Monday, June 27, 2011

Stranded (Bike Ride from Hell)

What began as a simple Sunday morning bike ride, one of the great pleasures in my life these days, transformed itself yesterday into a miserable couple of hours due to a simple problem I couldn't fix.

The problem was a flat tire. This is by far the most common problem cyclists face; I've fixed countless flat tires over the years. Fixing a flat is routine maintenance, a skill all cyclists should possess, even if they don't know anything else about bikes. Yet this flat tire ended up confounding me.

My ride began with seven or eight mile stretch to a Blockbuster store, to return a video game my kid rented. Mission accomplished. At that point I was free to point the bike in whatever direction I felt like. I began by doubling back toward home, with the intention of veering off somewhere to extend the ride (I measure rides by time, not distance). Suddenly I heard a whiiiiiisshhh – and the front tire deflated rapidly beneath me.

So I pulled over and found a convenient spot beneath a tree to repair it. Funny thing: when you have a flat, it's almost always the rear tire. Nine times out of ten. The reason is simple. Rear tires are situated almost directly beneath a bike's seat, and bear more weight than the front. They tend to flat more easily.

Anyway I fixed the damn thing. Removed the wheel, popped the tire from the rim, and put a new inner tube within. Before putting in the new tube I ran my fingers around the inside of the tire to locate and remove whatever might have caused the flat, and in so doing discovered two thorns, which I plucked out. Reassembled everything and began pumping up the tire.

I had nearly finished, when snap! I broke off the new inner tube's valve. Guess I don't know my own strength.

Broken valves are not fixable. So, once again, I took apart the whole shebang. Located and patched the hole in the first inner tube (which already had three or four patches in it), reassembled the tire and wheel, began inflating ... and discovered another leak.

By now I was losing my patience, but what choice did I have? Took the whole thing apart yet again, located what I thought was still another leak, fixed it ... reassembled...

Began inflating. Discovered the damned thing would not hold any air.

Attempted another fix. And it still would not hold any air!

My thumbs ached from fitting the tire back onto the rim over and over. I was out of patches, and out of patience.

The end of this absurd little story is that I never could fix that flat. Ended up calling my wife and crying, Help! At least I had the cell phone. She came and got me. Which was damned nice of her, considering it was Sunday morning and she had hoped for a few extra hours of sleep.

Later I bought some more inner tubes and some more patches.

This all happened yesterday, as I write this. I never did figure out why that tire (or tube, more properly) wouldn't hold air. Today I have matching blisters on my two thumbs from all that tire replacement.

Note: I understand that in the grand scheme of life's problems, this misadventure doesn't amount to – well, to a hill of beans...

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