There are lots of kinds of cyclists, but only two that matter: Those who can change their own flats and those who cannot.
Of course there is even a third kind, those who can mostly change their own flats but play hell changing the flats of others. I’m that kind. One time Tink and I spent an hour on the side of the road at the Glass Church while I tried to get her tire back on the rim. Another time I drove out to help Peg and Michelle fix a quadruple flat, and all I can say is that I’m glad I brought half a dozen tubes and a floor pump. My standard for pro tire changes is high; Gus Bayle, Jay LaPlante, Gerald Iacono, Kenny Lam … people who make the most devilish job in the word look like nothing at all.
Recently I have taken on a new training charge, my wife, and suffice it to say I am not a good teacher. Nor am I patient. However, she is very enthusiastic and has marked off every Friday from now until 2057 as our Coffee Ride Day. Today was one of those days, and it started off great.
Like most new riders she wants to ride every day, each day more than the day before, but unlike most new riders she has the Grinch That Stole Bikemas living at home (which is bad) and he is also riding with her (which is worse), so many of the pitfalls awaiting most newbies have a wooden stake driven through their heart and lungs immediately. The other day as she got ready to go out for her ride I growled “Don’t ride.”
“Why not? I planned it and have been looking forward to it all morning.”
“Don’t ride,” I said again, wondering what had been unclear about it the first time.
“Why?” she asked.
My first answer, “Because I said so,” got discarded in favor of something much more diplomatic. “You are tired and need to rest. Two days, no riding. Rest = Get stronger.”
She didn’t understand but took my advice, so when we started this morning she was peppier than pep. “I feel peppy!” she said.
“Ungh,” I grunted.
After a while we were going up the Monaco wall. It is horrible, long, steep, avoided by everyone, and no place for newbies. She had dropped back a ways so I circled around. “You okay?” I asked.
“Yes!” she said between deep gasps. “I feel peppy! Slow but peppy!”
And she did look peppy. And slow. At the top I suggested we stop for an ussie. That’s when I noticed her completely flat rear tire. “You know your tire’s flat?”
“It is? I thought I was just slow.”
“Can’t I make it home?” She had climbed the entire wall on the rim and we still had a long climb plus Whitley-Collins plus a bombing descent before we were home.
“Yes, but we’re not going to.”
“Are you going to fix the tire?”
“Yes,” I said. She got that glow of a damsel in distress about to be helped by a valiant knight-errant, and I started to feel less grouchy and semi-useful until I tried to get the tire off the rim. The tire was brand new and part of the Fuji Supreme she had bought from Performance Bicycle, and I suppose the “supreme” in the name referred to the “supremely tight” fit of the tire on the rim.
A close inspection revealed a tiny thorn that took forever to prize free with my fingernails, one of which cracked then snapped off. Then the work began with a flourish of my tire lever and a few well placed curses as the tire refused to peel away. It eventually came off, but I knew that this was simply the prelude, and getting it back on would be impossible. Half an hour later the tire was mounted. She looked at the massive puddle of sweat that had drained off my face onto the pavement. “Are you tired?” she asked.
“That looked a lot harder than when you were riding your bicycle.”
I didn’t say anything except “Fuck!” because as soon as I twisted the C02 canister, all the air leaked out of the pinch flat I’d created when I had remounted the tire with my lever.
“Let’s go!” she said happily. “But it doesn’t look any different.”
I shut up some more and pulled out my own spare tube. “Let’s try that again.”
“Are you doing it so I can practice? I don’t think I can do it. Look at all that blood on your hands.”
I kept on shutting up and got the tire mounted. Then there was that split second of fear where you wait to see if the air is going to come leaking out again. It didn’t and the tire inflated.
We rode home. “You are such a professional,” she said. “And you changed it so quickly!”
“Hmmmm,” I said.
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