Flat tyres and flat caps

November 23, 2015 at 21:30 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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Flat tyre

flat tyreI got my bike out of the shed the other day, and the tyre was flat. Flat as a proverbial pancake. This was a great shock, as I never get punctures. People always look at me incredulously when I say that, but it’s true. Punctures are such unusual events that I write about them on this blog every time I get one, and a quick search reveals the last one was in February 2012. I never dig out all the bits of broken glass from my tyres, and run them until they are practically disintegrating, but never seem to have any problems. (Probably because I run wide (32mm) tyres at low-ish pressures. If you’re still running horrid narrow tyres at 100PSI+, well, more fool you.)

I dug out my puncture repair kit, and set to work. It was the same wheel I struggled with when I replaced the tyre a little while ago, but I figured with my new-found wisdom on how to remount the tyre, things should be much smoother.

And indeed they were, although as it turned out it wasn’t a puncture at all, but the patch I had put on the tear in the tube had failed. This was the tear, you may recall, that I made with tyre levers whilst struggling to remount the tyre last time.

This did make me a little embarrassed. I mean, having a patch fail. Come on. In my defence, it was a large-ish tear (perhaps 8-10mm across) which can be hard to patch successfully, and given I have so few punctures my repair kit is invariably dried up and dusty. Not that’s really much of an excuse. Anyway, I put the spare tube on in its place, and all was well. I even managed to re-mount the tyre using only my thumbs.

Flat cap

hunters hill cycling signI was quite taken by this poster for the Hunter’s Hill family ride. Well done, Hunter’s Hill, for holding a ride not predominantly aimed at sports cyclists, and also for not including a single sports cyclist in the picture on the poster. I was of course most taken of all but the fact that the front two riders appear to be not wearing Australian regulation headwear, given one has a sun bonnet, the other a flat cap. I hope this subtle message is a deliberate anti-MHL stance by Hunter’s Hill Community Services. I wan’t able to go to the ride, but was heartened when I saw that the website was similarly devoid of any mention of helmets. Indeed, they didn’t even mention in the ‘rules‘ that you had to wear one, which is almost unheard of (every other organised cycling event I have ever looked at says ‘helmets must be worn’ almost as the first thing). Next year, I must try to get along. Wearing my best flat cap, of course.

 

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This tyre is too hard…

May 15, 2015 at 09:16 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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tyrehardI finally got around to buying a new set of tyres for my fixie; you may recall the one on the back was rather the worse for wear, and I had to rather hurriedly replace it with whatever I could get at the time.

Well, the new tyres arrived, and sat in the shed for a few more weeks until at last I decided to put them on the bike. All easy-peasy,I thought, and within a few minutes I had taken the old one off the front, ready to replace it with a shiny new one.

Put it over the rim; bit of air in the tube, tuck it in, press the other edge over the rim, la la la – I hummed to myself as I worked, figuring this was all be done in a few minutes and I’d be swishing along on my new rubber.

And then I got to the final bit of tyre – you know, the really tight bit that’s a bit of a fiddle to get one. It did feel very tight, but I went back to the other side, worked the tyre around, pulling it around – something that is usually enough to do the trick. But no, it still stubbornly refused to pop on. I had a go with a tyre lever; I have a flat yellow one that works well for this.Then I tried a more heavy duty one. And another. Then I snapped one of them in half. And then bent another. No joy. That last bit of tyre just was not going on the rim. I scratched my head. Why was this so hard? I’ve replaced hundreds of tyres over the years, and never had one this intransigent. I’ve also never snapped a tyre lever, let alone two.

I took the tyre completely off again, and started from scratch. Round we went, popping it on, la la la, until – the same problem. I wrestled with tyre levers some more, but nothing. This was getting ridiculous!

Mrs Chillikebab came out to see how I was doing, and I had to admit that I actually could not put the tyre on the wheel. She suggested I might have to put the old one back on and go to the bike shop, and that made me feel simultaneously cross and ineffectual. Buoyed up by anger, I had one last go at the tyre with two tyre levers, and – pop – it finally went on. Phew.

I got my pump and started to put some air in. Whoosh. The air was leaking out as fast as it was going in. I had ripped a hole in it with the tyre levers; something that all the books say to watch out for, but which I had never before done.

leversIncandescent with rage I grabbed one of the few intact tyre levers I still had left, wrenched the tyre back off the rim, took out the tube and patched it.

This was not going to defeat me. I started again, this time paying a little more attention to where the tyre bead was sitting on the rim as it went on. It was sitting quite high on the rim, quite firmly held in the groove around the edge of the rim. I realised that by squeezing it in I could pop it deeper into the rim, against the rim tape. This gave me much more slack at the other side, and it was a doddle to pop the last bit of tyre over with just my thumbs. All so easy. As I then put air into the tyre, I could hear the tyre bead popping into its correct place all around the tyre.

So why the dramas? Have I never had a rim with such a pronounced groove just around the rim before? I have no idea, but I was able to put the rear one on with no fuss at all – and this is a different rim (the original Salsa one, rather than the Velocity one on the front).

So finally I was done. My thumbs hurt, I was dirty and sweaty, had broken four tyre levers and spent nearly an hour wrestling with it. But there is always that slight glow of satisfaction that comes with overcoming adversity…

What to do with a dodgy tube?

October 2, 2012 at 21:11 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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My rear tyre kept going flat. Just slowly, but obviously enough that I was putting much more air into it than the one on the front. Then, on Wednesday, I got my bike out of the garage to go to work and it had gone really very soft.

A puncture. I’d been putting it off, but now I had to do it. Luckily I had a bit of spare time, so I quickly felt around the outside of the tyre. I quickly found a large bit of splintered glass embedded in the rubber. ‘That’s probably what is was.’, I thought, and rather than taking the wheel off (no quick-release on the fixie) I just levered the tyre off at the point and pulled a bit of the tube out to patch the hole. If the hole was there it was too small to see, and I couldn’t feel any sharp edge inside the tyre either , so the splinter seemingly hadn’t got through the kevlar puncture protection layer. Whatever – I had a new tube, so I whip the wheel off, replace the tube, get it all back together and off we go – all done and dusted in less than ten minutes.

This weekend, I had a spare moment, so thought I’d patch up the old tube. Put some air in, put it in a bowl of water and go around to find the hole. Nothing obvious at first, but then it was quite a slow puncture. Put some more air in to stretch it a little, and go around more carefully. That tell-tale stream of bubbles remains obstinately absent.

Put more air in to really stretch it father than recommended, and go around really carefully, and inch at a time, pulling it as I go.

Nothing.

All very strange. A very very very slow puncture? Dodgy valve? Who knows. It’s now been inflated in the garage for two or three days, with no apparent air leakage.

So now I’m debating what to do with the tube. Of the options below, which would you recommend?

  1. It’s obviously fine. Pack it up in your seat bag as your spare.
  2. It’s obviously dodgy. Chop it up and use it to pad out that new rear light fitting that’s too big to fit securely on the seat stays.
  3. It might be dodgy. Buy a new spare, but keep it for emergency use.
  4. Give it to a friend as a gift.
  5. Eeeeygh, I can’t believe you tested a used inner tube in your kitchen sink. That’s so unhygienic.

Flat as a tack

March 24, 2011 at 22:13 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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I got that flat feeling today. On the way back to the office from a meeting I turn the penultimate corner prior to my destination, and it feels all weird. Like the back wheel skidded out a little.I continue to roll along, and the weird feeling continues. It just all feels wrong, like some alien force is trying to take over the bike.

I pull up outside the office, and feel the tyres. Sure enough, the rear one is nearly flat. I have a puncture. Bugger. ‘This can’t be!’, I think. ‘I never get punctures!’.

It’s kind of true. I haven’t had a puncture for about four years – ever since I started riding on Conti Sports Contact tyres. I’m not really one for brand endorsements, but I love those tyres. I guess they travel about 5000 km per year, so that’s 20,000 km without a puncture. And they are grippy and fast too.

I get up to the office to survey the damage. I also have a quick check of the equipment I have with me; I am now so complacent about punctures that I quite often neglect to take any of the basics with me. Tonight I am in luck, though. I have a repair kit, tyre levers, a new tube, and the all important spanner to get the wheel off – it’s the rear wheel on the fixie, so it doesn’t have a quick release.

The first challenge is getting the wheel off. I hardly ever do it, and the last time the nuts were tightened were at the LBS. For a few minutes I wonder if my little spanner is going to give me enough leverage, but with some brute force they turn. I examine the exterior of the tyre, and immediately see the culprit. A tack is embedded in the rubber. I’m surprised that the tyre didn’t go down much faster; I must have ridden several hundred metres with it pushed into the wheel.

The good news about it being so obvious is that I can repair the tube easily, as I know where the hole is. I lever the tyre off the rim at that point, and pull out enough of the inner tube to carry out a repair. I have a sudden thought that the  puncture repair kit might contain a four-year old tube of dried-up rubber cement, but luckily it’s unused and the seal is not broken.

Thee is one thing about puncture repair kits that bugs me, though. Why on earth do they make the patches so huge? This particular kit comes with two different sizes; the small one is about three centimetres by two centimetres, and the large one is about double that. Do people actually mend holes that are two centimetres across? Good luck to them if they do, but my punctures are invariably little pin holes that only need a small patch about the size of a thumbnail. Huge patches are really hard to apply; you have to roll them around a crease in the tube and it’s hard to get them flat and bonded all the way to the edge. I take some scissors to one of the patches and trim it to about a third of its original size to make it usable. (I’ve never found that not having a tapered edge to the patch matters. I remember at one time you could buy sheets of patch stuff and just cut it off in squares as you need it.)

Rough up the tube with sandpaper (repair kits seem to come with little cheesegrater things these days, but I prefer old-school and evidently remembered to put a small square of sandpaper in the repair kit) and apply a coating of rubber cement. Then wait. And wait some more. And then just a bit longer for luck.

I peel the backing off the trimmed patch, and place it over the hole before squeezing it between two 20c pieces to hold it in place. After a minute or so, it’s ready to go. (Except there’s no French chalk. Honestly, standards are slipping. in my day, young man, let me tell you that you always dusted your repair with powdered French chalk.)

Put a little air into the tube and relocate it, then pop the tyre back onto the rim. Check the tube isn’t being pinched by the tyre bead, and then inflate the thing properly. This is where things get a little difficult. I do have a mini-pump, but I’ve never used it. I purchased it ages ago when my previous one fell off my bike and was squashed under a car before I could retrieve it. My old one had two holes, one for Presta and one for Schrader. This one has only one hole, apparently for Schrader. And there’s an adapter thingo clipped under the lever.

I have no idea how this works. I know such adapters exist, but I’ve never used one.What do you do? Put it into the pump, and then onto the valve? Screw it onto the valve and then put the pump over? Do I use the lever on the pump before or after inserting the adapter thingo?

I actually still don’t know the right way, but I do know one thing. The answer to ‘how do these adapter thingos work’ is ‘badly‘. I tried it every which way, but each time I got a moderate amount of air into the tyre any subsequent thrusts of the pump wobbled it enough to cause more air to leak out than I was pumping in. At this rate I was going to be riding home on a tyre barely inflated enough to keep me off the rims!

I eventually worked out how to get some air in, by jamming the wheel upright under my desk with the valve at the top, and then pulling upwards very hard on the valve as I pumped. A manoeuvre that could be tricky at the side of the road. Perhaps I need to invest in a better pump.

Anyway, I do actually quite enjoy mending punctures, provided it’s not at the side of the road in the rain when you are late. I like the satisfaction of actually mending something that is damaged – a feeling that is rather rare in today’s disposable society. I know several friends who think I am bonkers, and just buy a new tube each time; I’ve been known to rescue their punctured tubes from the bin, repair then, and present them back to them to use next time.

Not that I’m looking to get another puncture any time soon, thanks. But in another 20,000 km or so’s time I might be ready!

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