Tubular, dude!

The first one happened just as we turned from West Channel Road onto PCH, heading north to Malibu. Tom Herman and I were at the back of the group and Tom said his front tire was soft. Sure enough, it was going flat and the group was speeding away. You see them going away in a situation like that and they suddenly seem less like your helpful training partners than a bunch of uncaring, self-centered wankers. As I was pulling over I yelled, didn’t seem like anybody heard me, but there was one fellow with us and he said he would chase and let the wankers know of Tom’s plight.

tube snakes

tube snakes

Tom said he had hit a bump hard at the bottom of Ocean Avenue where it drops down from the bluffs overlooking Santa Monica Bay and intersects West Channel, so it was most likely a pinch flat. He swapped in a spare tube and used a CO2 cartridge to inflate it, not in the fastest time I’ve seen, but we were on our way eventually. I started pulling to where I thought the group would be waiting and felt really quite good (tailwind effect).

We did find some of the group waiting, much farther down the road than I thought they would be. Maybe the others were off the front and could not be caught, or maybe they were in an FLG mood. By which I mean “Fuck’em Let’s Go.” Think it doesn’t happen? Check out this jersey.

ye olde South Bay Pro bikes jersey

ye olde South Bay Pro bikes jersey


pardon my French, but FLG

pardon my French, but FLG

It’s from the old South Bay Pro Bicycles shop that was owned by Scott Palmer, who was a ex-cop with a seen-a-lot-of-shit attitude, so the FLG was not entirely a joke. I’m sure there were dependencies…

Tom and I slowed and stopped, with Tom having to endure comments regarding his less than speedy tube change. Off we went, me pulling again and feeling unexpectedly strong (tailwind effect). About a mile down the road I heard behind a call out for another flat. Now Tom’s rear tire had gone down. He had already used his own spare tube and the only CO2 cartridge that he had, so he had to borrow a tube and beg a cartridge. Tara offered up her spare tube and Tom mounted it, then tried to inflate it, but it wasn’t happening. We tried my hand pump on it, but as much air came out as went in. Tom pulled the borrowed tube out and we found a large split in it. Cheezy cheap tubes!

He had to borrow another tube, this one an expensive German model, carefully packaged in talcum powder that was now billowing around us as we tried to avoid breathing it in. Reassuringly, it did hold air, but there was not enough CO2 left in the cartridge and we had to top off the tire with my hand pump. I kind of feel sometimes like grandpa with his hand tools making repairs for people after a hurricane when the electricity is down. Off we went again, me pulling and feeling strong again (tailwind effect), and then we pacelined in a loose rotation all the way out to Cross Creek in Malibu.

That’s all Tara and I wanted, so we turned around and went back, straight into a headwind. Oh yeah, now I didn’t feel so strong, but I did see a fellow in a La Grange jersey up the road a bit, too tempting for a wheel-sucker like myself. So I made a little investment of effort to get onto his wheel and let him pull us. Blessed relief, but it didn’t last long. Suddenly I felt a little bump and heard a clang-clang-clang noise from my rear wheel, which also got soft right away. I pulled over, dismounted and checked the rear wheel. Crikey, there was a drywall screw embedded in it where the contact surface blends into the sidewall. The head of the screw had been clanging against the seat and chain stays of the frame. Good thing it’s titanium and not carbon fiber.

the pointy end goes here

the pointy end goes here

What’s the probability of that? It’s not like that drywall screw could have been standing on its head, point up just waiting for me to roll along and over it. I need a physicist to figure out how it happened, it’s just too boggling for me. But, it WAS an opportunity to demonstrate the flat-repair-on-the-rim technique. Mike Barr, a fellow I work with at Raytheon showed me this technique years ago and this is the second time I was able to use it.

You have to know where the hole is, that’s the key to the technique. With the screw still sticking out of the tire, it’s pretty obvious where the hole is. So you just use the tire irons to force the bead off the rim for maybe an eight inch span and pull the tube out of the gap. The hole should be right there, so just get your patch kit out and do the sand/glue/patch steps. This is assuming you HAVE a patch kit. A lot of people don’t bother, they just carry an extra tube and a CO2 set. So patch it, stuff it back in, push the bead back on, pump it up and off you roll. The tire never comes off the rim, the rim never comes off the frame – magic.

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2 Responses to Tubular, dude!

  1. Tom the Slow Tube Changer says:

    My worst day ever for mechanical (tire ) problems!!
    And then ~you~ got a drywall screw puncture?! 😦
    Could be worse, couple years ago a long sheet metal screw punctured my nearly new rear tire ~and~ also penetrated my alloy rim. Fortunately I was only 1/2 mile from home and walked back.

    Why does these screws and nails seemingly stay upright on the asphalt, waiting for errant cyclists?
    Where do missing socks go?
    Why does the buttered side of toast nearly always land on the ground? There’s actually a plausible physics explanation for this, involving the moment of inertia of a slice of bread 😉

  2. Tara with undependable equipment says:

    A couple of things: 1) The day after this ride, I was racing in the Roger Millikan crit. Eight before they called laps, I hear a big CLANK CLANK, much unlike the noise from the day before, although I didn’t make the connection just then. Sure enough, I had rolled over something and flatted my front tire. I had to DNF the race. I went off to Big Bear right after the race and didn’t fix the flat until the next day. And what should I find but a BIG screw, not too unlike the one that flatted your tire on Saturday! Then I made the connection, my flat was just a day late. 🙂

    2) After fixing my flat, I replaced the CO2s and the tube in my saddle bag. I decided the tube I gave Tom, I think was actually one from a Jr. that flatted on a previous ride. I gave him my spare and stuck his flat in my bag and forgot. :/ So I’m good now. New tire, new CO2, new CO2 dispenser. AND I tried to stick a patch kit in my bag, now that I know your fancy trick. But I need a bigger bag, which I will get. 🙂 But I did use my new patching skills to boot the tire where the nail went in, just to be safe. Glad to know and have some practice with the patch kit.

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