how to fix the inevitable flat

Wow, is that lucky or what?

Wow, is that lucky or what?

Are you like me and hate changing a flat so much that if at all possible, you’ll limp along for as long as you can with a tube that’s failing?  Dumb, huh?

I usually lose tubes due to punctures or eventual failure at the valve stem.  I’m obsessive about checking my tire pressure before every ride so my valves get quite the workout.  There’s no mistaking that “sssssssssss” when you press your pressure gauge onto a stem and it starts leaking.

But this time my back tire kept losing more than the 1-2 psi it usually loses overnight.  At first I thought that it had to be due to the weather.  After all, when I’m done riding my tires are much warmer than they are the next morning, when they’ve been sitting on my cold balcony all night, the rubber contracting from the cold.  Then it lost 5 psi overnight.  Then 10.  Oops, now it lost 20 psi.  Seeing that it was a slow leak I knew there wasn’t a hole to patch; the tube needed to be replaced.

Tires can lose pressure when the tire tread gets worn, and I worried it might be time to replace my tires.  I have probably 4,000-5,000 miles on this set, and although I’ve rotated them about half-way through they are getting worn.  But the cheapest way to find out if it’s the tire or the tube is to just replace the tube and see what happens.  Thankfully, that’s all it was – just a tube that had been getting weak and losing its elasticity – although I procrastinated because changing a tube isn’t the easiest thing in the world if your tires are like mine – they have a stiff bead and they’re hard to get on and off my rims.   But now that I’ve got a nice new tube in there and my “tuffy liners” are protecting it from punctures I’m happily pedaling along again without worry.  

To help you, here is a fantastic video from Bicycling.com that shows how to change a tube.   The guy is a pro and he makes it look easy, but it really isn’t hard.  For me, the hardest part is working the tire back onto the rim.  Once you get it on your rim make sure you inflate it only part way, then check thoroughly to see that none of the tube is being pinched – you will get a pinch flat if so.  What I do is massage the tire and the tube all the way around the rim a few times, then inflate the tire a little and spin it, holding my fingers lightly against the sides of the tire and along the bead of the tire.  I visually check to see if there are any spots that look uneven. Once I’m satisfied it’s perfect then I fill it up with air and do a final spin check. Then I’ll check a few hours later to see if it’s holding.  Like I said, I’m a bit obsessive about my tires.

Of course, you can always take your bike to the shop to change a tube but I firmly believe everyone who rides regularly needs to know some basic skills, starting with fixing a flat.  A nice side benefit is that you feel a real sense of accomplishment once you fix your own flat.  Empower yourself!

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autumn happens

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Usually I dread this time of year.  The days are getting shorter, the sun is weaker and  at a more extreme angle, and it’s getting pretty chilly.  I would see each falling leaf as fresh sorrow that long sunny days are over.  And I’d dread the cold months ahead.  I wouldn’t stop riding – I’m lucky to live in a climate favorable to year-round riding.  But I would sigh with resignation as I pulled my long cycling tights out of storage and made sure my jacket is clean and ready to go.  Where did I put my full length gloves?

But something interesting happened this fall.  I’ve been wanting to write about the change of seasons but I didn’t know what to say that didn’t sound like complaining.  So I decided to take my camera out with me and  really look at the change of seasons.

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Seeing my environment through a camera lens has given me new appreciation for the beauty around me.

The days are crisp and the sky is a bright vivid blue.

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There’s music in the sound of the leaves fluttering in the breeze and skittering across the path.

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However, some trees appear confused – some of their branches are vibrantly changing color and some are tenaciously still hanging onto summer.

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The birds are much quieter than they are in mid-summer.  Maybe they’re listening to the breeze rustling through the leaves that remain.

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And now I realize there are some things I really enjoy about cycling through the winter.  The trails are deserted, giving me the temporary feeling of owning my little corner of the world.  There is peace and serenity in the crisp blue sky and an empty trail in front of me.  Bare branches make for better sightlines around the twists and curves along my route.  The few people I see now are the trail regulars and we know each other, fostering a feeling of community.  We nod to each other in recognition.

I learned to accept this seasonal change and to appreciate it.  I hope your rides allow you the same. Because we all know that cycling doesn’t require warm summer days in order to be good for the soul.