2005- Ride #2 0.6 miles, 20 total. Really.

Short on distance, but long on lessons and new experiences.

Today was a first. Several of them. Second ride on the new Corsa, first flat tire in my life. It was all my fault too–I was able to go an extra ride or two with the BikeE fat tires without checking them each time. At 125 psi, the Kenda Kalientes lose pressure quick, and so have to be inflated every time.

Yep, I got a pinch flat, otherwise known as a “snake bite” flat. I must have hit a stone, or small hole, because I have no recollection of the event. That caused the tire rim to pinch the tube as the tire compressed, creating two holes in the tube about 1cm apart.

OK, them’s the facts. Here’s the story. About a half-mile into the ride, Dad and I are descending a steep hill which T’s onto the main road to Carlisle and Concord. It’s a busy intersection and we’re going to turn left, so I’m always careful there. During the descent, I hear a faint sound, like the scraping of cardboard on a rotating tire. I had heard just that exact sound during my test drive, when one of the store’s tags was rubbing on the back tire. It only lasts a moment, and my mind is elsewhere, so I dismiss it. I didn’t even think of it again until later that afternoon.

The next thing I know, the bike is handling a little funny. I look down to make sure the front hub is secure, which it is. Still, there’s an imprecise feeling I can’t quite identify. It doesn’t seem terrible, so I decide to ride it out. If it’s serious, I’ll figure out why.

Now I’m at the bottom of the hill, ready for the left. Dad is ahead, having already turned. I’m clipped out. No cars to the right, one to the left about 400 feet away and closing. I give the bike a bit of power, turn left, and the front wheel is no longer beneath me. Suddenly I’m on the ground, in the middle of the lane with the oncoming traffic, with only a few short seconds to assess the damage and get to safety. My first check was of the approaching car–it didn’t seem to be an immediate threat. I got up quickly, lifted the whole bike, and got to the side of the road, looking to be sure I hadn’t dropped anything that would get run over.

Dad is on his way back, and a very nice woman who saw the whole thing pulls over, makes sure I’m OK, offers a ride, a pump, and good-hearted concert. Nice. Satisfied I’m fine, she drives off, and Dad and I look over the bike to see what happened.

I noticed the flat first. Luckily, just that morning I’d realized that I was carrying my old Schrader (big valve) mini-pump, and the Corsa has Presta (small) valves. So I had popped an adapter into my kit, little knowing how soon I’d need it! I tried pumping some air into it, and nothing’s happening. Inspecting the tire, which has a Kevlar lining, showed no damage. Must be the tube. I had one in the kit, so no problems there. Maybe it isn’t so crazy to carry two tubes… On a long ride, if I blow a tube, I’d have to finish the ride without a spare.

That wasn’t all the damage, unfortunately. We also find that the aluminium rim has quite a collection of burrs where I’d been turning left while the rim was my only traction on the road. It was a mess, about 6 inches long, and it looked bad enough to do a number on the tire over a few hundred miles.

We decide to hoof it back to Dad’s house, where he has quite a collection of tools, pumps, and you name it.

This was the highly abbreviated version of the story. I left out the part where, earlier in the ride, the chain fell off the smallest chain ring, and knocked my cadence sensor right off the bike onto the road, and two other minor mishaps that made me think of the “rule of 3s” I’d learned as a student pilot: Serious consequences rarely result from a single serious cause, it generally takes three minor, easily ignored causes acting in synergy. Anyway, it all worked out, the Local Bike Shop fixed the problems we ran into with the bad replacement tube, and we did get a real ride in later that afternoon.

Here’s what I learned in that short, final 50 feet of the ride:

  1. Always top off skinny tires to recommended pressure before a ride.
  2. When in doubt, see rule 1.
  3. Don’t ignore any sound that could be air escaping. It could be air escaping!
  4. When the bike suddenly feels squirrely, stop. Immediately. Don’t try to figure it out en route, and don’t try to turn. The brakes will still work, so go straight, brake steadily and firmly,and get both feet on the ground as soon as safely possible.
  5. Rims that get a little chewed up from riding on them can sometimes be smoothed out with steel wool.
  6. It takes a Looooooong time to pump a tire to 125psi with a little hand pump. Get a really good one. Better yet, get a CO2 cartridge tire filler. And forget about Presta-to-Scrader adapters. They’re too easy to lose, and aren’t built for 125psi.
  7. It’s a very good idea to have a pressure gauge on the pump.
  8. Always clip out at busy intersections.
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