeping you alive to cycle another day is on…you.  Be alert to traffic hazards and road-smart when riding.

The Peloton

Here’s the reduced ‘Letterman’ list of cycling situations that can be hazardous to your health.  You should hum the Bee Gee’s 1977 classic “Staying Alive” while reading this.

Beware the Setting Sun Scenario: Most crashes involving cyclists occur on weekdays, in the 2 hours before sunset.  At this time of day, your average motorist’s vision can be impaired by setting sun, heavy traffic flow and fatigue.

Strategy: Wear high visibility clothing and switch on your front and rear lights. Furthermore, keep a buffer zone between you and the traffic.  Pay attention what is happening around you and attempt to predict the actions of motorists.

Argy-Bargy at intersections Scenario: Drivers often claim not to have seen bicycle riders coming through intersections as an explanation for a crash.

Strategy: Try to make eye contact with drivers at intersections to ensure that you are noticed.  Scan the approach to intersections and assess what’s happening in the traffic flow at the intersection.

Dismounting from the footpath  Scenario:  You are moving from the foot/bike path to join the traffic.

Strategy: Two words -> STOP, LOOK.  Stop at a point where can see a few hundred metres of traffic movement.  Importantly don’t leave the path between parked vehicles.  Drivers will not be able to see you.

Vehicles turning in front of you Scenario: Be alert to vehicles that cross in front of you. This could be a vehicle turning left or right into a street or driveway.

Strategy: Pay particular attention to vehicles when you are travelling on the left hand side of a queue.  Frequently, impatient drivers will turn across your path if there is a gap in the queue.

Being Doored Scenario: Avoid crashes caused by opening doors.

Strategy:   My pet hate…. always look through car rear windows to determine whether or not someone is about to leave the car. Parked cars may pull out from the kerb.  Look for clues such as a flash of the brake or reversing lights, right hand indicator or a sign that the car is about to move such as front wheels moving.

Reversing vehicles Scenario: Even in this day of rear vision cameras in vehicle, cyclists can be crunched when a car unexpectedly reverses out of a driveway or parking bay.

Strategy: Kids are very vulnerable to this kind of incident.  As a rule, if you can see the driver, seek to establish eye contact before riding behind the parked vehicle.  Also be on the lookout for reversing lights or alarms.