While cycling in Aruba recently, I came across a group of young Dutch boys standing in the middle of the road with a confused look upon their faces.
When I approached the group of five, one of the taller boys came towards me and said something in Dutch. I don’t know exactly what he said, but I knew what he wanted.
He and his friends had decided to go out on a bike ride and not a single one of them had thought to bring a pump, patch kit, tire levers, or spare tube. One of the boys had a flat tire and they wanted to know if they could use my tools to try and patch up the deflated tube.
Lucky for them I had come along at just the right time.
I gladly passed over my pump, patch kit, and tire levers. I would have given them a spare tube had I had one that would have fit inside their 26-inch mountain bike tires.
For the next ten to fifteen minutes the boys worked on the flat, trying to repair the damage… but were ultimately unsuccessful. I tried to help them with the patch job, but was confident that these young Dutch cyclists must know a thing or two about patching tubes themselves, so I didn’t interfere.
In the end, the boys had to use their cell phone to call a friend to come and pick them up in a car. They gave me 10 Aruban Florins for my trouble and snapped photos of me as I rode off on my strange looking folding bike.
The reason I tell this story is because I’ve received some criticism from other bicyclists in the past because I always leave on tour with at least two spare tubes in my possession.
“Why carry so many tubes when you can just patch up the tube you’ve got?” they say.
Well, I’ll tell you!
The reason I always carry at least two spare tubes is because I don’t want to the be the one stranded out in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire and no way of fixing it. On top of that, I simply hate trying to patch up a bicycle tube. I’d much rather grab a brand new tube and throw it in my tire and be down with it. Patch jobs make me nervous… and the last think I want to be when out on my bicycle is nervous!
Over the years I’ve come to the rescue of many cyclists who left home without a spare tube and found themselves with a flat tire and no way of fixing the flat or replacing it with a spare. Lucky for them, I always carry a couple spare tubes, so I was happy to help when I could.
The point I’m trying to make is that with something as important as your tires, you don’t want to chance being stuck out in the middle of nowhere with no other option but begging for someone to help you.
An important part of bicycle touring is that you do everything in your power to be as self-sufficient as possible. To me, being self-sufficient means having a backup plan. And a good backup plan on any bicycle tour involves carrying at least 2 spare tubes.
At least that’s what I think anyway……..