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.

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