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How not to fix a flat tire; windy commute this morning

Friday, January 11th, 2008

I worked from home yesterday, and I thought I’d try something new on my lunch: a bike ride. Some people whose blogs I read have mentioned riding at lunchtime, and some of my coworkers go to the gym at lunch, so I thought I’d try it. Since I was working from home, I didn’t have to worry about changing out of my work clothes (business casual) and back again upon my return.

My ride seemed doomed from the start. It was around 40 degrees and while it hadn’t rained all morning, a few drops started falling as I was getting ready. Undeterred, I headed out, figuring I would do my Mount Gilead Road route, which is about 13 miles and so can be done in under an hour. I was probably 2-3 miles into my ride when the rain started in earnest. I was getting wet, but I sure was enjoying my ride. I had to be extra careful going down the big hill since the roads were slightly wet, and very slippery.

After I climbed up out of the valley, I noticed a weird sound. At first, I thought something was rubbing somewhere, perhaps my fender rubbing the tire. It wasn’t. I realized my front tire had a leak in it and was hissing slightly as the air leaked out. It wasn’t the telltale sudden lound hissing sound that often accompanies a flat tire.

I pulled over and grabbed my pump so I could find the leak to patch it. I pumped some air into the tire and yanked the pump off, in the process tearing the core from the Presta valve stem. I had used the inner tube from my saddle bag on the previous ride and not replaced it, so although I felt prepared with my patch kit, I was completely screwed. Naturally, I was about halfway through my ride, placing me 6-7 miles from home. I wasn’t about to walk that kind of distance, so I called Sarah and she looked up a cab company number for me. While I was waiting for the cab, two different cars stopped to see if I was OK. So if I hadn’t had the cell phone, I’m sure I would’ve figured something out, but I was glad that I didn’t have to count on anyone else. And now the cab company number is in my cell phone.

Lesson learned (twice!): having a patch kit is not enough. I’ll carry a spare tube with me whenever possible. I’m a little baffled that two rides in a row, I had flat tires that I couldn’t handle with my patch kit. Even if the second time seems to have been my fault, it’s a little weird.

This morning’s commute was in the mid-30s and windy. I was dressed mostly appropriately but could have used my neck gaiter. I intended to take it easy, but I was battling 30 mph head- and cross-winds, in an upright position on a mountain bike. A few drops of rain fell, just enough to remind me that it could be much worse and be glad it wasn’t actually raining.

One piece of clothing I’ve found works really well for me, but that I haven’t seen or heard many other cyclists using, is a pair of jogging pants. I have a few pairs now of these, nylon pants with a mesh lining, and I think they’re great. They do a great job of shielding me from the wind and some are water-resistant.  The two layers provide warmth, but the mesh also keeps the outer layer from sticking to your skin. They dry quickly, too. These are great, and inexpensive. The only downsides I see are that they aren’t very aerodynamic, and sometimes I wish the legs were a little longer.

5 Responses to “How not to fix a flat tire; windy commute this morning”

  1. furiousball Says:

    yeah, the jogging pants do wonders for cutting that wind chill down that can even get through the best underarmour or whatever cold weather spandex you’ve got on.

  2. Revrunner Says:

    I actually don’t think I have a patch kit in my saddlebag right now. I might. I think I gave it to my son. But I do know that I have at least one spare tube. I always carry at least one, sometimes two. I’ll have to check on that patch kit, though. Comes in handy in case the unimaginable happens!

  3. Noah Says:

    That sucks, man. I usually don’t patch until I get to my destination unless I get multiple flats on the same ride. I’d rather rely on my spare tube. As such, I patch the old tube and put it back in the wedge for next time. The spare on my road bike probably has 4 or 5 patches but like the similarly patch-happy tube currently on my road bike it still holds air like a champ.

    On the other side, the spare tube I have on my mountain bike is the spare tube I bought from Wal-Mart at the same time as I bought my first Wal-Mart mountain bike in ’06, and I’ve never, ever had to use it.

  4. John Says:

    I’m a spare tube fix like Noah. I don’ t have much luck with the patch kits and have yet to have one hold.

  5. MRMacrum Says:

    In my life, I became used to “The Law of Three”. Flats, when they happen always come in threes. It started when I drove tractor trailers. It then followed me into my cycling period of the last 25 years. I never ride without a tube ready to go now. And as soon as I get home, I put a new one in the bag for the next flat that will inenevitably come sooner than later.

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