Thursday, October 07, 2010

Flat! Flat!

On Tuesday, with the nice crisp 30ºF weather, I was thinking about doing a short post on bicycle commuting in the winter. I figured that after a few winters of doing it, I might have learned something that would save somebody else some trouble. Well, I didn't get around to it (obviously!). I figured on doing it yesterday, but I ran into (literally) a problem—I got a flat tire on the way to work.

My initial response was, "No biggie; I've got a spare tube." I turned the bike upside down, removed the wheel and pulled the tube. OK, it took more time than that implies because the tube was quite stuck to the tire, but you get the idea. I fished the extra tube out of my rack trunk, noticing that it had a few patches on it. That's pretty common; I usually keep a tube until there are about 8-9 patches. I even recognized the most recent one from this spring. I also noted, again, that the tire was getting pretty thin. Time to replace it; tires usually only last 2 years on my bike.

I put the tube in; reseated the tire, attached the pump, and started pumping. And pumping. And pumping. I know that the little portable pump on my bike has a small capacity, but this was crazy. Sure enough, the spare tube had a leak! Now what? I was about 2 miles from home and 3.5 miles from work, on a country road.

I suppose I could have tried to repair one of the tubes on the spot, but trying to find a leak in a tube can be a real pain without a bucket of water. I only do that if I have to. Instead, I opted to walk the 2 miles home. After all, it was a beautiful fall day. So, I walked home, exchanged my road bike for the winter commuter, called work to let them know what was going on, and rode in.

I was about an hour late, but the time outside was a nice extra :) Maybe I shouldn't be giving advice to others on commuting. What do you think?


Andrew Vogel said...

It happens. And you do better than I do - I don't patch my tubes.

jps said...


But, if I followed your practice, I wouldn't have walked an extra 2 miles! And tubes aren't that expensive; I guess I'm just cheap.


Andy said...

I'm usually making an on-the-spot decision about whether it's more time-effective for me to patch it, or walk.

I tend to damage tubes pretty quickly when they go flat, so I'm lucky if they make it to a second or third patching.

Andrew Vogel said...

Whenever I bike I always have two spare tubes. The first time I went mountain biking I went through two tubes and that set my limit.

The problem ended up being that the tape on the rim was too small and it was pinching the tube, popping it. But if you replace a tube on the road, what if that tape slides a bit and starts pinching again?