Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Lesson in Preparedness

I embarked on a lovely ride yesterday. Southeast Reno. Lots of flat road, beautiful mountains, and even a significant amount of bike lanes. Other than realizing that I was a bit overdressed with my full leggings rather than shorts or knickers, it was set to be a lovely ride.

I kept admiring the beautiful sights and berating myself for being unwilling to stop to take some photographs, but let's face it: when you're cruising along on a beautiful day, the last thing you want to do is stop.

Nevertheless, I found myself in a dead-end parking lot with a beautiful view, so I forced myself to stop. Let's pause a moment and admire the photos, shall we?

Lovely, no? The "No Poaching" sign amuses me. You never know what you'll find in Reno! Oh, one more photo:

What's so special about that photo? I hear you exclaim. Well, if you look into about the center of the photo, you see where I stopped to fix a flat.

You see, after taking these photos, I hopped back on my bike (well, back on the bike seat) and rode off... only to notice an odd feel. Sure enough, I looked down and saw that my front tire was flat. Okiedokie.

So I found a patch of grass, and began the repair process. Right after I realized and corrected the fact that I rested my bike "expensive side down", a nice man in a truck pulled up and asked if I needed help. Since I already confirmed that I had a spare tube, my tire wrenches, a mini-pump, and a CO2 cartridge, I told him I was fine. Besides, if worse came to worst, I had a cell phone. He took another look at my bike and tools sprawled out, and hesitantly drove off.

All right, back to work. The tire came off relatively easily, the tube came out, the new tube went back in, and the tire went back on really easily. (A little too easily, actually. Putting the tire back on was always the hardest part for me.) Pumped it up a bit with the mini-pump and finished it off with the CO2. Propped up the bike and compared the pressure of the newly pumped front tire with the earlier perfectly pumped rear tire. (I always repump right before a ride.)

Wait a minute... Did you, by chance, think this was a happy story? Well, it's not a sad story, exactly, but it is a cautionary tale. Because what did I find when I reached back to feel the pressure of the rear tire? You guessed it: nothing. Flat as flat can be.


I only carry one spare tube. Well, make that carried. I shall carry two from this point forward.

It held a little bit of air, so I tried to pump it up and ride the flat. After stopping twice to repump, I gave up and walked back. Funny how you can ride out in only about 20 minutes, but it takes about an hour to walk back.

Oddly, no one stopped to offer help or a ride back (except for some cyclists, of course). I don't know whether I would have accepted a ride back, but it would have been nice to be asked. Plenty of people with trucks drove by, so it's not like they wouldn't have had space for the bike. Ah, well, no matter. I got in some good walking, and no longer was reluctant to stop to take pictures. You can go here to see the complete photo album.

I was grateful to cyclists who stopped to offer help, but it wasn't "help" I needed, it was a tube, and I wasn't going to make someone else ride with one less tube.

So, in any case, the moral of today's story: Don't believe that you'll only get one flat. Be prepared for more. The guy at the LBS (local bike shop) informed me that he even carries three on long rides. I'll be sure to take that under consideration!


geo said...

It's a very good idea to be prepared for more than one flat. In the interest of saving weight (and more importantly space), I carry one tube, a pack of stick-on patches and 2-3 CO2 cartridges. I haven't had to use the patches yet, but if I was riding past at least I could have helped. :)

Karen said...

Yeah, I have no idea why my patch kit wasn't in my bag. But... I don't know if I'd have had the patience to search for the leak without a bucket of water. I guess I could have found it with the help of some water from my water bottle... I'll have to make sure the kit makes it back in my bag so I have two tubes and a kit. Then I should be better prepared. Why so many C02 cartridges? Do you not carry a mini-pump? Ah, well, lesson learned nevertheless. ;)

Arnþór L. Arnarson said...

Hi :)

On a mountain bike type bike, which makes repairing tires possible (it is pretty straight forward actually once you have done it) you only need a trusty pump and a patch kit, I would include tire levers to get one side of the tire off (don't need to take the tire off completely) and put it back on again, can be a real hassle depending on wheel and tire. (I've often looked like a monkey trying to open a coconut at the side of the road trying even with tire levers.)

If you are on a racer (road bike) with thin tires, you could forget about trying to repair a tube. I learned that the hard way. Then carrying a spare is the only way to go, and the trusty pump, and tire levers.

You probably know about the tool kits that can fit into a pocket and look like a swiss army knife. That's a lifesaver. Just be sure that the tools are solid and can take punishment. I once snapped an allen key (hex key) in the middle of the Icelandic highlands, and that was my only one! Things like that tend to teach one a lesson. ;)

I have only once seen some one puncture both tires, but lots and lots of single tire punctures. So I think you will only have good luck from now on (you have used up all your bad luck).

Nice to hear about the cyclist helping you. Once you are one of us, you will find out that we are all one big family. Perhaps because we have to stick together. Some how there is always a big rift between drivers and cyclists, same story all over the world (at least most of it).

Ok good luck!
I'm absolutly sure you will have better luck from now on. ;)

Karen said...

Once I'm one of you? Ha! I've been a cyclist for decades. (Exactly two decades. Off and on, obviously.)

Sure, maybe I'm a bit of a hill slug, but get the heck out of my way on the downhills! And don't expect to pass me easily on the flats. (Cycling is really the only sport that comes naturally to me.)

I was just an underprepared cyclist that day.

I do have a multi-tool, but I'm not sure of the quality. The owner of the LBS recommended it, but I think I need an upgrade. I'll probably get one when I order my repair stand later this year.