Monday, December 31, 2018

The Flat Tires of 2018

A year in the making, this is my log of every flat tire in 2018.  Some were mine, some were not.  I rode to Vista House today, hoping that there'd be nothing to add to the log, and my wish came true.  Here they are, enjoy!

The first flat of 2018 happened the last week of January at my second favorite venue for flat tires: work.  With tire levers and floor pumps galore, and even a healthy stash of spare tubes, one is lulled into a sense of security.  I knew that morning as I bumped over a ledge on the bike path, that I had pinched my rear tube and was doomed to get a flat.  The best tire in the world, the Panaracer T-Serv, was in no way at fault.

The second flat of the year happened the first week of February, and was again not the fault of the T-Serv.  I had just left the third pharmacy to turn me down for a flu shot, crossing the river eastbound on the Morrison Bridge.  A sudden shuuuuu shuuuuu shuuuu broke the news.  If I'd been wearing shorts, I'd have felt a rhythmic tickle on my calf.  I made my repair at the corner of MLK and Morrison, a very busy and somewhat skanky corner.  A passing dog nearly peed on me as I kneeled tireside.

Flat number three came a mere two days later, at my favorite flat repair venue: home.  I was about to leave for work, kitted up for my bike path commute of seven whole miles, and there it was.  I decided to save it for later and quickly changed shoes and clothes and bikes and routes. My bike geek records indicate this pair of T-Servs has 1925 miles on them and I'll be damned if I'm going to give them up 75 miles before they're supposed to be done.  So the next day, after an important Tour de Beavers planning meeting, I jetted home to address the problem.  A little piece of glass had weaseled its way in there, so I removed it, the end.
Flat number four wasn't mine!  It was this dude's, I don't know his name but he's a Thursday Night Ride (TNR) regular and experienced a flat tire near our Grant Park rest stop. The poor guy had to contend with a large critical and heckling audience while he effected his repair.
Flat number five, me again.  This time on the French Toast ride, headed out on the Springwater trail.  It's definitely an indication of threadbare tires when you get a fourth flat of the year before March even starts.  I took my time replacing the tube while co-rider Troy did push ups.
Turnabout's fair play, so a little later that same day, I did push ups while Troy fixed his own flat. Luckily it was sunny and we had plenty of time.  Both flats were caused by glass.
Flat number seven, me again.  By now, my good ol' T-Servs had over 2000 miles on them, and their threadbare state led to yet another flat.  This one happened at work again.  The first thing I did post repair was to order new tires post haste.
Our next flat tire victim is Jennifer, a Tour de Beavers rider.  She was riding on Gatorskins, a tire I must confess to loathing.  Their most boasted feature is resistance to flatting, yet they seem to get more flats than other tires. They are not supple and ride like bricks.  Worst of all, they are extremely slippery when wet.  In any case, this rider demonstrated a cool head - repairing her flat in seven short minutes, earning her a new nickname: Seven!  It was so quick, I didn't get a photo, so I'm instead featuring a photo above of another way to deal with flat repair - simply remove your wheels, lock the whole business and take the bus. 
Our next flat adventurer, Kate, experienced hers after a long hot hillclimb on gravel, with a crash.  Maybe the crash caused the flat, maybe the heat, who knows.  Our flat repairer discovered the problem at camp the next morning and had quite a time with it.  She needed a 15 millimeter wrench to remove the rear wheel, and it was on there tight.  Her hands were pretty scuffed up from the previous day's fall, so that made it even harder.  She has an internally geared hub, so there was an extra step to disconnect the cable before removing the wheel.  The bead was tight, the replacement tube wouldn't hold air, the pump wasn't working great.  Our cheerful flat fixer persevered and was soon up and running!
Miraculously, I suffered no mechanicals on a 500+mile bikepacking trip in Central Eastern Oregon.  This poor character pictured above, however, had many many many flats.  It's possible his tires were too narrow for conditions, or worn out.  His pump didn't work well and he ran out of C02 canisters and tubes early on.  Luckily, he's a fast rider and was often ahead of the group despite so many flat tires.
Summertime!  This nice gentleman, Mullet Man, got a flat tire on his new bike during a century called the Petal Pedal down in Silverton.  He had left the stock tires on and well, that is that.  He didn't have a pump, so I loaned him mine.  Behind him, we spied a field containing three fluffy frisky ponies, all trotting in a circle.


Our next mechanical victim experienced a puncture on Marine Drive on the final leg of the French Toast ride.  He was able to get back up and running in less than ten minutes, which is especially impressive as he pre-inflated his new tube by mouth.

The next flat I encountered belonged to a gentleman named Dean, whom I met at a rest stop on the Portland Century in August.  I had just rolled up to one of the many bountiful rest stops and saw three dudes and an upside down bike.  It felt good to roll over and say "I'm an Event Support Rider, can I help?".  This had been Dean's second flat of the day and he was struggling to get the bead off the rim.  I pulled out my trusty pink tire levers and knelt down.  In no time, I had found a little piece of staple, removed it with tweezers, and inserted a fresh tube in the tire.  Dean was as thankful as if I’d performed CPR.

My neighbor has an abundant veggie garden and often shares his harvest with me, so when he asked for assistance with a flat tire on his Huffy, I jumped at the opportunity to repay his kindness.  I even had a 27" tube with a schraeder valve on hand.  On removing the tire, what was left of the rim tape simply fell away.  The rubber was so old it just crumbled to dust.  I went off to an undisclosed bike shop to buy rim tape.  To my astonishment, they had no rim tape in stock.  The man on duty recommended I simply skip the rim tape, explaining that it simply isn't necessary.  This age of pretend experts really gets me down sometime.
Another French Toast ride flat, this one conveniently located at our rest stop at Glen Otto Park near Troutdale.  Michelle fixed a flat on her Gatorskins using purple latex gloves, taking just 20 minutes, enough time for a quick yoga stretch!  This was her first flat on this bike, at over 1300 miles.  We never did find the culprit, but it was likely a little thorn picked up from the unmaintained bike lanes, which often feature blackberry vines.
The same day I wrote up Michelle's flat story, I got a flat.  This one offered me a nice break from my side hustle of removing course marking signs from the recent Tour de Lab.  Just a 20 mile ride around Portland stopping hundreds of times to tear down laminated arrows - what a workout!  While I fixed my flat, a tattooed gentleman in bare feet, smoking a cigarette and carrying a jar of lemonade, offered his assistance.  Since he didn't have a floor pump, I carried on while we chatted.  He had seen the Tour de Lab riders go by the previous day and was excited to learn about the ride.

Our next flat tire happened to Brennan during the 31st annual No Sweat ride to Astoria.  The group hung around while Brennan fixed his flat, on Gatorskins.  His replacement tube wouldn't hold air, so he borrowed ride leader Mike's spare.  Twenty minutes later, the group was rolling again.  A few minutes after that, Mike got his first of two flats.  My tubes were too wide for his skinny tires, so he had to patch a spare.  I did't hang around to see how long it would take him, as I was the slowest rider that day.
My turn again.  What I thought was a pinch flat turned out to be a piece of glass.  I waited until the "Ride Like A Girl" group had reached the top of the Lafayette elevator so I could fix it on the bridge with the cool view of the train tracks.  It took me 12 minutes.  My first spare tube wouldn't hold air and I was pretty happy to have a second spare with me.  When I got home, I checked my spreadsheet, and sure enough, the tires had about 2000 miles on them.  Maybe one day I’ll proactively change to new tires at the correct mileage! 

Another French Toast ride flat, this one at the regroup before the Stark Street bridge over the Sandy River.  The rider was on a Cannondale with a suspension fork and 26" wheels.  A little piece of glass was the culprit.  The victim didn't have a spare tube or any repair supplies, so I jumped in to find the culprit and patch the tube.  15 minutes.
Next flat was between running errands when the telltale squish squish squish presented itself.  Rear tire again.  This set of T-Servs have almost 3000 miles on them, so the little piece of glass didn't have much of a challenge penetrating the thin rubber.  I flipped the bike over and got to work, wondering if I could possibly beat my personal best of 9 minutes.  It took 10, but I think that's because I put on gloves and took a photo for this blog entry.

Our next flat announced itself loudly early in a ride known only as the sparkle pony rainbow unicorn ride.  The victim, one dashing young Eric, let us know he was hearing a loud tick tick tick, which turned out to be a nail in his tire.  The tire was going flat, so he added air and pushed the nail back in.  Surprisingly, the nail held the air in the tire for the whole day, which was a 45 mile, 5200' gain, gnarathon complete with big rock scramble hike a bike sections.  Nails are the new sealant!  Once back at the cabin, the nail was never found, the tube replaced, and everyone went their merry way as if nothing had ever happened.
My high hopes to finalize this story without additional entries were dashed on my morning commute.  With 12 miles to go and no time to spare, I pulled off and flipped my bike over. A quick photo and I began my repair, which involved removing a sharp piece of metal with tweezers. Just then, a handsome stranger appeared, floor pump in hand. It’s moments like this that make me feel like I live a charmed life.  As we chatted and worked together, he revealed that he worked at a local bike shop. A bike shop that does not carry the line of bicycle lubrication products I represent. Feeling doubly charmed, I gave him my card and made it to work just ten minutes behind schedule. 
Hopes dashed again, this time a few blocks from work.  I had heard a little ticking several blocks earlier but thought it was a leaf rubbing my fender.  Instead it was a nice long staple.  I walked the rest of the way and locked up.  At lunch I grabbed my bike and wheel and got her done in about ten minutes. I needed the tweezers yet again as the business end of a staple was deeply embedded in my sweet little T-Serv.  

A note on methodology. I like to work on an upside down bike because it doesn’t require any bending over and the skewer drops into the dropouts easily.  I don’t believe in shifting to the smallest cog before removing the wheel.  I find it easier to let the chain rest on a middle cog both while removing and reinstalling the wheel.  I often use a tire lever in reverse to get the last bit of bead on the rim.  That method can cause a bit of tube to pinch between the bead and rim so I always check the entire tire by pushing back the bead and looking for that telltale bit of black rubber, which is easy to see if you have white or yellow rim tape. Finally, I put the wheel back on the bike before inflating the tire, as the bike makes a nice holder for the wheel during inflation.  This also means my rim brakes don’t need to be opened to let a fully inflated tire past them,  A quick turn of the crank returns the chain to the correct cog, and I’m off!

I had ten flats of my own over the entire year, and my mileage totaled 6007.  My calculator tells me I had one flat tire per 600 miles.  I'm not sure how useful this information is, but there it is.  I hope your rubber side stays down and tires fully inflated for 2019.

Saturday, November 3, 2018


I came in third place on today’s ride, which was not a race. Of the three of us, I was wearing the least amount of pink.  The 2011 Verboort Populaire was my first rando ride. 7 years later, I see a Verboort ride on the team schedule, so naturally I feel I must go.

Maybe it’s the perimenopause and hot flashes, or maybe I was overdressed. I just couldn’t get comfortable.My outer rain tights, which have served for many years, suddenly lost their elasticity. Standing on the pedals because the tush to droop down, causing a risk of catching on the saddle.

The other riders rode away. I pedaled and panted, I chased unsuccessfully. This other riders courteously waited for me many times. Although the terrain was beautiful, the company fun, and the distance manageable, I will simply having a lousy day in the saddle. They say that a lousy day and the saddle it’s still a good day.

A man in a station wagon stopped and even reversed, tapping his horn. I circled back and said hello. He asked if we knew the road would soon turn to dirt, to which I replied "yay!". He then explained he wanted to warn us that logging trucks used it and it was quite a mess.
Dixon Mill Road would be more aptly named if it were called Dixon Hill Road. The pavement didn’t and turn to a nice hard packed dirt surface. At the top of a climb, which Stacy said was the top, we discussed if the man in the station wagon would’ve warned us if we had been men.

The best part of the ride came next. Pavement returned and took us on a beautifully scooping descent. Then we climbed again. Stacy and Hazel were at the top of the next hill waiting for me again. Stacy proclaimed that now we actually were at the top.

Another beautiful downhill led us to yet another stuff uphill. I was practically chafed from taking my layers on and off, on and off. I declared these descents should be called Stacy descents. In any case, we finally returned to the huge grassy Maddow where we had parked, along with a few hundred other sausage festival attendees. We headed over to the snack tent and enjoyed delicious sausages while listening to bingo.

I saw some Rando friends, including Graham who had recently volunteered to take over managing two of my 200k permanent routes.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Riding Bikes With Girls

I first heard of this version of Tabor Tuesday, well overheard, at the Harvest Century finish line festival.  The Harvest Century is a pretty amazing ride, by the way.  A lady was enjoying her finish line feast and beer and telling her friends about her Tabor Tuesday ride.  I thought she was talking about the Tabor Tuesday ride some other friends do - complete with an early morning dance party -before heading off to work.

Instead, she was leading this ride as part of Ride Like A Girl, which is a terrific Portland club of lady riders.  Back in my days as event planner for Western Bikeworks, I'd taught a couple of flat clinics for the group, but this was my first time riding with them.

My friend Madi and I had been doing our own weekly rides, which we called "Mondays with Maria and Madi".  We're always a day late, but never a dollar short.  Madi and I did a few rides on our own, then joined the Tabor Tuesday rides two weeks in a row.  The leader is lovely and everyone is friendly.  The pace is relaxed and the distance is reasonable (30ish miles).  After the ride, we went over to Cartlandia for lunch.
For our second Tabor Tuesday, I woke up early, early for me these days, and rode up through the cemetery.  I've always admired the "Wheeless" tombstone and finally stopped to photograph it.  At the top of the hill two riders, including the ride leader, awaited my arrival.  Shortly after, we intercepted Madi on her way up the hill.
I got a flat tire, which will be detailed in my blog post about all of the flat tires of 2018 (it's a doozy!).  After repairing it, we headed over to a Vietnamese place in Sellwood where we could sit on the patio.  

I had populated the next many Tuesdays on my calendar with Madi and Ride Like A Girl rides, but, alas, I've found gainful employment so will gladly be resuming my place in the Cat 6 rat race!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Astoria Stories

The 31st Annual No Sweat Ride went off without a hitch, but not without flat tires.  All told the group had 3 flats, all on Highway 30, aka Dirty Thirty.  That bike lane hasn't been swept since before Lewis and Clark went through.

It's always a relief to take that left onto the Scappoose-Vernonia Highway.  It's a long climb, but beautiful and pretty low traffic.  We stopped by the little store to refill our tanks and were off again in no time.  
Early worries that we'd arrive at the Birkenfield before they opened were unfounded.  After an hour and three quarters, we were on our way up the rest of the hills between us and the coast.
For the first time in the zillion times I've ridden by the Elk Refuge, there were elk!  Or elks.  Lots of 'em.  We stopped to gawk and take photos.
The hills seemed small for me, even though I was the slowest rider in the group.  We all stopped for a beer and peanuts at the Olney Saloon, then headed to our finish line in Astoria.  A great day!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Portland Century, 2018 edition

We arrived at the start line venue to the usual excitement and hub bub of pinning on bib numbers, throwing back coffee and breakfast goodies. There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes of these events.  I know the organizers and staff have been hard at work for the weeks leading up to the event, and had their alarms set for 3am this morning.

I rolled out, expecting to take Stark Street down hill to the Stark Street bridge over the Sandy River, but instead we made our way north to Troutdale proper and took the other bridge.  This is what I get for not reviewing the route, but I do like surprises.
The next surprise was taking a left on Woodard Street.  Woodard is the descent after the hill option on my French Toast ride, and I'd never ridden up it.  My legs were fresh, the temperature was perfect, and it was a fun climb.
Soon I saw one of the unobtrusive but widely available SAG drivers go by.  The driver slowed, looking for my thumbs up and was easily recognizable by the black and yellow striped tape on the vehicle. 
Women's Forum made the perfect venue for our first full rest stop.  Fresh fruit, lots of friendly faces and plenty of photo ops!
Quite a bit of Bull Run climbing later, we arrived at this lovely lunch spot.  I enjoyed a cheese and pickle sandwich with a ton of mustard.

More climbing ensued and I encountered a rider whose pauls had been crushed, right near Paul Road!  I called in for SAG relief for the paul-crusher and continued on.

Arriving at the turn off for 75 vs 100 miles, I thought I'd take the short way.  Just then a gentleman I'd met at lunch came along and said "you're not flaking, are you?".  So I took the long way.

Many very trafficky highway miles later, passing through Estacada in the heat of the day, with yet more hills ahead, I decided to call it a day and head home.  I still rode 80 miles, but between the smoky air and heat, I surrendered.

Friday, July 27, 2018

My Ride to Defeat ALS

(Also published on Bike Portland, 7/27/18)

I'm not sure whether to feel terrible for Lou Gehrig because he died young from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), or because his name has become almost synonymous with this debilitating and often fatal disease instead of for his illustrious career as a talented professional baseball player.  He seemed to have a good attitude though and is quoted on Wikipedia as having said:
"I intend to hold on as long as possible and then if the inevitable comes, I will accept it philosophically and hope for the best. That's all we can do."
I didn't know much about ALS before joining the Ride to Defeat ALS last Saturday.  75 miles gave me a lot of time to think about the privilege of good health, and the struggle of the folks diagnosed with ALS, and their families.  ALS is a motor neurone disease, weakening the victim's muscles until eventually they're unable to breathe.  A diagnosis usually means the patient will die within five years.

That five year mark is especially meaningful to me.  I'll never forget the day my best friend called to tell me he had tested positive for AIDS and just wished to live five years.  That was the early 1990s, before the HIV-fighting drug cocktail was invented.  He died almost exactly five years after his diagnosis, at age 30.  This may seem like a tangent from ALS, but 22 years later, I still live with the grief of losing a loved one. 

Vision Zero also comes to mind.  Our aspiration to prevent tragic traffic deaths is highly fueled by the fact that these deaths are preventable, and unnecessary.  We all deserve our full chance at hanging around this strange sapphire-colored sphere for as long as we'd like.
This year's local Ride to Defeat ALS raised over $167,000, exceeding their $150,000 goal.  These funds go to supporting programs and care services so they may be provided for free to ALS sufferers and their families.  Pretty inspirational stuff.

I've participated in many charity rides over the years, and of course, they're all worthwhile.  However, the Ride to Defeat ALS really set itself apart in my mind.  First, there was the army of ALS Association volunteers setting up at 5am on event day, so that riders could enjoy breakfast, get a bib number and slather on some sunscreen before heading out into the heat of the day.

The course was planned and marked by our amazing local event organization, Axiom Productions.  These are the fine folks behind our beloved Petal Pedal, Portland Century, Worst Day of the Year Ride, Tour de Lab and many more.  The route was absolutely stunning, featuring those stiff rolling hills and country roads we all love.

On course, one could see several motivational notes.  Each team had a roadside sign cheering them on.  Each huge hill had a series of white signs.  The first said something like "Fighting ALS", then "Is like climbing a hill", finally near the top "Don't ever give up!".  It reminded the riders why they'd worked hard to raise funds, and why they were pedaling all day.
As designated sweeper, my job was to hang out near the tail of the ride and offer medical, mechanical or moral support to any riders who needed it.  The trick here is not to reveal that you are the sweep, as no one wants to know they're in last place in a ride that's not a race.  I had the privilege of assisting one gentleman, who was riding his first event ride ever.  He'd purchased new shoes to try clipless pedals and couldn't clip out on either side.  I was able to catch him, get his cleats tightened and his pedals loosened.  Just a few small turns of an allen key, but he was grateful.

I spied the same farm stand I had stopped at for strawberries during the Petal Pedal, this time there were one pound bags of blueberries on display.  I ate as many as I could without getting sick, and tucked the rest away for later.  Roadside farm stands are a favorite roadie delight.
Hop fields make me thirsty for beer
The finish line offered quite a bit of fanfare.  First you pass through the great red arch, and there's a team of folks ringing bells and whistling and cheering.  You can't help but smile.  Then a nice lady runs up and hands you a cold wet washcloth.  As you enjoy that, another lady approaches and hands you a school-lunch-sized box of chocolate milk.  Finally, they put a small medal around your neck.  
The finish line feast, which was served within the Mt. Angel Community Festhalle, included more dishes than I can recall.  There were at least five types of sausage, and many pickled things.  I ate more bags of kettle chips than I'll admit in writing.  And, of course, there was beer, and souvenir pint glasses, for everyone.