Two-wheeled jalopies

Are bikes unreliable? I mean “1930s dustbowl junker full of starving Oakies broken down at the side of the road” unreliable, and compared to the slick, service every 60,000 km cars being made today? I’ve had two flats in the last two months, the first resulting from a complete tire failure and blowout, the second a spontanous leak in an inner tube – which happened in the dark on a paved trail south of Edward’s Gardens and which took over an hour to fix (I broke a tool trying to get the damn tire off).

Recently I had to replace my pannier rack, as one of the welds had broken. Oh, and when I had the tire fixed the second time, the rear wheel also needed to be trued as all the spokes were loose, maintenance which I had performed at the shop in the late spring. And this is a good wheel, a Mavic something or other which replaced the stock wheel when I wore that out after three years. Then there are fender issues, cable problems, brake pads to adjust or replace, tires that need frequent topping up, a chain I grease constantly and have to replace two times per year…the list goes on.

I ride a lot – about 100 km per week – but that’s nothing compared to how far people drive their vehicles each week without incident. Yet it seems I suffer a lot of cycling downtime, which is of special inconvenience because I only have one bike and I use it to commute. Do bikes suck for reliability? Is there going to be a time in 30 years when we look back and smile at what cyclists had to put up with? Or is this simply a byproduct of the simple fact that the weight ratio of rider to vehicle – at least in my case – is 8 to 1. While the ratio for, say, my shameful minivan, is 18 to 1 – vehicle to rider.

Do you think bike manufacturers have gone too far trying to make bicycles light? Or do I need a tougher, heavier bike? I’m curious to know the experience of other riders. Pipe up!

1 thought on “Two-wheeled jalopies”

  1. It amazes me that we still use tires that are so fragile and that a flat can lead to total vehicle — bike or car — immobilization. Could we not fill bike tires with a lightweight solid or gel-like material — silicon, styrofoam, etc. — that can survive puncture from a small piece of glass or stray wire? Maybe it would be slower, but I think your average commuter would take that tradeoff.

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