Wheels In, Wheels Out – A rant on taking responsibility and controlling something that you can control.

Spare wheels. Marked and in wheel bags for easy identification.

“Neutral” spare wheels are used for this event. Wheels you bring may be issued to other riders in the event of puncture during the race.”


This statement is on the website of a local bike race. My immediate thought?


“Sigh…..this again.”


Second thought?


“You have got to be kidding me.”


Unfortunately it isn’t a joke or a typo and this is not an isolated thing at many races in the Pacific Northwest – specifically in and around Oregon. Worse is that quite a few in the local cycling community (which include racers, officials, promoters) don’t have an issue with this.


I do. Let me explain.


When I was growing up racing in the Midwest you quickly learned that if there wasn’t neutral support (like the local bike shop supporting the event) and you didn’t bring a spare set of wheels to put into the pit or follow vehicle (if there was one) at your local bike race  and you flatted then you were SOL. It was your responsibility to make sure that you took care of this (or that your team did).


Let me repeat that.




I have been bike racing for 38 years. I have always made sure that I place a spare set of wheels in the pit or follow car. If I was on a team I always made sure that we had at least a couple of sets of wheels in the pit or follow car for the team. Every clinic that I have given to local club teams I have made sure to stress this. Just last Saturday I spoke with three of my athletes and asked if they had done this (1 out of the 3 answered correctly – teaching moment….).


Because here is the thing, you go to all of the trouble to train, maybe you pay money to a coach, you invest money in all of your equipment then you drive to a race (sometimes hours there and back), you spend money on fuel to get there and the entry fee and etc. etc….But you don’t bring a spare set of wheels. You line up, the race starts and then at some point in the race you get a puncture and just like that your race is done. All because you left something to chance, something that you had some control over – PUTTING A SPARE SET OF WHEELS IN.


Here is the other part of “Wheels you bring may be issued to other riders in the event of puncture during the race.” – Why?


If I take the responsibility to bring my own wheels to a race, why should I have to provide them to someone who doesn’t take that same responsibility?


AND, what happens if I need a wheel but it was given out to someone else already?


AND, who is going to replace my spare wheels if given to someone else and they damage the wheel or puncture the tire or worse – take off with my wheel? (Depending on the race I have often put a second set of carbon tubulars in the pit/ follow car).


Years ago when I was the sport director for a local domestic elite team we raced a stage race in Oregon. This race had a “caravan” (I think there may have been all of 4 cars in it). I was informed by the Chief Official that since we had a car in the caravan then I would also have to provide support to riders on other teams that did not have that “luxury”. When I asked why I was informed that we had an “unfair advantage” (or maybe it was the other teams were at a disadvantage) because we had a support car and many others did not.


In essence, because the organization that I worked for had taken the responsibility to pursue sponsorship and were successful in procuring enough financial support to purchase a team car and pay me to run the team and go to races we also had to take care of the other teams and riders that did not.


Look, I am not opposed to helping out someone I know who needs something in a pinch but if I am told “Wheels you bring may be issued to other riders in the event of puncture during the race,” well I have a problem with that. Because if I take the responsibility to control one of the things that I can control why should I also be forced to shoulder the responsibility for someone who did not?


Take responsibility.


Control what you can control.





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