Monday, May 11, 2015

Best flat tire yet.

I wrote this last fall when I was thinking about starting this blog, I wasn't sure I could come up with something worth reading 3 or 4 times a month but this one, and a couple of other things came pretty easily and I relaxed a bit. Whenever I re-read it I remember how great this ride was, I hope you get a little sense of what it was like...
 Best flat tire yet.

I missed the Wed. social ride this evening, a little oversight in the morning meant that at 4, ½ an hour before I would normally be squeezing into a phone booth and tugging on my Super Suit to be there for the 5:15 start, I realized there was still at least an hours’ worth of Donkey work to do. Sigh. 

So at 5:30 I finally rolled out, tried to figure out what route the ride would take on a day like today, half way through October when the light gives out by 7:30 and the wind blows in circles, made a guess and took off.   

I guessed wrong. Never saw em’. 

  I did see a Kestrel nail a field mouse in a pasture (Hover, hover, hover, drop (like a rock (!)) thrash around a bit, then take off again with dinner tucked up under the fuselage. I never get tired of seeing that),   a 1940-something  Farmall “H” pulling a hayrake up a hill in front of me just a bit too fast to catch the draft, who cares, likely die from carbon monoxide if I did (sourest of sour grapes, tractor drafting is helicopter-drop-extreme-snowboarding for old guys like me so don’t let me lie to you, I was  SO disappointed). I saw another old guy in coveralls and gumboots walking across the dirt road in front of me who looked up to see the unexpected and did the best Charlie Chaplin stumble-rush to get out of the way when I was still 30 feet down the hill (we both got a laugh out of that) and the most beautiful Mink peeking over the bank of a creek at me as I stood at a crossroad trying to figure out whether to keep looking for the group or just go mess around on my bike for another hour.

And it was such a fine evening for messing around out in farm country on a bike. I’m glad I gave up on tracking them down. I really love the Wed. night ride, it’s people I like that I would never get to know otherwise and even though it can be too slow even for me sometimes, it’s an evening spent talking and messing around on my nicest bike which is a fine thing to spend ones time doing. I get bummed if I miss it and I had missed it the week before and was really missing it now so was surprised when I found myself contentedly riding harder than I usually do, all by myself and feeling like all the best rides so far this year (and this has been the best year for years) were just building up to this fantastic 2 hours spinning along at such a satisfying clip in what looked like a mid-20th century English Pastoral painting. Ideal weather, Massanutten Mountain looking pin-sharp way off across the valley, perfect blue sky with the sun going down and lighting up the Jet trails at 40,000 feet like frozen strips of space, streaked ice white from horizon to horizon as if to remind us that Winter is coming. I stopped on top of a hill where I could see rolling fields, barns and 80 year old white farmhouses in every direction, and took a mental panoramic picture in case this ride never happens again.
My grown-up brain decided it was time to head to the house while there was still good light but I was wishing there was just a little more, another tiny slice of pie before clearing the table and washing up, and I got it. A flat.

Why do people hate flatting so much? Sometimes it is a nuisance, especially when riding with the wrong group of riders, the “You really ought to be riding GatorHosen tires like ME” sort, who resent what your little screw-up is doing to their Strava. But other times, flatting is a nice thing, a romantic thing. Times when you really don’t want to head back just yet, times when there’s a nice sloping grass bank with a view of the Sun going down reluctantly on the best  day all month, you have a spare tube, a full size pump (with a hose) AND a new patch kit.  It’s like finding yourself in one of those lovely Frank Patterson illustrations from Cycle magazine from between the wars. Wouldn’t you look forward to that if you knew it was coming? Fixing a flat is Cycling, just like chopping onions is eating and being lonely is being in love. You’re not getting it ALL if you’re not getting a little of this too.

 Learn to do it, carry what you need to get it done gracefully and take some pleasure in doing it like a pro even if you do it like a stooge. Smile at the folks who drive by and stare at you like you had some minor misfortune. Try to observe yourself from 30 feet away and 10 feet up, watch as you deftly drop the wheel out and hang the chain on the peg without getting more than the tiniest spot of grease on your fingertip. The more positively you’re thinking, the easier the tire slips off the rim (you won’t even need the lever that you remembered to bring just in case), and that tiny piece of wire in the tire? You are absolutely going to find it without jabbing it in your finger. One more patch on the tube that already looks like it came from a Hobo bike but really hides in that beautiful machine that makes you do that little tight lipped smile when you see it waiting for you in the hall in the morning, and before you know it the wheel is back in place after only about 50 strokes on the pump (that’s right, only 50! Mini pumps are for those who never flat and ride GatorHosens(which ride like WOOD)), and you’re back in the game, feeling competent and ready for anything.

 That was me tonight. I’ve fixed a squintillion flats, and this was the best one yet. Probably the best one I’ll ever have, but maybe there’s an even better one to come. Wouldn’t that be nice?


  1. Fun fact: Around here they call them flat wheels, not flat tires.

    Funny, I never seem to get flats when I "really don’t want to head back just yet and there’s a nice sloping grass bank with a view of the Sun going down reluctantly on the best day all month..." Usually it happens when I'm late getting home and it has just begun raining/hailing. If I do ever get a romantic, welcome flat of the sort you describe, I shall name it in your honor.

  2. I don't get many flats when I'm behaving myself but when I ride off curbs, or intentionally drift around in the gravel or ride through the ditch to get around someone throwing elbows on the Wed. Social ride I do. If it's raining and I'm trying to keep my pelt dry I usually avoid all the Hooliganism and just ride like a grown-up.

    Also, I'm a woos. I have a car for those Northern Ireland sort of days...


    Hmmm. It looks like I forgot to make a profile picture... Better get on that.

  3. 50 strokes? One quick squirt with the CO2 more like

    1. I hear you, for every reason to carry a pump there's a good one for carrying the gas. I'm never in THAT big a hurry so I lean toward the pump now. I've also noticed that those who carry CO2 usually carry a tube but no patch kit, thus they can fix precisely ONE flat. I'll have to weigh it when I get home but I bet my pump and kit weigh less than 2 tubes and a CO2 outfit, and I can fix a dozen punctures which let's me ride like a FOOL. Which I like.
      It sucks to realize you didn't get all the glass out and you are 25 miles from home with a softening tire and now you're begging to borrow a pump. And a patch. I've been that guy.

      Plus I'm cheap and like never having to stock up on CO2 cartridges anymore. And doesn't it annoy you to see all the rusty empties laying on the trail? You probably carry yours out but a bunch of people don't.