going flat

A couple of days this week I had some errands to accomplish.  They were all within (long) walking distance.  And we all know that walking is good.  But if time is an issue, cycling is significantly more efficient.  Even though it was below freezing temperature, it was still worth the slightly extra bundling to two-wheel it, which paid me back in expediency.

After a day of errands on Thursday, I arrived home and noticed the rear tire on my workhorse bike was flat.  It was extremely convenient that it went flat at home.  I was not carrying a patch kit and pump with me.  Wanting to use the bike on Friday, I therefore fixed the flat Thursday evening.

Getting a flat tire on your bicycle is inevitable.  You just hope that when you go flat, you are not a long way off without the means to fix it.  Otherwise, it’s a lot less expedient than walking.

You can get a flat for lots of reasons.  However when you do, you want to find out why it went flat.  I tend to get a little anal about it.  I’ve seen guys simply change out a tube and go.  If you know it was a clean puncture, then good.  But if you don’t know the origin, it can bit you again and again.

The culprit can be so small and hidden on the inside of the tire that it’s all but invisible and not detectable by touch.  That’s what happened Thursday.  When I took out the flat tube, I was careful to keep the tube in the exact position as it was inside the tire so that as I inflated the tube, I could find the hole and go to the corresponding area on the tire for examination.  I found nothing.  Nothing on the outside, nothing on the inside.  I looked with a flashlight and my eyes and fingers saw and felt nothing.  I figured it was a clean in-and-out puncture.  So I patched the hole and was good to go, so I thought.

I checked the pressure before bed and again in the morning.  Good.  But by the time I got to work it was flat again.  I had to make some extra time to stop at a bike shop on the way to my appointment for a quick repair.  I wasn’t into getting my hands black before the meeting, nor did I have time to mess with it so I walked the bike two blocks to a shop where they repaired the flat immediately.

The flat was a hole next to the patch I had placed the night before.  The mechanic took the tire off and turned it inside out for a closer inspection.  Sure enough, imbedded right below the surface was a sharp object, seeded in just the right place to be effective when there was weight on the tire.

It doesn’t take much to puncture a high pressure tube.  It can be a hair size wire.  Or a small shard of glass.  Over time, a multitude of street junk can work its way from the external side to the tube side.  It’s just a matter of time, unless you are constantly inspecting and cleaning your tires. (Right!)

I haven’t had a flat on my utility bike for a few years.  With all I’ve ridden around the nyc streets, that’s fairly lucky.

And as with a lot of things we do in life, whether it’s our career, relationship, or a  hobby, we get flats once in a while.  Some periods more than others.  Sometimes we just ride through glassy patches.  Whatever the reason, the trick is not just fixing the flat, but finding the reason behind the flat so you can ride on with confidence.  Sometimes the hole is large enough and requires a change of tube and tire.

We may not know how to fix them, or not have the time, or want to get our hands dirty, so we take the flats to someone else to fix.  But we all have the ability to fix them ourselves.  Just so we know that the reason for going flat is not always readily evident.  There are times we may need to take off the tire and turn it inside out for a closer examination.  The good news is, whether bicycle tires or life, flats are fixable.  They are inevitable, we should expect them once in a while, but they are fixable.

So?  Don’t worry about going flat.  It’s an excuse to take the tire off, find the culprit, patch the hole, and pump ourselves up again.

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