Special Ops and I went for a coffee cruise today. We did the Super Wanky Power Loop with Kickerz, hopped the chain link fence at La Venta Inn, went down VdM, on down to Haggerty’s, up the Cove Climb, back up VdM, up Highridge, and up Whitley Collins.
Or as Joann Z. would say, “Just turn left.”
Then we descended Monaco to Hawthorne to PV South to Sea Beans. It was sunny and warm. Some dude was pulling up for valet service in his $200,000 BMW sporty car thingy wearing a matching jogging suit. Michael and I looked at all that money and quietly got free refills of our $1.87 small coffees.
Many years ago Johnny C. had told me about tubeless tars. They were, according to him, “Way better than clincher tars.”
“How come?” I had asked.
“Because no tubes. Just like a car.”
“Cars don’t have tubes?” I asked.
He rolled his eyes. “Not since about 1938.”
“So what happens when you flat?”
“You never flat. That’s the beauty of them.”
I thought about all the times my Dad’s Galaxie 500 had flatted and all the curse words I’d learned watching him work a tire iron on a bunch of bolts that had been put on with an impact wrench. “Never?”
“What about when you roll over a cake filled with razor blades or ride through a glass field?”
“Oh, sure, sometimes you flat. If you’re doing something way crazy, sure, they’re rubber, they’ll slice. But basically it never happens.”
“Mine only flatted once.”
“Then what happened?”
“You just stick a tube in there like it was a regular tar and you’re good to go.”
“So it’s a tubeless tar that takes a tube?”
“If you want it to. But it never flats. Unless you are doing something way crazy.”
“How can it hold air if there’s no tube?”
“Just like a car tar.”
This stumped me because I had no idea how a car tar held air. In fact I had wondered about it since I was a little kid but was always too afraid to ask because I didn’t want people to think I was dumb. Er.
“How does a car tar hold air?” I asked.
Johnny C. looked at me like I was really dumb. “The edge of the tar makes a perfect seal against the rim. No air can get out.”
“How does it do that?”
“You put some sealant in it.”
“It’s this liquid that sloshes around in the tar and when you put air in it the pressure forces the bead against the rim and the sealant closes off the infinitesimal gap and makes a complete seal so no air gets out.”
“What happens to the sealant when you get one of those flats that never happens?”
“They never flat, I’m telling you.”
“I know. But what happened that one time you got that flat that never flatted?”
“I just put a tube in.”
“With all the sealant?”
“You just kind of wipe it away. It doesn’t make that big a mess or anything. It’s not like your tar is filled with a gallon of white paint. Anyway, they’re the wave of the future. Five years from now no one will be riding tubes. They’ll all be tubeless tars. They never flat, and when they puncture the sealant fills the hole and seals it up, and if once in a million years you flat then you pop in a tube and you’re good to go.”
“I don’t think I’m ready for that yet. I only switched to clinchers from sew-ups back in 2006 and am just now getting the hang of putting in the inner tube. I don’t want to have to learn how to change a tubeless.”
“But they never flat. There’s nothing to change.”
“Except that one time.”
“One time in three years. Think of all the money you’ll save on tubes.”
“Mostly I’m thinking about that one time every three years like clockwork I’ll be 50 miles from home covered in white paint.”
So anyway it was five years later and everyone hadn’t switched over to tubeless tars but a whole bunch of people had, especially ‘cross and gravel types, and Special Ops was one of those types.
We were feeling pretty good after the coffee and the jokes about the jogging suit and the car that cost $200,000 but had probably never been driven over 45 mph, and we were pedaling slowly along Crest, a nicely paved, smooth piece of asphalt that looked like it had been polished that morning with Kiwi shoe wax and buffed with a horsehair brush, so fine it was, and I was on the inside and am pretty sure neither of us was doing anything crazy or even mildly neurotic when pow! There was an explosion louder than a Trump tweet at 3:00 AM and it was followed by the sound of carbon scraping asphalt and how I didn’t fall off my bike from fright I’ll never know.
Special Ops his foot down and looked back at his rear tar which had blown off the rim and the road and his leg, which was covered in what looked like a gallon of white paint.
“What happened?” I said, trembling with much fear.
“Darned if I know.” He took off the rear wheel which was a major operation because these new bikes are all equipped with a slow release and the derailleur falls off when you take off the wheel which itself gave me an aneurysm but he had it under control except for the gallon of white paint that now covered everything, everything meaning his hands, legs, feet, bike, the shrubbery … it looked like Local 157 of the Painters Union had thrown a white paint party.
Special Ops did some surgery on the wheel but the tar wasn’t going to work even though we couldn’t find a hole in it. He shot it up with a couple of C02s and more white paint spewed everywhere.
“Are you going to put a tube in it now?” I asked.
He looked at me like I was really dumb. “It’s tubeless,” he said. “There is no tube.”
“Right,” I said. “I was just testing you.”
Luckily my apartment was nearby so I rode home and Ubered him to work. I think I am going to keep using my clincher tars for a while yet.
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