Roadside assistance for bicycles: Germany teaches

Rubber on the ground, chain knocked out, battery suddenly discharged. Whatever the error is, those who ride bikes today hardly know how to fix it. Whether it is in city traffic or on a Sunday excursion. Especially now that between multi-ratio gearboxes, electric motors in the hub and chains in composite material, some bikes end up looking like spaceships and require careful calibration. Moreover, a question with a long history: a century ago the Italian Touring Club itself he had scattered the peninsula with “Repair Boxes” to give the pioneers of the day the opportunity to put their velociped back in running order.

And in 2022 despite the “popular bike” courses where one learns to replace an inner tube, flat tires remain an unsolvable problem for many. Even more at night or on a holiday when the (few) available cyclists are not available. There is, it’s true, insurances which provides roadside assistance for bicycles, but relates to a minimum share of our own pedals. And those who have resorted to it have found that in most cases it is not only they only cover faults that occur more than 50 kilometers away from their home, but in fact they just refund the price of the bus or train to take home …


That’s why it hits the radical choice made by ADAC, the German car club, with 21.1 million members. After a year of running in the Berlin region, Since June 1, the club offers roadside assistance to members who use their bikes throughout Germany identical to the legendary one already delivered to those behind the wheel. Day and night, without restrictions on type of bike, time, type of accident and distance from home, Adac members whose two wheels are broken can get free assistance from the famous Yellow Angels (“yellow angels”) mechanics who are proud to get 9 out of 10 vehicles back in running order without going to the garage. The only condition: the cyclist in difficulty must be in a place accessible to the rescue vehicle. Currently, trails at high altitudes or trails in the woods are excluded.

Bicycle assistance service uses the same criteria as roadside assistance for cars, motorcycles, motorhomes and vans: unique call number, priority of intervention based on the order of the request and the danger of the situation (no preference for cars, therefore), staff trained specifically to work on the bikesfrom replacement of the inner tube to repair of the chain, a large set of specific spare parts stored in the traveling workshop. And should Gelbe Engel finally give up, guarantee of being transported – including bicycles and luggage – to a suitable workshop or to a public transport stop in order to continue the journey.

But does the service work? ADAC has for the occasion opened an ad hoc blog where Gelbe Engel and users can compare. And the feedback is excellent. The most requested intervention of all is for flat tires and the Adac technicians emphasize that in some cases the operations are more complicated than they appear. For example, with cargo bikes that for their size (and weight if pedal assisted) are not trivial to put the wheels in the air in a safe place to change the inner tube. Or how gear and brake control cables often require great care when removing the wheels from the hub. Not to mentionendless series of error codes transmitted by electric motors and e-bike controllers in case of failure. A panorama that is reassuring on the one hand given the very high success rates for Gelbe Engel, but on the other hand it also confirms that repairs are often out of reach of the average useralbeit willing.

The choice of Adac could be seen as a non-news, since the fellow brothers ofhollandsk anwb has been offering a similar service for a decade. And there is TSH insurance network which helps bicycle hikers from Luxembourg to Iceland. But the difference is that these are extra coverage, enabled on request for a limited number of users.

ADAC’s “radical” experiment, never tried before, is instead to include pedal mobility in the universe of its assistance services to over 20 million cyclists, removes once for all the brand of elite choice and for a few close friends or enthusiasts for the daily use of two-wheeled vehicles. The question that arises is, of course: when in italy?

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