Flat tyres

February 6, 2012 at 22:59 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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I hardly ever get punctures. Almost never. Just don’t believe in ’em. The last time I had a puncture was in March, and the last time before that was – well, actually I don’t remember. In fact, I stopped getting punctures when I started using Conti Sports Contact tyres. Now, I’m not big on product endorsement, but I do love those tyres. I run the 32mm version, and they sit on the Salsa Cross rims beautifully. They roll well, are grippy like anything, and, well, never get punctures. (It’s probably worth mentioning, in the interests of balance, that upon mentioning my preference for these tyres to someone in the Sydney cycling community, they launched into a diatribe about how awful they were, now they got continual punctures, and how they fell apart really quickly. And the LBS near work won’t stock any Conti tyres, as they think they are unreliable. Caveat Emptor, as they say.)

The last time I changed the tyres on the fixie was, erm, well actually I’ve never changed the front tyre. It’s the one that came with the bike four years ago. The rim is nearly worn through, the hub bearings need replacing, but the tyre is still going strong after what must be at least 25,000 km.

Well, that’s an exaggeration. Not the longevity of the tyre, but the notion that it is ‘going strong’. Actually it’s pretty knackered, with the kevlar belt showing through in some places and big cuts and holes in in. There’s also enough glass embedded in it to open a bottling plant.

And there’s a lot of broken glass around Sydney at the moment. Lots of public holidays means lots of drunken louts throwing beer bottles into the street. From the amount on the bike paths, you could almost believe people break glass there deliberately.  Surely no Sydneysider would be so inconsiderate? That’s the kind of behaviour  you might expect from Melbournian cricket celebrities, but not the people of this fine city.

Anyway, perhaps inevitably, my tyres have succumbed to the glass. Both of them, in fact, in close succession. A flat on the front on Friday, and a flat on the back tonight. The one tonight was particularly painful, as I was on a three-line whip to get home early so Mrs Chillikebab could go out to her dance class. I wheeled the bike out of the rack at work, and realised I had a flat. I had ten minutes to spare, so set to to quickly change the tube for the spare, only to discover the spare (which I have never used, having bought it years ago and tucked it into my saddlebag) was useless – the valve just came off the tube when I attached the pump to it.

This meant I was going to have to actually find and fix the hole in order to ride home. And the clock was ticking. I examine the tube looking for the hole. No, can’t see it – damn, precious minutes wasted there on a fruitless search, I’m going to need a bowl of water. Rush into the bathrooms, fill a basin and work my way around looking for the tell-tale stream of bubbles. I start at the valve and work around to the right, going over the whole tube  only to  find the hole just to the left of the valve.

Quick, rough it up and get the rubber cement on it. Now wait for the cement to go tacky.Wait some more. WAIT! You know you have to wait. I tap my heels impatiently, and, able to stand it no longer, peel off the patch and stick it on. It slides around and the cement is runny under my finger. Too soon! Oh no, am I going to have to do the whole thing again? I will it to stick, holding it on as I rush back to the bike. Put a little air into it, back under the tyre, pop the tyre back on, and now just to pump it up.

I had had a nagging doubt about this part of the operation from the beginning. The last time I used my mini-pump was the last time I got a flat, and it didn’t really work then.  It worked even less well this time. As I pump, the air leaks away, so I pump harder – pumping like a dervish I manage to get just enough air in to get me off the rims. Jeez, I need a new mini-pump.

I get going – a few hundred metres down the road is a bike shop, so I pop in to borrow a pump to put some air in the tyre. More time wasted, but I know that I’ll make up the time compared to riding with a nearly flat tyre. And finally then away, scooting off through the traffic. (I’m in a rush, but I’m still the slowest cyclist on Pyrmont Bridge. People really do need to ride slower on that bridge. Really, they do. Cyclists do themselves no favours zipping across there weaving around the pedestrians – and I catch them all up at the lights anyway.)

I get home with seconds to spare. Mrs Chillikebab does a quick handover as she heads out the door (Baby fed at 5, had bath, looks tired. Toddler ate well, lively, seems to be getting the hang of the potty) and vanishes.

I stand surveying the scene; the usual carnage of toys everywhere. Toddler wants a cuddle but I am hot, sweaty, and my hands are filthy with oil and brake dust. ‘Cuddle now!’, she wails, and then wees on the floor. Baby Chillikebab just smiles up at me from her mat, and then contentedly fills her nappy. enough to start it oozing out around the legs.

Tomorrow, I get new tyres…

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