Do bicycles need roadside assistance now?
March 15th 2023
Earlier this week, we got an early morning call from someone whose e-bike had become disabled in the middle of a long, electrically enabled ride. It could have been from any of a number of reasons–flat tire, dead battery, loose circuit . . . anything–but now he was stranded with a large, very heavy, inoperable bike. And he had a question I’d never thought about:
Do you offer any kind of roadside assistance for e-bikes?
When you think about it, getting stranded with a bike, especially one being used for long rides, has always been a consideration. Bikes that are comfortable to ride for long distances are large; they have large wheels and large, rigid frames. In most cases, you can’t simply call for a friend’s car or an Uber/Lyft and just put your bike in it. It won’t fit!
But the popularity of e-bikes raises the risk even more. Your bike is now bigger, heavier, and you may have even ridden further, just because you can. Maybe you’ve traded in your car for a bike, and now this vehicle is your guarantee of getting to work on time.
Bicycle roadside assistance is a real thing.
It turns out a lot of companies offer this service, often as part of a membership–and even that is way less than related car services.
Here are some of the largest:
- Better World Club. Nationwide emergency roadside assistance for a $41.95/year membership. Transportation service for you and your bicycle up to up to 30 miles per service call with a maximum of two service calls per covered member, per year.
- AAA. Nationwide bicycle assistance–transportation only–to a safe point within 5 miles, for AAA members. There is a list of ineligible conditions, including, humorously, “fatigue and physical inability to continue with ride”. So no wimping out; make sure you’ve got a good reason!
- SPOKE Insurance. More than just roadside assistance, this includes insuring your bike against theft and damage. But if you do need help, SPOKE has partnered with a network of over 10,000 tow truck companies across the USA, and will pick you up and take you to where you need to be within the a 35 mile coverage zone up to 5 times a year.
“Tow truck companies”??? As long as we’re operating in that space, then any nationwide towing service is eligible for the list, such as…
- SWIFT Roadside Assistance. It’s not customized for bikes, but this is a quick and reliable service around 3,000 US cities to get you back on the road in no time. It’s billed as 24/7 Service, 24-hour roadside assistance for any vehicle.
You can also simplify roadside assistance.
The main problem with a stranded full-size bike is its length. Nearly 5 feet long, it won’t even fit in an UberXL ride, which is designed with seating for large groups, not large stuff. Solve that problem, and roadside assistance will never again require a tow truck.
A full-size folding bike combines the best characteristics of a full-size bike (excellent ride, ruggedness) with the best characteristics of a folding bike (portability, convenience) in a single, amazing bike. This is what a CHANGE hardtail mountain bike looks like after one minute, with no tools.
Now that your bike can fit in any car trunk, with no trucks involved, your roadside assistance options get a bit simpler and lower cost:
- Any friend or stranger who becomes a friend, with any size of car.
- Any bus, with or without a bike-mounting rack.
- Any car-sharing service, such as Uber or Lyft.
- Any taxi.
How to avoid needing help in the first place.
Of course, that involves buying a new bike. For now, the absolute simplest solution is to avoid needing roadside assistance altogether.
Here are ways to increase your resilience to the most common reasons for getting stranded in the first place. What can you do now to avoid each issue?
- Flat tires. These range from blowouts on worn out old tires to new tires that hit something nasty in the road or trail. Monitor the appearance of your tires and don’t wait until they are frayed and dry-rotted before replacing them. Also, if you live in an area where goathead thorns, broken glass, or nails and screws are prevalent, protect against puncture. There are two ways to do this:
- Tubeless tires swap out your tube for some slime that sloshes around in your tire and plugs any leaks–unless it’s a big hole, or you lose too much pressure, or you’re out of CO2 cartridges, or the slime inside has dried up over the past year.
- Spongy Tannus Armour liners fit between your tire and tube, trapping any puncture threats before they affect your tube. Armour is also ride-flat capable.
- Dead battery. Your battery is like your fuel; fill up before it’s an emergency, and always know how much you’ve got left, compared to where you want to go. Pro tip: For very long rides, carry a spare–and not a dead one.
- Broken thing (chain, seat, derailleur, cassette, cable, etc). Outside of a major impact event, most components don’t just break. They show signs of fatigue, either from wear or being outside in the elements . . . and then they fail suddenly the rest of the way. So periodically look at your bike for signs of something that doesn’t look healthy, and then replace it before it ruins your day.
And that’s it. Now you can find a towing service for bikes, avoid a towing service, and maybe even avoid roadside assistance altogether.
Did we miss an insight about roadside assistance that you’ve already discovered? Let us know below. And happy riding!
Bob Forgrave is president of Flatbike, an
ecommerce company offering full-size folding bikes
and kits to make any bike take up half the space.