Monday, September 15, 2008

"I had to walk six miles", a flat story

How many times have I heard that or a variation there of? Todays tale comes from a regular. A regular because he comes in every time he gets a flat. Today he had to walk six miles from the trail to the shop, seems all his freinds have him on call block during his riding hours. This happens A LOT. We are supposed to learn from our mistakes, maybe not.

This guy refuses to even carry a tube with him. As a general rule, cyclists being the salt of the earth and all, we will give you a tube and help you install it if we happen by while you are standing in your puddle of inept. But when you have an oddball size, in this case a 29er, you need to at least carry a tube. Actually carry a tube, whatever the size, don't be a mooch.

Next, get a pump. Buy two, a little one and a big one. You get the little one to clip on your bike so when you flat on the trail you can pump the replacement tube(More on this in a minute). You get the big one so you don't give your self tennis elbow trying to keep your tires topped off.

That's right you need to pump them up often. Pretty much every time you ride. Tubes are porous, that means they will lose air over time. Skinny tires lose air pressure fast, high pressure, low volume. Fat MTB tires go down more slowly because the pressure is lower and there is a larger volume of air in the tube.

Again, you need to pump them up often, that big pump makes this a lot easier. It will also help to keep you from ripping the valve stem out of the tire like you will eventually do if you use a mini pump every time. (Owning only a mini pump is the sign of a masochist)

Alright, you have yourself a flat. You pop the wheel off(Need to have a talk about that, maybe later in the week) pull off the tire. WAIT, how do you get the tire off. You need some tire levers to go with your pump and spare tube. They are going to come in a pack of three. Many have wondered why this is. I will tell you. You are going to get pissed trying to remove that tire and throw one of those levers into the woods, fortunately you will stil have two. Another secret, the hook is so you can pop the bead and hook the lever in place to one of the spokes, then you use the second lever to continue working the bead from the rim.

You have the tire, just pop that new tube in and you are ready to go. WRONG. You need to figure out what caused the flat. Now if you ignored the third paragraph up there, and you just cased a rock or curb you have pinched the tube. Mashed it against its self hard enough to poke two holes in it. This is a snake bite, a mark of shame showing an unloved steed. If you had plenty of air and did not hit anything, it is time to look for the sharp. Just run your fingers around the inside of the tire and when you start bleeding you have found it. That is my way of saying be careful, if something can punch a hole in a tire, it can do the same to your tender epidermis. I have seen the use of cotton balls reccomended, this is great if you flat in the bathroom. Just run your fingers gently around the inside of the tire while looking closely at the outside. you will often see a thorn or piece of glass before you get poked. Wire is another story. I have shoved a piece so far into a finger that I pulled it out of the tire when I yanked my hand away. It was awesome.

Now you want to put some air in your new tube, put it in the tire and install one bead on the rim. You get extra cool points if you align the valve stem with the logo and have the logo on the drive side. Also there is a secret handshake. Now slide on the second bead. Do this with only your fingers and the power of your mind. Luke could not use a crane, don't you go using tire levers(You might pinch the tube). Pump the tire up, stopping once the tire starts taking shape to make sure the bead is not coming off. On the other hand blowing a tire off the rim is a good way to make everyone duck and cover.

And don't forget to remove the big green thumbtack from your tire before you come back in the shop complaining about the defective tube you just bought.

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