Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How To Fix A Flat

When I get back to checkpoint number two at Veyo Pies, walking my bike by the saddle and finishing my teriyaki beef stick, I notice the volunteers have moved the table again. I lean my bike up against the cable spool table next to the plastic patio chair with the seagull poop all over it and remove my seat bag from my seat rails in the windy cold. Then I think "what the heck am I doing?" I have everything I need without even opening my seat bag and I'm not going to embarrass myself by pulling out, or even thinking about using tire levers in view of other cyclists. I hope the volunteers have a pump and I'll be all set. I would hate to ride the last 50 plus miles of the Tri-States Gran Fondo with a figal of CO2 shot in my tube. That would suck. Besides, last time I used one, my tube blew up right when I clipped in and exerted my 79 plus kilos on the rear wheel.

I remove my full fingered gloves and right away my bare fingers acknowledge the cold wind. I'm happy now with my decision to bring an extra spare tube and pull it out of my left jersey pocket from under my chocolate chip granola bars and my windstopper beanie. I round up a floor pump from the well prepared volunteers and get to work on my flat in the windy cold. I pull up the rear brake's quick release and shift the chain down the cassette to the second to the smallest cog and yank open the quick release and give it a couple of spins. I pop the rear wheel out of the dropouts with a gentle tap on the top of the wheel and pull it out and off, working the cassette away from the slack chain.

I lay my bike carefully on top of the cable spool table, drive side up, and sit down in the seagull poop covered plastic patio chair and turn the wheel in my hands trying to find the puncture. My hands are getting really cold really fast. There are a couple of small cuts in the tread and what looks like what could be a small puncture in the tire at about 10 o'clock in relation to the stem, but I find nothing in the tire on the outside. I unscrew the presta valve and release the remaining air from the tube as I work my way around the tire both squeezing out the remaining air and releasing the bead.

I push with my thumbs about 6 inches apart opposite the stem and quickly pop the tire off the rim. In seconds the tire is off the drive side of the rim and I remove the tube. I pop the tube on the floor pump and give it a couple of pumps and try to spot or hear the leak. It's too windy to really hear anything except the wind, but I continue my inspection around the tube, trying to listen or feel on my cheek any escaping air. All I can feel is the wind and the cold pushing on my face and fingers, so I'm not sure if there is a puncture or if the stem has a leak. I set aside the sagging tube and quickly inspect the inside of my tire.

I see nothing amiss inside the casing, so I run my cold bare fingers around the inside of my tire multiple times trying to find anything that will cause another problem. I find nothing. I unscrew the presta valve on my extra spare tube and push it in with my tongue as I blow a little air into the tube to ease installation. I close the presta valve and push it down into the rim and quickly work it around the wheel and into the tire. My fingers are now very cold and I set the bead around the valve and work the tire back onto the drive side of the rim. Opposite the valve, I quickly pop the tire fully on the rim with two last pushes with my cold thumbs and pinch my way around the tire to make sure that the extra spare tube won't be pinched when inflated.

I get up out of the plastic patio chair, hoping that the seagull poop stayed on the chair instead of getting on my bibs, lean the wheel against the chair, hook up the pump and inflate the tube to 110 psi. I tighten the presta valve and wonder how many times I'm going to use this tube as my spare. I think this is time number four, and I turn the wheel in my hands and again try to listen for any leaks, but again it's too windy to hear anything but the wind, so I set the tire back against the plastic patio chair and pull my bike down from the cable spool table.

I work my cassette onto my chain and slip the wheel back into the dropouts making sure the tire is centered. I spin the quick release and close it checking the rear wheel for fit and push down the quick release on the rear brake. My hands are freezing now and I velcro my seatbag back onto my seat rails and I'm glad things seem to be back in order and I can get underway again. I pull my granola bar out from under my bib on the top of my right thigh and eat it quickly as I return the floor pump to the volunteer. I throw the tube in the trash along with the teriyaki beef stick and granola bar wrappers and look forward to getting back to pedalling the rest of this Tri-States Gran Fondo and warming up again.

Checkpoint number two is now pretty much empty again as some more riders are filtering in to get their deep dish cookies from Veyo Pies. I pull on my full fingered gloves and am grateful for the protection from the windy cold. It's time to work my way up and around the Veyo Volcano so I grab my bike and wheel it out of the Veyo Pies parking lot to the road where I stow away my coffee shop covers, clip in and push off again. I don't see any riders up the road ahead of me, and again work my way toward the big dip that is the city limit as I find the right cog on the cassette. The wind is cold and it has turned into a stiff headwind just as I was anticipating. It's gusting hard against my effort as I look down at my computer and see that I've lost 14 minutes since walking back to checkpoint number two at Veyo Pies on this timed event that isn't a race.

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