Friday, February 6, 2015

A Tale of Three Tubes

It was gonna happen. It was literally written that it was gonna happen and it did. I prepared for it and yet, got me pretty good anyway. I got my first flat tire.

You can't walk into a bike shop to buy a new bike and not have the conversation about buying the "required" gear you need to be able to ride that new bike. The helmet, padded shorts, etc... That conversation will invariably include the repair kit: Tools that, in case of a flat, will allow you to either repair the damaged tube or replace it with a new one so you can solve the issue without any assistance.

Reflective Surfaces: Always a good thing
Many people, for whatever reason, don't think it is important. Sure, the guy or gal at the store is trying to sell you something, but he/she is also talking from experience. Maybe people think back to when they were kids and don't remember many flats when they were riding or maybe they do and don't remember them being a big deal. I'm thinking that's because as kids, you never rode too far away from home. If you had a flat, you just walked back. But cycling as a sport can involve pretty big distances and if you are 10 miles or more away from your car or your house, that's a long way to walk with a bike in tow. Being able to do something about it is kind of important. If you are still on the fence about the repair kit think about this: What if you are in a race/event like a Gran Fondo or a triathlon? Get a flat without the proper gear and your race is done. It might take a bit of time to change it but I'm pretty sure a worse-than-expected finish time is a whole lot better than a DNF (Did Not Finish).

So, my budget when I bought The Machine included a saddle bag with a repair kit. Technically, it's a replacement kit I guess. I figured if I ever got a flat in a race, it would be easier (and faster) to just replace the tube with a new one instead of patching the damaged tube.

Make sure it's a snug fit. You don't want it dangling under there.
The saddle bag hangs snugly under the saddle and it was part of a kit Giant sells that also includes:

1. Three tire levers - to unseat the tire from the wheel.
2. Multi-Tool - Think, Swiss Army Knife but with bike tools.
3. 2 CO2 cartridges - To fill the tire w/o the need of a pump. Once you use one it's done.
4. CO2 Dispenser nozzle.

I threw in some tube patches just in case.
With the kit I bought 2 spare tubes. Yes, it is very possible you can get more than one flat.

So I was definitely ready for a flat if it happened and sure enough, last week I was stopping at a red light when I rode over some glass and pffffff... my front wheel deflated. I was not too far away from home so I pondered whether to spend a CO2 cartridge or just walk it back but then I figured I could use the practice. I had seen several videos on how to do it but you have to get your hands dirty eventually so better do it now.

Tubes - 1        Fat Runner - 0

It took me a while to unseat the tire for some reason but apart from that I think I did OK. After replacing the tube and seating the tire back in place, I connected the nozzle to the CO2 cartridge and it filled right back up. The kit came with some neoprene sleeves you put on the cartridges. I thought they were for grip but nope. Turns out that whatever process takes place that creates the pressure to inflate the tire, freezes the cartridge. Use them without any protection and it can freeze-burn your hand.

Tubes - 1        Fat Runner - 1

So, I packed everything up and rode home very proud of myself. That is until my next ride, when I found the front tire deflated once again. At first, I thought it was the CO2. That it's not meant to last or something like that so I inflate the tire back up. After getting ready, I go back out to get the bike and it had deflated again. Crap.

Tubes - 2        Fat Runner - 1

I take out the wheel and the tube and there is a tiny hole close to the valve. Obviously something happened and it probably involved me doing something wrong. Whatever, I took my remaining tube and replaced it yet again. I have a little electric air pump I have been using up until now and I had been noticing it was kind of hard to get the tires inflated to their required pressure (120psi) but thought it was just me. This particular time it was harder than usual and after several attempts I could not get it to inflate. After getting a little rough with the valve, I ended up breaking the valve on the tube. Pffffffff...

Tubes - 3           Fat Runner - 1

I had kept the original punctured tube so I dug that out of the trash, bought a patch kit and tried to repair it so I could at least ride that day and buy more tubes later. But, alas, after inflating it and getting ready to ride, it deflated again.

Tubes - 4           Fat Runner - 1

Trip to the bike shop. Found a shop that opens Sunday (Many shops don't. They are out riding) and the guy was kind enough to replace the tube for me. I also bought three more to have spares. They are about 5 bucks each so they are not that expensive (weird for something related to cycling). I explained what happened and he gave me some pointers for next time. Like to check that the tire is not pinching the tube before inflating it (I checked but maybe I missed something) and also make sure to not insert the tube twisted. That can also cause a flat. I think that's what happened the first time I replaced it.

Tubes - 5          Fat Runner - 1

So how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.

How do you change a flat bicycle tire? Practice, practice, practice.


  1. Oh my I never even thought about getting a flat tire while riding! Glad you were prepared...and I know you'll learn how to fix it fast!

    1. I surely had enough practice that weekend. lol

  2. Oh man! Well you didn't win those battles, but you'll win this war! Thanks for sharing! I'm learning a lot!

    1. That's great to hear. It was a learning experience for sure. But truth be told, once you get the hang of it, it's really not that hard. You just have to pay attention.

  3. Oh no! This seems to be a learning experience. I didn't know there were padded shorts for riding!

    1. Yup. Those tight lycra shorts you see cyclists wear have a padding (called a chamois) that helps your nether region when you're riding.