Friday, August 14, 2009

First Flat Ever

There are certain rites of passage road bikers go through - the clipless pedal fall, long ride bonk, and mid-ride flat are all challenges road bikers universally seem to experience. While I have overcome the first two, I have been lucky enough to go over eight and a half months without having a flat. Until today.

I began with the goal of completing a 40 mph training ride. I typically ride on a 4 mile long two lane road that dead ends. So the out and back is just under 8 miles. The road has the advantage of having a nice steep hill just before the turnaround, and a long false flat on the return trip. The road surface is smooth tarmac, has very little traffic, and is a mecca for cyclists in the afternoons. Ironically, adjacent to this road is a bike path that goes along a fairly busy highway. The bike path is in terrible shape, is interrupted by traffic lights, and is riddled with road debris. Pieces of truck tire, shattered glass, and metal debris are all over the bike lane. The city never cleans it. I've purposely avoided this path for those reasons. Today however, I decided to add some flavor to my usual routine and use the bike path after my first lap. After 2 miles of dodging potholes and glass I decided to turn around and resume my usual route doing laps on the road.

I got back on my comfortable smooth tarmac and settled back into a good rhythm but the damage was done. Two miles later, I got a pulsing sensation from my front tire, almost as if I was going over a bunch of tiny speed bumps. I looked down and saw the contact patch on my front tire expanding by the second. I slowed to a stop, and removed the front tire. I never found the offending piece of debris, but the tire was free of any sharp objects. Thankfully I had all the tools required and in a few minutes my flat was fixed and I was back on the road.

My ride was in the morning, there were hardly any other cyclists out, and I was 2 miles away from my car without a cell phone or anyone who knew where I was. Had things not went well, it would have been a very long walk back to the car in bare feet since cycling shoes are worthless for walking. Looking back on the situation know, I was very lucky I had everything I needed and more importantly had practiced changing a flat before I got to this point.

One of my favorite videos on how to change a flat.

If you haven't purchased them already, be sure you have a spare tube, hand pump or CO2, and tire levers. Carry them with you every time you ride. Most important of all if you haven't changed a flat yet, practice in the comfort of your driveway so you'll be proficient at it when you're out on the road.

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