Would You Get Your Hands Dirty? Or, Are You a “Blind Passer-by”?

You may recall from previous blogs that I ride a road bike for fun and exercise. The other day I was riding along and darn… I got a flat tire. It was a beautiful day and I wanted to get in a long ride. I hadn’t had a flat for while and was little rusty at changing my back tire. So I knew it was likely 15 to 20 minutes before I fixed it and was back on my bike, soaking in the sun (flat tire pros will scoff at this amount of time). There is a protocol in road biking: when you ride by someone who is off their bike on the side of the road, you ask them, “Do you have everything you need?” Or, “Do you need any assistance?” This is especially true on a country road and or when services are not easily accessible. Unfortunately, it’s not always convenient for the person riding by. We are all busy people, but it is the right thing to do. A tool or an extra pair of hands can really make a difference to a stranded biker. Ideally we go out biking prepared to be self sufficient, but circumstances can leave us in a tight spot from time to time. We all are likely to need help sometime.

On this particularity perfect day for riding, about 30 bikers passed by me while I was on the side of the road working on my tire (Mercer Island, Washington is a hot spot for road bikers). Interestingly about fifty percent asked me if I had everything I needed and/or stopped to see if they might help. One rider actually helped me with my chain which somehow got tangled up in the process. I could have managed it by myself, but the extra hands were really appreciated. This rider, as part of being generous, ended up with a hand full of grease; stopping to help meant “getting their hands dirty.” Chain grease is messy and something to be avoided. I greatly appreciated the support.

The other fifty percent rode by without saying a word and usually avoided trying to have any eye contact with me whatsoever. A few had an uncanny way of looking past me like I really didn’t exist at the side of the road. It was like I was the invisible man. Now I would be naïve not to think a lot of people who asked were actually hoping I would decline. I believe that if I did ask, most if not all, even if reluctantly, would have stopped to help. I did however become curious about the fifty percent that didn’t. Why not ask? Why not stop? There are probably lots of reasons unique to each person. However I do want to focus on and applaud those that were prepared to get their hands dirty.

Character Move: Who do you think at work may be struggling and needing a little assistance? Who might have a metaphorical flat tire? I know they are there “struggling on the side of the road.”

  1. Be observant. Make that eye contact. Care about them (and yourself).
  2. Genuinely ask if they have what they need and/or if they need help.
  3. Be prepared to stop and get your hands dirty. They might take you up on it.
  4. Helping does not mean you have to become the “fixer;” perhaps just a little encouragement, a lending hand, or a little listening is all that is needed.
  5. Recognize that your schedule may be impacted but your character will be too!!


Get your hands dirty on the Triangle,


  1. lorne says:

    thanks for sharing with your bike group and commenting


  2. Ali says:

    Wow, 50%? Yikes, I’d say we are more like 90% asking/stopping to 10% not here in IA and typically the 10% are folks who I’d guess have no idea how to change a tire/are rec riders. It’s interesting to ponder what demographics has to do with this.

    Come to Ragbrai…it’s a love fest! 🙂

  3. Lyn says:

    Thank you for this blog. While not a cyclist, I look forward to the time when we growth as a civilization and the percentage of people who ask to help is 90% instead of the 50% you experienced on your ride.

  4. Paul says:

    (42 Sales Exec, California) A thought provoking post. I’m a believer in that there’s a legitimate reason why people behave the way they do. As a long-time sales person, and before that was in customer service, I tend to forget that not everyone is as comfortable being around new people as salespeople are. I think there are many reasons why passers-by would not stop to help, some of them are:

    – The stopped cyclist is not waving that he needs help, and the passer by is enjoying the only time off he has all week, he’s not a very outgoing person by nature, and he assumes the stranded passer-by has a cell phone.

    – Because the passer by is not the outgoing type, he’s worried that if he stops to help that person it’s going to make him uncomfortable especially since he’s lousy at small talk, and it will make him very self concious and will feel like he’s being judged for his poor chatting skills.

    – The passer-by had a really rough week at work and that bike ride is the only 2 hours he has to himself where he can have some peace and enjoy the outdoors. Not that he will ignore a wave for help, but if there’s no wave he assumes the stranded guy is ok and will fix the bike and has a cell phone.

    ………then again, it might be that he does have bad character and enjoys seeing others struggling, it gives them a twisted sense of satisfaction. Not a noble thing, but those types of people are out there.

    • lorne says:

      Thank you Paul…it is probably not helpful to judge people as having ” bad character’ for not asking or stopping…but I want to reinforce the good will that comes to those that do….appreciate you following and commenting Paul

  5. Anita says:

    great blog

  6. Les says:


    Great post. I too am an avid road cyclist. I’m always amazed when riders blow past other riders in need. Recently, the organizer of my local club openly debated whether or not we should allow new riders in for next season. His reasoning is based on seeing several team members on the trail (we are 500+ strong and wear very distinct jerseys) and they don’t acknowledge other team members. All he wants is a simple wave. No real effort, just acknowledgement that we are all members of a very special group.

    While there will always be “those people” who don’t get it I am encouraged by the number of people who do. I think I’ll share your post with the team!

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