rule one of bicycle commuting

ted | bike | Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

In military terms, they refer to it as “hardening” a vehicle, but you need to face the fact that if you’ve got one bicycle that is your commuter, you gotta take some preventive measures or you’re eventually gonna be stuck on the side of the road with a mechanical failure.

Yesterday, I got all suited up for the rain, ready to tackle my ride in, absolutely fuckin pumped to do a bit of pushing pedals in a cold morning’s rain. Got out to the garage and my folder had a flat rear tire – not as in “this tire still holds air but it is slightly low”, but more like “this tire is entirely devoid of internal pressure of any sort and could very well collapse in on itself to create a black hole”. No amount of pumping with Big Blue would persuade it to keep air inside. Damnit. I had to drive.

In retrospect, it was probably about damn time I got a flat. When you ride on the right shoulder of the road, you’re keenly aware of all the flotsam & jetsam that migrates its way into your path – broken glass of all sorts, beer bottles, lone shoes, bits of gravel, metal chips, bumpers from a rear-ended 1998 Taurus, self tapping sheet metal screws, more glass, sand, sharpened bolts, half-broken beer bottles, barbed wire, roadkill and that drunk guy from down the street lying in a pile of broken glass.

In other words, a whole bunch of shit that’s awful to ride on.

The first line of failure, IMHO, is your tires. Everything else can be dealt with, more or less, but you gotta protect your tires. I swung by Performance Bike, since my Local Bike Shop doesn’t stay open late enough for me to swing by after work, and picked up a set of tire liners, two new innertubes and innertube sealant.

Took off the old tire, patched the tire from the inside to act as a boot. Slid in the Slime-branded tire liners (they also had Kevlar™ tire liners at 4x the price), put in the new innertubes and reassambled, a quick ride around the back to make sure I didn’t have a pinch flat, then remove the valve cores, pour in the innertube sealant, reassemble, pump up to 70 psi and spin like crazy. I also went back and patched the old innertube to give me a spare, should I need it.

So by all accounts, I should be done with flats. I still avoid all the glass I can see – I like the knowing that I’ve got some extra levels of protection against all the nasty things I have to ride through on a daily basis. Like Hunter Thompson said, “Call on God, but row away from the rocks.”

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