The Phone Call of Shame

11.15.2005 | 3:58 pm

I was really looking forward to my ride last Saturday. It was the first time in several weeks I’d be able to ditch my fenderized, light-laden, geared bike —in favor of my fixie, my current favorite bike.

When all your riding has been your commute, you start to forget how free a bike can feel. You forget that bike rides don’t have to go anywhere. You forget what it’s like to just carry what you need for the ride, instead of having to pack clothes and food for the day. You forget what it feels like to go riding without a messenger bag slung over your shoulder. You forget what it’s like to ride in daylight, if you live far enough north.



So, around 10:00a.m., I checked my air pressure, stuffed a Clif bar into my left jersey pocket (the one I can get into most easily), a phone into the right (I have a tough time getting into that pocket; I’ve separated my shoulder so many times it’s ruined my range of motion), and a water bottle in the middle pocket. I loaded up the new seat bag I got for this bike (thanks, Banjo Brothers) with a tube and a 16g CO2 cartridge and a twist-on valve. I had everything I needed for my ride.

Or so I thought.

Raise your hand if you already know what I was missing.

OK, put it down. I was just kidding. You look silly with your hand in the air like that.

That said, you for sure don’t look as silly as I was about to feel.


The Joy of Riding in Solitude

Not everyone likes riding alone. I do. Riding’s when good ideas come to me, or, when I’m lucky, when I stop having ideas at all. I don’t have an MP3 player; for me riding and music don’t mix.

So after a quick couple miles of descending from the Sammamish plateau, I was in farmland, riding the quiet country roads of Sammamish, Carnation, Fall City and Snoqualmie. It’s perfect terrain for fixies: fairly flat, with occasional climbs and descents to keep things interesting. The requirement of keeping a smooth cadence occupies you just enough that you start spinning smoothly, and soon you stop having the cranks reminding you that coasting is strictly against the rules.


Bliss, Interrupted

I was enjoying the independence of riding alone — exploring the area, picking turns at random, going where I wanted to go at the pace that felt right for the moment — when the rear wheel went flat.

“I need to change out these tires for Armadillos,” I thought, as I rolled to a stop. There’s so much debris on the road this time of year. I unzipped my bag and got out the tube, air cartridge, and valve.

I wasn’t upset; changing out a tube on a road bike is a quick, easy task.

Except there was one slight problem: I didn’t have a wrench.

As a rider who has never had anything but quick release skewers, making a wrench a part of my tube-change kit hadn’t even occurred to me.

In short, I had a flat, in the middle of nowhere, without any way to fix the flat.


To the Rescue

I just stood there for a minute, unable to believe my stupidity. Here I was in a beautiful place to go ride, at a beautiful time to ride, with a beautiful bike for riding. And I could not ride my bike.

That just seemed wrong.

And also, I hated myself.

Not having a MacGuyver gene, though, I couldn’t see a way around it. My ride was done, just as it was getting good. I got out my phone and called my wife.

Now, I should say that I normally really enjoy talking to my wife on the phone. We have plenty to say to each other. But whenever I’ve had to call to say I need rescuing, she knows the conversation is not going to contain lots of cheerful banter, because I am simultaneously doing the following:

  • Admitting I have not prepared adequately
  • Confessing I am a poor mechanic
  • Showing that I am not the self-sufficient, independent soul I like to imagine myself being while I am on the bike Losing brownie points by the truckload, because not only am I not contributing to the care and feeding of the children at that moment, I am being yet another needy child who needs her help.

Suffice it to say: making the call for help is not my favorite thing to do.

Imagine my joy, then, when as I was talking with my wife — trying to explain the complex series of turns I had made to get onto this particular farm road — another cyclist rolled to a stop beside me and asked if I needed any help.

“Do you have a wrench?” I asked doubtfully, pointing toward my rear wheel’s axle.

He did. He did!

“I’ll call you back in a minute,” I told my wife.


Thanks, Alex

The helpful cyclist’s name is Alex, from the Netherlands. As we both worked on my first fixie tube change — which went smoothly, to my relief — he told me he’s getting ready to do an IronMan in New Zealand this March. It’ll be his first non-sprint-length tri. Good luck, Alex, and thanks for use of the wrench.

Once the tire was on, I inflated it in 2.2 seconds — I really, really love CO2 — and he took off in the other direction. I called my wife and told her that my ride had been salvaged.



It was starting to rain, but not hard: more like a humidifier set on super-duper-high. The nice thing about the flat I just had was that it happened at the highest point of the ride; I was able to get up to speed and into a biking groove fairly quickly. I cruised through farmland, spun through the town of Carnation and then through Carnation Marsh, looking for the bald eagle I sometimes see there. Not today.

Finally, I got back to Highway 202. I could turn left and head toward Snoqualmie Falls; that’s a beautiful ride. Or I could go straight and ride along Issaquah/Fall City Road. That’s steep, but another great ride. Or I could turn right and head home. I turned left; I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that much climbing in a fixie today.

And that’s when I got my second flat.

With no wrench, no CO2 cartridge, and no tube, this time my ride was over.

I could see no way out of it. It was time to make The Phone Call of Shame. I called my wife and told her I was stranded. She told me she was out shopping with the kids, but would cut it short and come get me. Which means that in addition to the other things I hate about making this call, I now got to deal with the fact that I was actually making her rejigger her schedule stop doing something productive (well, technically it was more consumptive than productive, but it needed doing) to come and rescue my sorry, helpless self.


The Theory

It would be about 45 minutes ‘til my wife would get from where she was to where I was, during which I had time to think: I haven’t always had a mobile phone. What would I have done with this situation if I didn’t have the mobile phone crutch? Walk all the way home? Maybe. Knock on a door and call my wife from there? Maybe, but it wouldn’t have done any good — in the pre-mobile phone scenario, my wife would have still been out shopping.

Or would I, perhaps, maybe been better prepared? I mean, it’s not like this was some crazy, impossible-to-anticipate emergency. A double flat on scree-rich roads is not unheard of.

Yeah, that’s probably the answer. I’ve replaced bike tools with a phone, and now I was dealing with the consequences — instead of riding, I was taking my bike for a walk. It’s not a dignified picture: a middle-aged guy in tights, walking beside his bike awkwardly because of his stiff-soled shoes and monster-sized cleats (I use Speedplays on my road bike, which are great when you’re riding and terrible when you’re walking).


The Resolution and Questions

Today, I’m buying a toolkit (including a wrench) and Armadillos for the track bike. I don’t want to have to make The Phone Call of Shame again anytime soon.

I’m sure, of course, that I’m the only one who’s had to make The Phone Call of Shame, and doubly certain that I’m the only one who’s had to make it for such a lame reason. And I’m absolutely sure that I’m the only one who has seriously mixed feelings about having a phone along for the ride at all.




  1. Comment by Big Guy on a Bicycle | 11.15.2005 | 4:22 pm

    I have been extremely fortunate in that I have only once had to make the call of shame. Being better prepared would not have helped me. Well, maybe, but how many riders do you know who carry extra spokes? I lost three in short order and had an unrideable wheel. I was only two miles from being back home, but I also ride with the Speedplay ice skates on my feet.I still carry the phone with me on every ride, though. My wife likes to play the psychic game. She only ever calls when I’m grinding out of the saddle on some wicked climb (or, if I’m mountain biking, in the middle of the most technical part of the trail).

  2. Comment by Unknown | 11.15.2005 | 4:29 pm

    that’s not the phone call of shame, it’s the phone call of not being prepared with a toolkit. totally different.this summer i rode with my brother in law from my house at suncrest (elevation 6,000 ft), down to the valley, across the valley (elevation 4,400 ft) and up little cottonwood canyon to snowbird (elevation 8,000 feet). and back. but i’d been out on the boat most of the day, in 100 degree (F) weather. i was parched. as rick and i approached the gas station at the bottom of the 4 mile, 1600 foot climb to my house, i surreptitiously dropped off the back just a tich, and called my wife."come get me at the gas station" i whispered into the phone. she couldn’t hear me. "come and get me at the gas station!" i whispered, fiercely. still nothing."I’M COOKED! COME PICK ME UP AT THE GAS STATION! I CAN’T RIDE UP THE HILL WITHOUT DYING!"now that’s the phone call of shame. rick didn’t even look back, he just shook his head disgustedly and rode up the hill.

  3. Comment by Unknown | 11.15.2005 | 4:35 pm

    Never. Having said that, it will now certainly happen. Once I was riding home from work when, out of a clear blue sky came the ultimate microburst. I had been caught in the worst of the storm so I was soaked to the skin. It was not cold out–just really wet, and I was having a great time. About 1/2 way through the ride, lightning struck really, really close. The lightning struck a 65 ft. tree which fell it right into my path on th trail home. At the very instant that the lightning/tree thing happened, my wife, saint that she is, rolled up in the minivan knowing the route that I normally traveled home to rescue me from myself.How pathetic is it that, as she claims to know what I am thinking before I think it, she arrives to drag me out of danger when I needed it most? I don’t have to make a call of shame. I ooz it.

  4. Comment by Tom Stormcrowe | 11.15.2005 | 4:41 pm’s a link to my "Call of Shame"post on my blog! I had to call my wife to come pick me up and my bike!

  5. Comment by Unknown | 11.15.2005 | 4:55 pm

    In my racing days back in the ’70s I used to ride with a guy who didn’t carry a spare tire. In those days it was customary to carry a spare sew-up on rides. When he got a flat, he just rode home on the flat tire. If there was grass on the side of the road, he rode on that. If not, he just bumped along the pavement on the flat tire. Ah, youth.

  6. Comment by Zed | 11.15.2005 | 5:03 pm

    How about the call of self-consciousness? I don’t carry a cell. Even if you offered me the best contract with the fewest strings attached, I’d probably still be resisting carrying a cell. One day I was on a wicked awesome ride. I’d already completed a climb up to a ski hill and was only two or three miles from home when I ran something over and didn’t just flat, I put a good-sized hole in my tyre. After my saddle bag was stolen last year, I’d been avoiding carrying the flat kit with me or even replacing it at all (I hadn’t even replaced my CO2 inflater yet, and I certainly wasn’t carrying a spare). As I walking my totally exhausted, sweaty, pathetic, spandex-clad self back along the road, I passed a girls’ high school basketball team having a practice on some girl’s driveway. My brain was cooked anyway, so I walked up and asked one of the girls if she had a cell. Of course she looked me head-to-toe and gave me that look that says, "Circus Freak in Spandex!" but she did lend me her phone, and I did call my wife, and she did pick me up, and it did take a mile or two off of my walk home. That said, I replaced my flat kit (and my tyre), and I now carry it in my pocket on every ride.Actually, my first flat was a similarly embarrassing experience, and I’ll share it if you’re interested.

  7. Comment by Unknown | 11.15.2005 | 5:09 pm

    Calls of shame happen. My most recent came when I blew a sewup on the back of my fixie, installed and pumped up the spare, and found that was flat, too. Sucked all the worse because a couple of friends stopped and waited for me despite my asking them to go ahead with the team and enjoy themselves.Earlier this summer I blew out a (wired-on) tire’s sidewall while trying to get the hang of cO2 cartridges. I was saved from my stupidity only because a woman who caught up to me happened to have a boot. That night, as pennance, I sacrificed an old sewup and cut it into two dozen boots, which I distributed at the next ride.My tool kit has grown and grown over the past year, to where I now carry a pretty comprehensive tool set, wire ties, duct tape, boots, two tubes, a full patch kit, and a full-size frame pump. Oh, and a $20 bill and a phone. ‘Cause you never know.Kris GreenFat and (sometimes, at least) stupid bike guy

  8. Comment by Unknown | 11.15.2005 | 5:20 pm

    Fatty,Four words to live by: two tubes, one pump. I used to carry a spare tire in the days of lesser technology, now the spare tire is one I always carry biking or not. I have made the call from being cooked (eighty mile ride after an illness I was just over with a former national team member roadie who was very healthy), but most interestingly from a mechanical I could not have foreseen. On my 1970 Gitane Tour de France (now my fixie), I replaced the french bottom bracket with a Campy one and had to rethread the BB in order to do this. What I learned out in the country on a cold wet day is that rethreading a BB leaves it a little larger than it formerly was. My fixed cup (that’s the chain wheel side for you non-mechanics) spun out. I have never heard of anyone who carries a BB wrench with them, and I certainly didn’t. After screwing it back in a couple of times in order to learn that they spin back out in about 1/2 a mile, I gave up and called because I was still way out of town. Lock-tite works well but one needs to do that in the bake stand and not on the road. This actually happened again last spring because another guy had gone through my fixie and didn’t know he needed to use lock-tite. This time, though, I kept hopping off and screwing it back in until I got home which took a long time.

  9. Comment by agreenmouther | 11.15.2005 | 5:48 pm

    As a student, my fear is that I CAN’T make a call of shame. I carry a toolkit, but I’m horrible at bike maintainence. And I carry a phone, but I have no one to call. Even if my roomates were here and picked up the phone, no one has a car to come pick me up. Every time I go out there is a little bit of an anxiety game; "Will I get stranded today? What would I do, call mom? (mom is half a seaboard away)". Luckily, my two flats have both occurred within less than a mile of my dorm, where I could gently walk the bike back and change them there vs. along the side of the road.

  10. Comment by tayfuryagci | 11.15.2005 | 5:54 pm

    I did the call of shame once. It was about 10 miles from my house. I just couldn’t find the puncture on the tube. I called my dad and he took me on the way from work. Now I always carry a spare tube with me.

  11. Comment by Robert | 11.15.2005 | 5:56 pm

    I didn’t have a cell phone when I got my second flat out in the farmlands of Indiana. I walked home eight miles clacking my cleats on the asphalt.

  12. Comment by Unknown | 11.15.2005 | 6:11 pm

    I might be old school (although not so old school that I don’t believe in cell phones, clipless pedals, or, y’know, gears), but I always carry a tube, a pump, and a patch kit. And I like to believe that I would carry a wrench were I to have bolt-on wheels.

  13. Comment by Stephen | 11.15.2005 | 6:14 pm

    Hiya Fatty!Can I call you Fatty? I mean, you don’t even know me, but since I "lurked" here for several months before summoning up the intestinal fortitude to have a go myself, I feel as tho I know at least a little bit about you.I have always considered yours’ to be one of my favorite blogs, for a number of reasons, but mostly because I can easily relate. I used to ride my bike to work, every day, 13.5 miles each way. Got into the best shape of my life. Well, my middle-aged life anyway – I was 40 at the time.Now that gravity is having it’s way with me (and I’m not even getting a kiss after, either) and I can now no longer actually look down and see my genitalia, I have decided to pump up the tires, and begin riding again.Not the epics you do, certainly. But maybe middle distance rides – you know – like around the block for instance.In any event, most pleased to make your acquataince, and thank you so much, for all the grins, smiles, chuckles, chortles, and By God belly laughs over the months.Drop by any time – the door is always open, and you’ll be most welcome anytime.steve

  14. Comment by a | 11.15.2005 | 6:37 pm

    my wife is really going to start nagging me about getting a cell phone after this. she started after your last run-in w/ the presbyterian (what ever happened with all that, btw).so, i have no call of shame, but i do have a walk of shame. i had a pinch flat, and it was too big to fix with a patch so i put on the spare tube. as i was pumping it up i broke the valve. it was my only tube and despite my best attempts at rigging the valve w/ numerous patches the tube was ruined. oh well, walking 2 miles in riding shoes w/ monster-sized cleats gives the calves a good stretch.

  15. Comment by Iain | 11.15.2005 | 6:39 pm

    Really enjoying your recent blog entries. I’m afraid to admit it but I’m with dug on my most shameful call, the "pick me up I’ve blown up" call.

  16. Comment by Unknown | 11.15.2005 | 6:43 pm

    If you want a wrench for your fixie check out Surly’s Jethro Tule <>My son is a fixie-crazed college guy and I have one too. His has the nuts on the rear hub and the tool has come in very handy. Lighter and cooler than a big ‘ol wrench or vise-grips.

  17. Comment by Unknown | 11.15.2005 | 6:54 pm

    Hi FC:De-lurking for a moment to say that sometimes it’s possible to fix a flat on a bolt-on axle wheel without a wrench. If you can find the cause of the flat by inspecting the surface of the tire — thorn, nail, glass, whatever — you can just pull out the damaged section of tube and patch it. Of course, you’d still need a patch kit and a pump, and if you remember those, you can probably remember a wrench. And in case this sounds smug, let me share that I only thought of this solution after walking my fixie three miles to the nearest shop upon getting a rear flat on my morning commute. I had a pump and patch kit but had forgotten the wrench, cell phone, and apparently, my brain.

  18. Comment by phil | 11.15.2005 | 7:10 pm

    Being a mountain biker I have never experienced the call of shame. The ‘walk of shame’ back to the car has been experienced a few times.I personally dread the "call of pain" which is made from the emergency dept. "Hi honey, I am going to be a bit later than expected I have a suspected broken rib/wrist/finger etc and am at the hospital, nothing serious etc etc"

  19. Comment by Paul Beard | 11.15.2005 | 7:23 pm

    I made the call of shame to my wife last winter for the first time in years. My fixie chain broke and I had to shorten the chain to repair but it then wouldn’t fit the drop-outs. Question – any reason not to use quick-releases with a fixie? I use a Surley flip-flop hub with a quick-release and haven’t had any problems.

  20. Comment by James | 11.15.2005 | 7:38 pm

    Yo Elden-Funny, I went out at about 10AM (EST) on Saturday to enjoy a nice long ride on my fixie. I’ve been doing the long rides on the fixed gear for the last few weeks, and I’m surprised at how much fun it is. So far I’ve remembered to slip that big, chrome 15mm combo wrench in my jersey pocket, but my day will come.You need to talk to the five-string family about getting you a bigger seat bag. I’ll admit that my clubmates sometimes make fun of my oversize bag, which contains two tubes, patch kit, multi tool and probably a repair manual; I haven’t dug all the way to the bottom in a while. However, the "turn your head and cough" comments stopped the day I loaned out both tubes and my pump on a group ride (and also the spoke wrench, but that’s another matter). I’d love to get a Phil hub that has 6mm bolts instead of 15mm nuts, so I could ditch the wrench. But that bag isn’t going anywhere.

  21. Comment by Unknown | 11.15.2005 | 7:59 pm

    Dug, I am shocked that you would admit doing something like that. You are soft like mayonaise, an unashamed. I don’t care if you live atop the Col du Tourmalet – getting to within 4 miles of home then making the call is weak like green tea. But then admitting to it? As your court appointed representative, I advise you to never speak of this again. Or to at least ride with Rocky, because even though he hasn’t made the call of shame, it’s clear God is trying to kill him, and somebody is going to have to make a difficult call to his wife sooner or later, so it might as well be somebody with no compunction about commmunicating impossibly difficult things on the phone. Fatty, I wholeheartedly recommmend the armadillos. I picked mine up during a three flat hill ride. Mid ride, I was picking up new holes in the tire every several hundred yards it seemed. I pulled out to the car, drove to the nearest bike shop, bought the armadillos, and haven’t had a flat in 6 weeks. Of course I’m doomed now, having said that.

  22. Comment by Unknown | 11.15.2005 | 8:22 pm

    Fixiephan – it depends on your riding style, power, and possibly the skewers you use. Sheldon Brown says lightweight aluminum skewers are wimpy and can break or flex. As for power & style, I’m large and strip out cranks & bottom brackets that aren’t robust when I climb hills, so when I was running skewers on my single speed I had trouble getting them tight enough to keep the axle in place on climbs. When I converted the single to fixed gear a few weeks back, I switched to nuts, and the axle has been very stable so far, no motion at all, including a hilly 30 miler last weekend.

  23. Comment by Unknown | 11.15.2005 | 8:36 pm

    I was riding my bicycle outside York in the UK. I had just pulled out of the huge (horse) race track (basically a huge grassy field) where they were holding a "Bike Rallye" when I popped a spoke. My wheelset only has 16 per wheel, so that was the end of my day. I walked back to the Rallye, hoping that there might be a tech there who could sell me a spoke then help me install it, true the wheel, etc. Instead, I found a vendor who was more than happy to sell me another pair of the same wheels for a (mere) 140 pounds! Uh, no.Not having anyone to call, I got to walk four miles back to the train station on my Speedplays, *carrying* my bike. It was the back wheel that was out of true, so it wouldn’t roll at all. After four miles, you find out how much even a carbon bike really weighs. And bike shoes aren’t meant for that. My big toenail still isn’t right after that incident, five months later.

  24. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 11.15.2005 | 10:02 pm

    bgoab / dug – together, you help clarify what the definition of a "Phone Call of Shame" is. bgoab, you had an honest and unfixable mechanical; there’s no shame in making a call for that. dug, clearly your call was one of shame; i love that you are able to share your shame in such a candid manner. fairy.rocky – lightning strike? al’s right; something’s out to get you. further, i assert that having your wife know you so well that she knows you ought to be calling and taking preemptive measures because she know’s you’re too dumb to get out the phone is a whole new kind of shameful.stormcrowe – to me, riding until you’re fully cooked is not exactly shameful. i always take a little bit of pride in being fully wiped out. stan – so what did his rim look like afterward? caloi – i read your story about your flat on your blog; good stuff. it’s almost as if you write for a living.kris green – unless you’re a top racer, is there really a reason to have sew-ons anymore? i’m not saying there isn’t a reason, i just don’t know what it would be.jimserotta – i’m going to modify your words to live by to 2 tubes, 2 CO2 cartridges. man, i love the 3-second inflate. and with the armadillos, i probably won’t need to ever change tubes again.ccm – no one to call? that’s rough. i’d probably just ride around in tiny little circles to avoid getting into a situation i couldn’t get out of.bob – for crying out loud, get a phone. you don’t have to turn it on unless you want to use it, you know.sasha – thanks for the lemon juice. just what my wounds needed. meanie.pilgrim – nice to have you here. you’re welcome to stop by anytime, as long as you promise to never use the "i can’t see my genetalia" image again. (shudder)nikared – there’s nothing shameful about having a cel phone. there’s just shame in using it. weird.iain – there’s no shame in blowing up, unless everyone around you is feeling fine. so i’m suspending judgement for now.andy – thanks for the wrench recommendo. i’m going to get one.fixiephan – nothing more frustrating than thinking you’ve made a repair successfully and finding out you haven’t. wait, actually there are dozens of more frustrating things, but this isn’t the time for that list.james scott – the banjo bros have a mtb-sized seat bag, which ought to hold everything i need. i’m sorry, but i just can’t make myself carry one of those enormous seat bags i think you’re talking about. i just can’ – the armadillos are great; i’ve been using them on my regular road bike for years. pretty much bulletproof. and that may be literal, because i think they’re lined with kevlar. haven’t verified that, though.sanford – four miles on speedplays? and you can still walk? man, you must be made of stern stuff.

  25. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 11.15.2005 | 10:02 pm

    Laying half dead in a ditch. That’s when you pull out the phone. Anything less exposes your soft underbelly to the ones who say they love you, but in truth are just waiting to pounce. There is always room for 2 tubes in your kit, and even Cletus in his ‘56 pick-up will have a wrench you can borrow.There is a difference between a reason and an excuse. It’s a grey area that is occupied by wimps and the dis-organised.

  26. Comment by Unknown | 11.15.2005 | 10:17 pm

    al, you’re not shocked. nothing’s shocking, except that nothing’s shocking. have i no shame? i’ve never read moby dick. i’m taking a spin class. i sometimes don’t see movies, but read the reviews on metacritic and pretend i have. i graduated from college with a 2.98 grade point average but tell people i got a 3.0. i’ve let the air out of my tires to avoid finishing a really hard cross race in driving sleet. i sleep naked.not climbing my personal tourmalet is the least of my worries. you’re right. i have no shame.

  27. Comment by TIMOTHY | 11.15.2005 | 10:51 pm

    One of the nice things about living in Montana is that (most) people are very friendly and willing to help out a stranger in need. Twice now I’ve been out in the country (anywhere in Montana is not far from "out in the country") fixing flat tires and the first truck that came along stopped to see if I needed a ride into town. It’s a nice feeling to know that complete strangers are willing to help you out – and I figured that most Montana ranchers would think that a skinny guy in spandex was, well, maybe a little strange.I did once have to make a call of shame – it was cold, starting to rain and windy. I was about 2 miles from home and I cracked a rim. I had everything I needed to fix the flat tire, but not a spare rim, or rain coat, or any warm clothes. I had to call a friend of ours to come save me because my wife was at work (she’s in the Air Force and at the time she was a "missileer": meaning that she was 80 feet underground in a hardened capsule with her finger on "the button"). More shameful I think because it was a non-cyclist who was more of a friend of my wife’s than mine, but we were fairly new to town and it was the only person I knew of at the time who could come rescue me from certain hypothermia.

  28. Comment by Unknown | 11.16.2005 | 12:15 am

    I neither ride with nor own a mobile phone and thus never make calls of shame. However, as the proud holder of an advanced degree in idiocy, I often wish I have a phone and could make a call of shame, to wit a long story, which I hasten to point out, has no point. A bit of background. The area in which I live is impoverished; impoverished especially in rural areas. I ride often in the countryside. As such, I see small settlements of poor folks, whose main source of income — I am forced to conclude — has something to do with meth or kidnapping random cyclist and baking them into pies of various sorts. O the plus side it is a very pretty countryside. Now, I need to get from home to elsewhere to to see a gal pal. Until recently, I used a route that was very hilly. Although slimmer, I am still too large to climb with alacrity. So, as the weather warms, I seek flatter routes. An aside: I am usually endlessly well prepared: I carry three liters of fluid, fig newtons and peanutbutter and jelly sandwiches; plus I travel with at least one spare tube plus a patch kit pump and various tools. In addition, I usually either have the route memorized, from constant repetition, or I take a map or two. In short, I am prepared for all manner of misadventures. This past weekend, however, I left with only the necessary food and water. I planned to take a route I knew. I had patched, several times, some tubes and thus had only one spare and no patches. But, I reasoned, I never get more than one flat. So, I started to ride a normal route. However, my legs felt good and I wanted a new route. I thought that I remembered an alternative route that broke off just before the big hill. So, I turned to the left and followed Creek Road. This was mistake number one. I had misremembered the name. I wanted Old County Road. Alas, I had forgotten the name. I followed Creek Road for a good long way, and it became increasingly clear that I was lost. I axed some rube the proper way forward; he didn’t know but said, essentially, keep on going, so on I went. Eventually, I was really lost. I saw the Upstate version of a Norwegian bachelor farmer. I eventually gained his attention. He launched into a long and largely incomprehensible explanation of the proper way to get from where I was to where I wanted to be. Onward I went. As it turned out, I did finally find the way. It was, as the farmer promised, very "scenic." After a pleasant day or so, I clambered back on the bike to return home. Again, without a map, I bethought myself to take a different route home. Again, I got hopelessly lost. Again, I stumbled upon a pleasant set of rubes who sent me on the more or less correct way. I should point out that at this point the ride was twenty miles further than necessary and, what was worse, up steepish hills. Also, I had intended to purchase either a tube or a patch kit, but suffering from the early onset of brain stiffening, I forgot. After a tortuous but surprisingly swift and visually stunning journey, I was back on roads I recognized. As I descended the last big hill to a point about 30 minutes from home, the sun broke through what had heretofore been a gray and overcast sky, the wind, which had been in my mug the whole day, stopped and, viola!!, I exclaimed, a successful ride. As if to remind me of the reality of life, hisssss went the front tire. I stopped and, oddly enough, was pleased. The tire could have gone in the depths of Deliverance land [I was half-way up a very steep hill, on my right a large and clearly abandoned former farm, jeez louise what a wreck and yet there out front two women leaning over a mini van discussing how best to kill and eat the next fool who wandered by] or when during the descent shades of Joseba Beloki, either or which would have led to — if not — death — at least disfigurement or Stephan King’s version of misery. So, I beset myself the task of changing the bad tube with the good. I carefully examined the tire for sharp bits; finding none, I replaced t he bad tube with my sole good one. Inflated, replaced, remounted and rode off. Three pedal strokes and hisssss. Clambered off and set off walking, as what choice did I have? Wandering toward the next small burg. By bike it was five minutes away or so. On foot, a half hour or so. A glance at the clock informed me that I would enter the town well after there was any hope of any shop or whathaveyou being open. But onward I trudged. My hope, to honest, was that I would stumble on a fellow cyclist with a patch. Alas, all hope dashed. I arrived and found, as I expected, all stores closed. Espying a youthful yokel on a bike, I enquired of the location and open and close hrs of any local bike related shoppes. He informed me, with real sorrow, that "man" there were no such establishments whose doors on Sunday remained ajar. Faced with a very long trudge and the fact that I had to teach in the AM, I wondered what to do? Suddenly, as in a bolt out of the blue, I recalled a show from PBS in which a bicycling expert insisted that if one found oneself far from home with a leak and no way to fix it, the answer was to find the leak cut the tube and tie it. This, he assured a credulous public, would provide a bumpy but serviceable ride home. Seating myself under a spreading Chestnut tree, I diligently cut, tied and replaced and tried to refill. The tire refused to seat; the tube failed to fill; the valve fell into my lap. Rats, I said. (In truth I was actually grinning like a fool the whole time. Why, you ask? No idea, I reply.) I stumbled further down the street searching for, as the Grateful Dead fans say, a miracle. I found it at the gas station. They had, it turns out and local advice to the contrary, patch kits. Cheap, badly made and more or less useless, but patch kits nonetheless. So I bought one and patched the tube. Clambered on the bike and set off a riding. I spent the last twenty minutes, for in truth I was that close, glancing worriedly at the front tire as I sped along a flat pathway. Zooming with no problems, I arrive at the foot of the hill atop which sits my cozy, which is to say somewhat squalid, bachelor quarters. Hisssss went the tire. Ambling up the hill, I arrived home some three hours after I should have. Sweat covered and weary, I removed yet again the tire and fixed once again the tube (I had actually left a patche and whatnot sitting in plain sight). Reinflated, replaced, and hoped. BANG. No further patches, I walked into school in the morning, taught — in a state of advanced exhaustion — walked to the Bike Shop, purchased two tubes and good patch kit. Walked home, took the tire apart looked for the guilty party, thorn, shard of glass or something unknown, found nothing put in a new tube inflated replaced. BANG, took the tire apart, found what I thought to be the problem patched the tube refilled and replaced: hisss. Eventually, I found a huge gash in the sudewall, how I missed it I do not know, how it was that the tire held the final 10 miles I do not know. Looked at the odo and discovered I rode 100 miles, walked 3, and averaged 14.4 mph. Look out Lance.yrs.alas

  29. Comment by Brie | 11.16.2005 | 12:17 am

    Actually I have used the ‘come out and help me’ call and the ‘pick up request’ before. The come out and help was just this Sunday, I was on my way to meet a friend for a 5:30am start (gets light here in summer), whereby my back tyre got a flat – the nail went right through the tyre and inner tube funnily enough (not really that funny I now have to fork out $$ for replacement tyres). I called and woke up my personal bike mechanic, who came out with tool kit in hand to help – I did have a kit on me but I the spare tube I had was unable to inflate (argh) and I ran out of CO2 gas trying to inflate it (double argh). The only good thing about waking him up is he got to see the soccer that morning. The ‘pick up request’ was on a solo ride, going over a unforseen hole (obviously) and the bump causing the handlebars to slip – and my girly strength wasn’t enough to reef them back into position (plus the allen key kit was safely indoors) – trying to ride was near impossible, so the call was made……guess I am just one big skirt

  30. Comment by Ariane | 11.16.2005 | 1:05 am

    I’m in the same boat as CCM there… I have no cell. So far I haven’t had to make The Call. Though there have been a couple times when I would’ve if I could’ve… Does that count?I carry a CO2 cartridge with me, and *always* keep a spare tube handy– two for long rides (Law of the Universe #387: If you think that you’ll be fine with just the stupid Bell patch repair kit in your geek bag when commuting to and from school, you will wind up siting on the corner under a street lamp, at night, downtown, with all your crap about you, trying to make the patches stick, thinking about the spare tubes siting in your closet). The geek bag is amazing; it’s like a black hole or something. Besides the three things already mentioned, I still have a patch repair kit, in case my spare(s) puncture, a chain tool, a multi tool, a wrench (for the Trundler), a pressure gauge, a folding knife, my keys, and a lighter. I bet I could put a stereo sound system in it.

  31. Comment by Unknown | 11.16.2005 | 2:05 am

    Geez Dug. Do you weep after sex? No, wait. Don’t answer that. Alas, your writing is reminiscent of Thomas Wolfe’s. Not the Bonfire of the Vanities guy, the Of Time and the River guy. Upstate in which state? NY? Because I used to ride around Syracuse/Watertown/Utica, and there’s a place up there that inspired an X-Files episode, the one where the four retarded inbred sons keep the quadruple amputee mother on a mechanic’s roller underneath the bed, and frequently roll her out to jibber jabber incoherently, slop the hogs, copulate and further inbreed. We called it the Fulton Episode, which if you’ve been there, was probably a bit harsh on the X-Files.

  32. Comment by Unknown | 11.16.2005 | 2:24 am

    Hey Fatty,Great topic, hilarious responses. Yes, I to have had to make The call of Shame.I commute all year aroud, and decided it was time to stretch things out last March.The days were getting longer, the weather said a warm front was coming in, what could be better? A couple of friends and I took off from Yakima to do a century east then south to Sunnyside and back to Yakima. Being a weight challenged fellow cyclist, I decided the extra insulation would be enough, so who needed the long tights. Heck, it was forty five degrees out and a warm front was coming in. We start out just as it’s getting light, except it really isn’t getting very light. 15 miles into it it starts to rain, bah, just a little drizzle. 20 miles we’re doing the rooster tail thing and getting soaked.(Fenders? We don’t need no stinking fenders, we’re in a drought over here.) Oh yeah, there is this fresh white stuff 200 feet above us on the side of the hills. But hey, no problem, because there is this warm front coming in. So about 35 miles into the ride we make the turn at the Silver Dollar Cafe onto highway 241 for a little climb over the Rattlesnake Hills. The climb will warm us up I say. Well it did, until we got to the top and the wind picked up. Now just endure the downhill into the wind and then something warm to consume in Sunnyside. Ever been so cold any little jar of the bike sends jolts of lightening up through your arms and spine? But hey, there is this warm front coming in. Then, it feels as if Iv’e broken a spoke and the rear wheel is out of true. But it gets worse and worse. I look down and see the tire looks funny. I put on the brakes and see I have this bulge in the tire, and its getting bigger and bigger. This aneurysm finally gets so big, I can’t get it past the chainstays. Then it blows, which really sucks. Out in the middle of nowhere. Cell phone? I thought you always brought yours, why should I bring mine? Fortunatly just a short way down the road was a farmer willing to let us use his phone."Hi honey, guess what…….." But you know what? My wife really didn’t mind coming to pick me up. It was an early spring day, and they say there is this warm front coming in.

  33. Comment by Ariane | 11.16.2005 | 4:17 am

    Al– Are you serious about Fulton and the X-Files episode? One of my college chums is from Gloversville… we always thought the gene pool there might be… aghem… wanting a nucleotide or two.

  34. Comment by Unknown | 11.16.2005 | 5:30 am

    What a great blog and the comments are wonderful reading, as usual. You attract the greatest people over here, Fatty, which is easy to understand.Hugs to all you great people,MuMo

  35. Comment by Jim | 11.16.2005 | 5:34 am

    One day this past spring, I was riding alone after a recent tune up/rim truing. I heard a metallic "CHINK!!" from the rear wheel, and I thought "I didn’t hit anything… I would have seen it coming"! However, less that 50 feet later, I was riding on the back rim. The rim had a stress crack that didn’t reveal itself until it was trued, and then caused the flat, so carrying any repair items would have been useless. I was thinking where I could use a phone and who had a vehicle that could pick up me & my bike since I had no phone with me either.From out of nowhere a guy & his son came along and gave me a ride home. When I offered to pay the guy, he refused, saying that my payment was to assist any cyclist needing help in the future.Since then, I carry a small multi tool, 2 tubes, 2 C02 cylinders & mini-inflator, a phone and also enough money to make a call if necessary. My friends give me a hard time about carrying all that stuff, but one day, they will be thankful I have it.

  36. Comment by EricGu | 11.16.2005 | 5:37 am

    I’m nicknamed "trip" due to an incident on a group ride. I got to hold up a group of 30 people 3 times before the call of shame.

  37. Comment by Brock | 11.16.2005 | 7:23 am

    I had to make the phone call of shame back in August. I was biking the Quarry Trail in Little Cottonwood Canyon in the mountains by Salt Lake City. Not a difficult trail really, just a fun ride. I was riding on my cheap hardtail just as I always have. coming down hill I was riding too confidently and hit a section of rocks going WAY too fast, my front tire popped and I went flying in a very impressive fashion, right over the handle bars with no where to bail, I had no choice but to eat it, going very fast, into a big pile of sharp, jagged rocks. I tore up my face, blood was dripping off my chin, but I was fine other than that. I scared my buddy who was riding behind me though :) so after I get up, I walked over to my bike to find that I had 2 flats and a seriously bent up rim. I walked my bike to the bottom of the trail and called home asking for a ride. I’ve still got a pretty gnarly scar just above my upper lip, and a helmet with a chunk taken out of it. I was lucky to get out as well as I did! And thats the only time I"ve ever called home. And oh man was it embarrassing…

  38. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 11.16.2005 | 7:29 am

    b-rock – i’m begging you, man: replace the helmet. if it’s missing a chunk, it’s compromised. retire it.

  39. Comment by Unknown | 11.16.2005 | 9:10 am

    My phonecall came at the behest of 2 of my co-riders, but it was mostly my fault (i guess…..). I was leading a short paceline with 2 guys behind me, and as such, it’s my responsibility to point out debris and holes and such. It was a road with only about a 6" shoulder, so I was riding probably 12" inside the white line, and I can’t recall if I didn’t see the pothole that extended to the inside edge of the whiteline, or if I just ignored it because I thought it was too far over. Needless to say, I avoided it, but both guys behind me hit it hard. The first one instantly blew both tires and the second blew his front tire and dinged his rim. So we had 3 flat tubes, 2 damaged tires, and a damaged rim. I had to make the call to a friend in a pickup to pick up my two riding partners….. but I cut my ride short and jumped in the pickup too to add some moral support.

  40. Comment by Unknown | 11.16.2005 | 10:18 am

    I’ve made the Phonecall of Shame a couple of times, but never because of a mechanical failure. More of a error of judgement.I set off on a ride with a friend late one morning. We’d only gone a half dozen or so miles when we passed a pub known for the quality of its beer. So, with promises to just have the one, in we went. Many pints and no food later, we were in no shape to walk, let alone ride home. Our only recourse was to call home. I am still reminded of this incident and a couple of similar episodes, even thougfh they happened over ten years ago. The final words from my wife when I go riding are often "Don’t drink so much that you can’t ride home, because I’m not coming to get you again"Its the again, implying that it happens all the time rather than two or three time in the last 20 years that gets you.

  41. Comment by Unknown | 11.16.2005 | 11:28 am

    I’ve been the guy with the wrench once and the guy with the flat tire and no wrench once. It’s more fun being the guy with the wrench.

  42. Comment by Petra | 04.3.2006 | 12:41 am

    We’d just picked up our spiffy new touring bikes and decided to try them out by biking 20 km to the next city and back. Both of us total newbies to this "long-distance" biking thing. We brought two friends, even bigger amateurs than we were, and what do you know, my rear tire blows out just as we reach our turnaround point. No tools, no spare tube, no patch kit, no pump, no knowledge whatsoever on how the hell to take the tire off, let alone fix the flat. So the friends head off in search of a store selling patch kits, while I hang out with the bike on the corner of a busy intersection. I look like a cycling beggar on the streetcorner, and people swerve to avoid me when I approach them to ask the time. An hour later, they’re back with the patch kit. We canvas the neighborhood to borrow the tools needed for the fix, call my dad to find out how exactly this patch thing works ("You mean we don’t plaster it on the OUTSIDE of the TIRE? There’s a tube on the inside? Oooooohhh, hey neat!"), get sandwiches to keep the friends happy, and get down to work, right there on the main street corner. Almost two hours later, we’re finally ready to ride back. Longest flat I’ve ever fixed.

  43. Pingback by Storms, cool images and heat stress | Adventure Monkey | 07.25.2011 | 11:46 am

    [...] peanuts, caramel and sugar had no appeal. If I couldn’t eat, I was going to have to make the call of shame and get a ride home. How wimpy is that? 56 miles and done? This couldn’t be. I continued to [...]


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