What you can’t buy online

I had to run a couple of errands yesterday. Now that I don’t drive anymore, errands are a much more serious business than they used to be, me living at the top of Mt. Everest and all.

What I needed was the old lube & tube so that my chain would stop sawing and so I could to fix a flat if I got one. Easiest thing? Order online. Hardest thing? 14-mile ride to the Bike Palace in San Pedro.

As my #fakecoach says, “If it’s not hard, you’re doing it wrong.” So I was for sure doing it right because pushing those fat commuter tars up the hills on PV Drive felt like I was dragging a piano.

Baby Seal was at the shop, where he apparently lives, working his flippers to the bone. I hope Tony pays him $25.00/hr., minimum, for all the fuggin’ business he brings into that place.

“What do you need?”

“Lube & tube.”

“You want that taken care of it back?”

“Poker in front, liquor in rear?” I asked.

“Kinda.” Baby Seal looked at my tubeless setup. “You ever flat on those?”

“No. But one day it’s gonna happen and I’ll be stuck deep on Fig and 56th on a Friday night and if I can’t get it rolling again you’ll be reading about me in the crime reports.”

“You’re worried it won’t seal?”

“I’m worried, period.”

“Best bet is to take some of this.” He whipped out a giant bottle of goop with an attachment for what looked like a mini-enema bag.

“What is it?”

“If your flat won’t seal, you just pull the valve core, put some of this sealant in there, and you’re good to go.”

This reminded me of the time that I switched over to tubulars, in 1983. “How do you change a flat?” I’d asked Cactus Jack.

“Slap on a new one tar. The glue from the old one will hold the new one in place til you get home.”

“Can’t you glue on a new tar on the road?”

Cactus Jack looked at me from behind the beard and the drugs. “You can try.”

So I bought an extra tube of rim cement and when I got my first flat I tried to glue on the new tar. What I ended up with was rim cement everywhere except on the tar.

I thought about all that glue in my hair and on my fingertips back in ’83 as Baby Seal was jabbering on about valve cores and sealant and enema bags and “in a jiffy.”

“Can’t I just put a tube in there if it won’t seal?”

This wasn’t what Baby Seal wanted to hear. “Sure. It just takes longer.”

“Is there anything wrong with that?”

“It can be trickier than just shooting in some sealant, especially if the tire has been on the rim a while and doesn’t want to come off.” He paused. “Easily.”

This was like Cactus Jack trying to tell me not to try and glue on a tire mid-ride. Thankfully, after almost 37 years, I’d learned nothing. “I’ll just take the tube.”

“You got it,” he said.

END


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3 thoughts on “What you can’t buy online”

  1. You’ve got many factors going in your favor to avoid flats.

    1. Tubeless. So no chance of your tube failing because of manufacturing or other defects. Also, no chance of pinch (“snakebite”) flats if you hit a bump.

    2. Sealant. Any smaller holes should be sealed by your sealant–as long as it hasn’t dried up and you keep it topped up.

    3. Lower pressure. Higher volume tires work at lower pressure and larger contact patch. So there is less force available for sharp objects to penetrate the tire.

    4. Lane control. Most road hazards are on the edge. Cars sweep the traffic lanes clear of debris, so riding toward the center of the traffic lane is usually debris free. Lane control also gives you the entire lane to use so if you do see a hazard like a pothole to avoid, you’ve got lots of room to avoid it.

    All of the flats I can remember over six years of riding in Los Angeles have been been on tires with inner tubes due to some weird Schwalbe tube rot, not from punctures.

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