Friday, December 28, 2012

Festive Fun with Flats

Holiday Flat Repair
One of my plans for the holidays had been to get in some practice changing tires. Problem is, I very rarely get flats. And let's face it: Taking a tire on and off for no reason just isn't the same as the real deal. So naturally I was delighted when, on my way home last night, my front tire went flat for real. It was a dark and stormy night, with heavy traffic and freezing rain, affording the perfect opportunity to practice road-side repairs. Alas, it happened just a block from my house. Weak of character, I opted for the comforts of home. 

"Darling, guess what?" I shouted as I rolled the bike into our living-room. "I have a flat tire!"

"Oh my!" said my husband. "And it's a 650B with fenders no less. Are you going to fix it yourself?"

"Of course! This is the moment I've been waiting for."

Nodding eagerly, he opened a bottle of wine and made himself comfortable on our finest kitchen chair, in anticipation of the evening's entertainment.

Holiday Flat Repair
Now I know you're wondering what wine goes best with this sort of thing. This is really a matter of personal taste. But generally speaking, if the tires are 650B I recommend red. It just so happened that we picked up a lovely Truro Zinfandel during our recent stay on Cape Cod. Not the pink one in the bottle shaped like a lighthouse, but the darker one in a regular bottle. Its smooth deliciousness makes the already relaxing process of fixing flats even sweeter. 

Aside from the wine and a keen spectator prepared to critique your every movement, in a tire-changing situation it might also be helpful to have a floor pump and a spare inner tube handy, as well as some tools. If you have a fun bike with a bolt-on front wheel like I do, you will need something to unbolt it. A tire lever may also be useful. 

Holiday Flat Repair
But most importantly, if your bike has fenders, you will need a couch. After removing a wheel, you should not stand the bike on the floor, as this may bend the fender. And if you think bikes enjoy being hoisted up on a workstand, you are mistaken. Most bikes are afraid of heights, and getting them up there for reasons as small as fixing a flat is downright insensitive. Laying your bicycle down on the sofa will make it much more comfortable. It will also delight your spouse by showing them what a free-spirited, outside the box thinker you are.  

Finally, you may want to have a copy of an appropriately inspirational poster or publication in sight as you work. This will remind you of why these bicycles are so darn charming, as you gingerly handle the delicate aluminum fenders and deflate your 650Bx42mm tire in order to fit it through the centerpull brake caliper. 

Holiday Flat Repair
Of course the most fascinating part of flat repair is finding its cause. Having never gotten a flat with Grand Bois Hetres previously, I was especially interested. Turned out the cause was a failed inner tube. This one had split right at the seam. It happens, even with the nicest tubes.

"It happens just often enough to remind us that we are never fully in control of our destinies," I sighed wistfully as I tested the front brake after re-connecting it. 

My husband nodded, moving the wine away from me gently. "Well, looks like you did it."

"And it only took me a half hour this time!"

"Oh, hardly that!"

And isn't that what working on our bikes is all about? Struggling for self-reliance in a world of chaos and uncertainty. Using it as metaphor for life. Entertaining our loved ones. Look out world, soon I'll be able to fix a flat in 20 minutes!

88 comments:

  1. Bravo. I figure no one's weenie if they at least try to fix their own flats. You got lucky and only had to change the tire and not patch a hole.

    Last summer I discovered that a cold beer and a lawn chair works well and if you fix it on the front lawn the neighbors get entertainment, plus my bike reclines on the grass.

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  2. Not sure a Truro whatsit would tempt me to put my bike on the sofa.

    To change a bike tire (with/without fenders) - turn it upside down on bars and saddle - have a plastic bag under each to protect them.

    The wheel comes off and goes on more easily

    Torresmolinos

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  3. As I sat in my sister's living room the week before Christmas, beverage in hand, I pondered the mystery of tread direction in front of an overturned bike. In the end, I had to flip the bike upright to figure out which way I needed to orient the tire. Soon, her new Christmas tires installed, she was on her way to much zippier, flat-free adventures. And it only took me like 45 minutes to get the 2 done!

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  4. Blogger of the year award goes to Lovely Bicycle for this well-balanced entry.

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  5. Alas, I have everything to fix a flat in my seat bag, except the wine. I was prepared to buy a bigger bag until I found this: http://www.designsponge.com/2011/04/bicycle-wine-rack.html. Now, if I can only find a multi-tool with a corkscrew...

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    1. in addition to a bike related multitool, i keep a leatherman in my saddle bag just so i have a set of pliers around for emergencies. it was, however, not a coincidence that i chose a leatherman with a corkscrew :)

      http://www.leatherman.com/family/multi-tools/Pocket-Size_Tools

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  6. Please! Really now, placing a cycle on the living-room couch! Why that just screams, "Poor adolescent-like judgement"!

    On a helpful note, I've found that a light coating of talcum powder applied to the tire's interior can prevent tube failures due to chaffing if not splitting.

    I've found your blog to be absolutely delightful and click onto it daily.

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  7. sounds like you had a nice little date :) my bikes aren't allowed in the house for that very reason. soon they'll be lounging on the couch, while i get the wine out, and ask for some attention, a rub, a massage, or maybe they'll get kinky and ask me to get the camera out while they undress. never ends well so they now have their own place and our relationship is as friends which is better for all :)

    now tell the story of repairing a flat outside during a dark and stormy night--that will be a good read!

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  8. Love the Pedros tire levers. I have about six pairs. But one of my riding buddies teases me about my girly levers whenever I pull out a pair of pink ones. I've experienced many pinch flats, punctures and have destroyed a few tubes by clumsily mounting a stubborn tire with help from a tire lever. Never had a tube fail like that, however.

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  9. MUCH nicer than fixing the flat out in the ice and snow!

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  10. Congratulations on the happy event! And best wishes for a happy and healthy 2013!

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  11. All I could think of was the flat tire in The Christmas Story. Too Bad your husband did not put a Ralphie.

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  12. I find that most of the time, if I can locate the puncture/hole, I can patch it without removing the wheel, which is fortunate, since on my bike, removing even the front wheel and re-attaching it is a half-hour process even without fixing or replacing the tube (the rear wheel is a whole other story). Just deflate, then pop the tire off the rim enough to pull the punctured section of tube out, patch it, let it dry, and then stuff the tube back in, put the tire back on the rim, and re-inflate. So far, that's worked out really well for me (though I've only really done it twice in the last few years). And, it only takes me about 10-15 min, even being an unskilled novice :) Also, if you do it that way, no couch needed as long as you have a kickstand.

    I recommend a good Oregon pinot noir, or a good Cotes du Rhone with a heavy concentration of grenache and syrah grapes. Oh, or a Spanish Tempranillo.... mmmm.

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  13. I find my 650B with fenders enjoys being put on her back like a baby when I change her tires: she rests in her saddle and handlebars and watches the clouds roll by while I do the work. Question, Velouria: how do the Hetres compare to Col de Vie or Schwalbe 38's? Do you have a sense of how the Lierres would be? I'm not sure I can get quite wide enough for the Hertes.

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  14. "I very rarely get flats."

    I don't understand your words.
    Actually, with some Armadillos on my commuter, I've had a similar experience, but my road tires are a constant flat festival, and while it can be inconvenient, it IS good to change tires often enough that you're comfortable doing it. When you do it once a year or less, it's going to take forever because you're really just not sure what you're doing. Practice makes perfect.

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  15. My strategy is to always have a spare tube, so that it's a matter of finding the offending object (usually glass, not always), removing it, replacing the tube, and going. Then I accumulate wounded tubes and, every so often, sit down with a tube and patch kit and fix 'em, then wrap them up and band them and put them back in the tube box for next time.

    When I do this, I feel very much like a fisherman must feel mending his nets. It's a contemplative exercise, and gives me a feeling that I'm really adding value to my cycling.

    Yeah, I think it's weird too.

    Dang. Wordpress isn't working properly today. This is lawschoolissoover.wordpress.com, AKA me.

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  16. You've somehow made reading about fixing your flat feel like I a romantic story by Hemingway. All of a sudden I can't wait for my next flat(crossing my fingers)!

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  17. Brava! Wine, adventure and destiny. Makes me want to read some Hemingway.


    Sincerly,

    Regalbanana

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  18. Very important things to remember about flats:

    1. Always check the tire casing for the embedded penetrant. Otherwise you greatly risk having your repaired tube flat again 100 yards from your last repair stop.

    2. Be sure your rim tape is wide enough to completely cover the spoke holes, lest you go insane with repeated and untraceable punctures on the inside of the inner tube.

    3. If you want puncture repair practice, move to goathead country and buy your Remas by the box of 100. Carry two spare tubes as well as patch kit. If you are lucky, you will flat no more than two times on a ride so that you can do the actual patching job in the comfort of your home with a glass of whatever is nice beside you and soothing music on the stereo.

    4. If you are cheap or poor, you can use Office Max rubber cement ($1.99 for 4 oz jar) in lieu of real vulcanizing fluid, but you have to let it dry properly before applying the patch, and you must carefully press the patch down to ensure a good mating with the glue. It is not as adhesive as vulcanizing fluid. Also, it does not work well with home-made patches.

    5. If you can, buy the 1 cm Remas as they will fit on even the skinniest tubes and work just as well on the fat ones.

    6. Wait with eager anticipation for the continued improvement of tire sealants; with Stan's and others now far superior to Slime and ilk, there is hope for a long-lasting, quasi permanent fix for small punctures that does not require that your tires roll like cement.

    I learned to patch tubes (using patches cut from old inner tubes) at the feet of sidewalk bicycle wallahs in New Delhi, aged 9 or 10. This is a skill that I've put to good use ever since.

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  19. Brings back memories of working in a bike shop long, long, ago. Before moving into more complicated and serious repairs one had to do flat tire duty--replacing tires and tubes left in the shop and helping the walk-in customer who needed a quick fix--and do it in well under five minutes. One's hands and confidence gain a lot of strength. Now it takes me 30 minutes :)

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  20. Velouria,

    Ha! That's got to be one of your best posts ever. "It was a dark and stormy night, with heavy traffic and freezing rain..." Sounds like a great beginning to an epic tale. At first, I was shocked to see the image of your bicycle lounging on the couch but after reading of your concern and caring for the delicate nature of your velo, understand your efforts to provide comfort and compassion to your wounded transport.

    "Turned out the cause was a failed inner tube. This one had split right at the seam. It happens, even with the nicest tubes." Seriously, I've had very good results using Schwalbe tubes. Never a split seam or pinch flat. They cost a little bit more, but for the added reliability it is very cheap insurance.

    Now, maybe a nice hot soapy bath for your velo, and a good waxing and she'll be raring to go on your next adventure!

    Great stuff!

    OKB

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    Replies
    1. I like Schwalbe inner tubes too, but unfortunately had one fail at the valve.

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  21. Wondered when you'd get around to the splitting inner tube issue. They are certainly at least 90% of all my flats the past decade. I've had tubes split the first time they were inflated. As far as I can tell the problem is all brands across the board and paying for Euro tubes makes no difference.

    Turn the clock back more than ten years and splitting tubes were simply unknown. As sure as the sun came up this morning I rode 41 years of the 20th century and never saw a tube split. That would include couple years as a shop mechanic and always always having the best pump on the ride and being called on to help for everyone else's flats. The first split tubes I saw were the 60 gram variety. Even those were not so bad the first years they were around and if used in a 700x23 and the rider was not too heavy. Couple years later tubes just stopped being reliable.

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    1. Dead on, ....... almost. I haven't had top end tubes split (yet). the top end butyl from Conti, Michelin, etc have held up for me.
      I ran cheapo tubes in my lesser bikes for decades with no problems, then suddenly inexpensive tubes were all crap. Now the mid price tubes are questionable.
      I replace inner tubes on a new bike before I ride them.
      Any of my bikes that go on the track, ride in packs or do fast descends get highest quality butyl. the spares I carry in those circumstances are also the best I can source.

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  22. Wonderful writing, as always. Thanks for the smiles!

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  23. "It was a dark and stormy night, with heavy traffic and freezing rain,"
    Epic start...

    "Nodding eagerly, he opened a bottle of wine and made himself comfortable on our finest kitchen chair, in anticipation of the evening's entertainment."
    Was Peppy in attendance? Probably on a perch at some altitude above the couch and at a distance...

    "But generally speaking, if the tires are 650B I recommend red."
    I would recommend a French red.

    My bikes are well trained to not object to being clamped to a bike stand. It only takes once, and they grow to understand that this way they won't be scratched, that it takes less time, and that less harm comes to them. Especially bikes with fenders. That's at home of course. But then you were training for how to fix on the road. Get a very small bottles of wine for your flat kit. :-)

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  24. my bikes have never sat on the couch. Instead they prefer to rest on their heads when to lazy to be lifted into a workstand. i wont let them see this post, lest they get ideas about such leisure.

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  25. I was really impressed when I was doing a bike count a year ago to see a commuter, who got a punctured tyre on the road near me, change the tube, inflate it and ride off within 10 minutes, very impressive I thought!

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  26. Half an hour to fix a puncture seems almost indecently hasty to me. My soigneuse,(and that's not a euphemism), Sophie Marceau,is never far behind whatever the weather and always packs a bottle of the finest Château de Châtelaine 1894 in her saddlebag for just such an eventuality. Also cold chicken, olives, a Bayonne ham, some paté of course and a small embossed silver flask of a decent Armagnac. Puncture, what puncture?!

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  27. Getting that gorgeous young thing drunk and flat out on the sofa - shame on you girl!

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  28. Sweet, there's that lovely bike again...did you build that? Luckily you were close to home. Would a bike stand be helpful? My husband is lusting for one, tired of working on the floor. Wine helps.

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  29. You must have very clean bikes. I can't remove a wheel and tire on mine w/o getting dirt and grease all over my hands and everything I touch. Putting one on the couch would freak me out!

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  30. You might want to think twice about hitting that red wine before embarking on bike repairs. It doesn't take me too much before I start getting clumsy and stupid, and at 0.1 tons of road hugging weight, I have a lot more mass to soak up that wine than you do.

    What kind of centerpulls do you have that you need to deflate a Hetre to get it past the brake? When I unhook the straddle cable on my MAFAC Raids, I can pass a whole lot more than a Hetre through there.

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    1. These brakes use longish brake pads that touch the inside of the fork blades once tension is removed and thus cannot open farther than the fork allows.

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    2. Richard Sachs just cuts down the brake pads to solve this issue: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ah_blake/5487219388/

      He claims it doesn't affect performance and might even help with brake judder on canti brakes.

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    3. @ HvB: I'm sorry, but that looks downright ghetto on a Richard Sachs.

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    4. I had to trim the brake pads on Fear Rothar's old George Longstaff Audax, for the same reason. It works just fine. You can't even see unless you're right on top of the bike.

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  31. I always try to patch without taking the wheel off. If it's a good flat it can be done in three or four minutes. No way I'm gonna mess with chaincases and other encumberments! Bad flats, like the one you had, are unfortunately a different story.

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  32. I've always felt that beer is the better match for bicycle mechanics. Hefeweizen for complete overhauls, porter for replacing headsets and bottom brackets, amber ale for drivetrains, and a nice, hoppy and aromatic IPA for wheelbuilding. :D
    Yummm, I like wheelbuilding....

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  33. Don't forget to add the sofa to your roadside repair kit.

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  34. 650Bs have always struck me as pleasingly plump. But reclining on a sofa? Downright Rubenesque!

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  35. Zin? With a tube change? What, were you raised in a barn? (I'm not even going to touch the sofa debacle).

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    1. Yes I was. I was raised in a barn. Happy now?

      (Can't find a link to the episode of The State that discusses this sensitive issue.)

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    2. I can think of worse places!

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  36. I don't know about most of you, but flats have never really been fun or festive while commuting. Though, I will admit that while touring they provide a nice break and a few unexpected memories.

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  37. Velouria,
    All of your posts are so much fun to read, but this one "takes the cake". We have a lot of women riders in our club and this story hits home. I sent this blog to my many riding buddies including my wife and it hit home to everyone.Your writing is very special and I try to share it with all my friends.
    Thanks

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  38. Velouria, for the sake of disclosure so that we may all learn from your experience, what brand of tube suffered the split?

    I've used cheap QBP tubes that have been known to split - for me at the valve/tube juncture. A few riding buddies are leary of the cheap tubes and use Michelin, Conti or Schwalbe tubes and swear by them (or is it swear at them???).

    You may note that inner tubes can take numerous patches and keep on going (5, 10 even 15). But the production quality factor seems to be a toss of the coin.

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    1. It was a Specialized tube. They are high quality in our experience, so this is unusual. Hanging out with cycling friends and at bike shops, I have witnessed almost every brand of tube fail, usually at the seam. Sometimes overinflating the tire can be the cause.

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    2. Failure at the seam is entirely a production problem. Failure at the seam was simply unknown until recently. I suppose there is now a generation of cyclists who has never known anything else and accepts this state of affairs as normal.

      Heavier riders will have more trouble with seams.Very high pressure or using a narrow tube in a wide tire is a problem. Jacking the valve stem side to side when inflating with a hand pump will aggravate weak seams near the valve. In all cases the problem began when the tube was produced.

      I had a tube this year that was split open near the valve new from the box. I had a whole batch of tubes that were more than an inch too long. Try stuffing an overly long tube under a tire bead at the side of the road. You will do very well to fit that in less than 30 minutes.

      Some time or another you will run into a Goodyear, Dunlop, Michelin, Conti tube new in the box from an earlier era. Compare the rubber or butyl to a new tube. The new tubes are brittle and nonstretch.

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    3. I've heard the complaints that new tubes are "bad" from experienced cyclists but other than new-old-stock, is there a legitimate solution? It seems everyone lets a bad batch slip through every now and then.

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    4. Sorry MDI. NOS tubes are just for educational purposes. Not a solution, legitimate or otherwise.

      Only thing I know to do is to periodically complain to the store or the sales rep. Basically the buyers go to Interbike, fill their heads and eyes with high zoot bling, and tubes is done as an afterthought. Nothing matters but pricing and the ability to deliver. Every LBS knows about the problem.

      It's not about bad batches. It's all tubes. They are brittle and poorly seamed. I've had marginally better luck w/ Euro tubes but no longer consider them reliable. I think of my tubes as the least dependable part on any of my bikes. If you know what a good tube looks like, feels like, you know there are none currently for sale.

      Rubber is good stuff. It lasts. Collectors can still find prewar singletube tires that hold air and ride well. Good current production tires are very good indeed. I know of no historic clinchers as good as what I use everyday. Sewups are still quite good. There are good tubes in those sewups. The tubes in my good clincher tires suck.

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    5. I disagree that the problem was unheard of until recently. Back in the 70's and 80's I would get seam splits on tubes about as frequently as now. And there are tubes that seem to never fail (micehlins).
      IME the most frequent failure of cheap tubes like Specialized is the valves. The pin will bend, or won't open when pushed with my pump unless deflated to around 40 lbs. No big deal. If I'm pumping from 60 lbs to my usual 80 lbs, I just have to deflate to 40 first.
      Changing on the wheel is fine if you know where the flat is. Thorn punctures are often quiet, slow, and hidden.

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    6. I've never had a tube split on me, and I use a mix of "quality" name brands and no-name cheapies. Maybe I'm just lucky: although my assertion of no split tubes will no doubt leave me with a double puncture on a busy motorway shoulder on the way home this afternoon...

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  39. I love your blog but this entry is special. The thought that bikes are afraid of heights made me snort with laughter. Bad when eating breakfast.

    Thanks for bringing a bright spot into my life.

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  40. Amusing but what will you do if many miles from home at the moment of the next puncture?

    But wait, a business opportunity, mobile puncture repair service, trailer with sofa, tools and red wine, just a phone call away.

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    1. Way ahead of you. I've now attached Xtracycle extensions to all of my bikes. The couch + liquor cabinet travel with me.

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  41. Ha! I'm now looking forward to my next flat, but will need to visit the liquor shop to select a suitable wine.

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  42. Funny that many of my tube changes were done in the comfort of my home (often slow leaks). But I have had to do one in awkward places: the New Jersey approach to the GW bridge (a crime hot spot then) and 100 feet past the very annoying border patrol at Lubec, ME after a rather thorough search of all my panniers. Never had to do one in rain or snow. That would take me more than 5 minutes. And none of my bikes ever rested on a couch.

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  43. Not gonna lie, I gasped in horror when I scrolled down an saw the picture of your bike on the couch. THAT'S WORSE THAN LETTING CHILDREN IN THE LIVING ROOM. (we weren't allowed in the living room as children; and yes, I'm a little scarred by that injustice)

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  44. Once stretched a Hetre should come off a rim very easily without any need for levers. Irrespective of hand strength. A very light rider using low pressures will not stretch a tire as quickly as a bigger rider. You could try blocking new tires at tandem pressure for a few weeks. Reduce pressure when riding if desired.

    Stretch is real and measurable. Put the vernier caliper over the tire when new. Check it a month later. Measure the tire at 30psi and again at 70psi. The casing grows and the bead grows.

    Using showbike foil fenders on a utility bike means the utility bike has showbike problems and eats showbike time. My approach to working on foil fendered bikes is real simple. I won't. The owner can remove the fenders themselves if they want me to touch the bike.

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  45. Easily one of my favorite posts from you! Thanks for the delightfully silly read that makes the chore of changing a flat sound so romantic and lovely :)

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  46. I have repaired many flats in my 26 years of cycling and it is only now, I realize I did not have the correct supplies. My usual repair kit is two tire tools (a.k.a. tire irons) and a Rema Tip Top touring patch kit. After reading your charming blog about repairing a flat, it became apparent, a glass or two of wine is a required accessory.

    Happy Holidays,

    Rod

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    1. oh dear, i find tea and incense much better :) wine brings about confusion and lack of the necessary motor skills which then create a less than optimal repair. i now never drink and repair!

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  47. Still funny on the third read.

    This question is out of context, but the discussion seems to be here, so here goes: I'm starting to think seriously about having a custom frame built. I commute by bike every day on a late 90s Trek 520 with mustache bars, fenders, rack, and bottle generator/lights (except when it snows, for which I have a dedicated snow bike). I've toured on it, and I ride it on fire roads and easy single track.

    What I don't like: small clearance resulting in slush/dirt/etc. getting jammed between front tire and fender; bottle generator rather than hub; too stiff and heavy frame for my (body) build (125 lbs, 54cm frame).

    When I ride a pure road bike, I rediscover just how much faster I could be.

    I'm not looking to replace the 520 as my commuter, as I like it's "unstealability." But I'm desiring a faster and lighter bike that would do well on road and easy dirt, that has some "spring" to it, and which I'd enjoy riding many miles at a fairly zippy pace.

    So: In your experience, is a rando bike the way to go? Or would a relaxed (or not-so-relaxed?) road bike be better? What is the speed difference (for the same effort) of your Seven vs. the various rando bikes you've tested? For comparison, of your previous fleet, I guess the Sam would be the closest to the 520. Probably too vague to answer, or you've already answered this question before...

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    1. Assuming you are addressing me, here is my current thinking:

      . The more bikes I try and the more riding I do in general, the more I realise that I do not like "relaxed roadbikes." To me, they just seem neither here nor there. I prefer to achieve comfort via nice tubing, wheels and tires, with the bike itself being made to go fast. That does not mean I must go fast, only that I can; that I am the limiting factor rather than the bike.

      . On pavement, my Seven is significantly faster than any of the rando bikes I've tried, as was my Moser. They are just different animals in my opinion. If I know a ride will be all pavement, there is no way I'd choose anything other than a racing type bike, as long as that bike is comfortable.

      . On dirt I find the rando bikes superior. Very possibly this is due to the 42mm tires. Roadbikes with narrow (<35mm in my book) tires will start to skip madly over rocks and ditches, and it freaks me out so much that I don't feel comfortable going at full speed. On 650Bx42mm, the same route is no problem.

      . Almost equally nice on dirt I find cyclocross bikes that are "racy," light, and fit 700X35mm tires. The main difference between them and the low-trail randos is the handling. It is a matter of preference really.

      . The main benefit I see for a bike like my former Sam, is stability + hauling capacity. It would make a great commuter, were I into diamond frame commuters, or a touring bike, were I into touring.

      Hope this is helpful...

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    2. "Hope this is helpful..."

      It is, thanks.

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    3. "To me, they just seem neither here nor there."

      "...I'd choose anything other than a racing type bike..."

      Club riders often think like this. With all due respect, I consider the seven axiom S to be a relaxed fit leisure bike.

      Seven also categorizes the axoim S as a heavy over-built (e.g. heavy) randonee-style bike:

      http://www.sevencycles.com/discipline/randonee-and-endurance.php

      I would also like to note that Frischknecht podiumed multiple times (including a 2 at worlds) on a flat bar "hybrid". The reason that UCI bans flat bars has more to do with tradition than real aero advantage (cf Tri bikes).

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    4. FWIW the Axiom S is also in their crit category. In other words, highly customisable.

      It is hard to generalise about these things. People can ride whatever they like.

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    5. You'd love the road test in the current issue of Bicycle Quarterly: it began as a comparison of two titanium road bikes, a Lynskey and a Seven Axiom SL. They then pitted the faster of the two against a steel 650b randonneur equipped with fenders, handlebar bag, lights and generator hub that was almost 10 lb. heavier. The steel randonneur performed better.

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    6. Yes, I read that review in the Bicycle Quarterly. Don't know what to tell you, except that my experience is different from Jan's.

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    7. While I very much enjoy BQ -- just signed up for another 3 years -- I have to say that many of Jan's tests seem to prove exactly that Jan and his friends like what they like. This is hyperbolic: I think he has done a great service in, for example, his tire tests and in his investigation of weight as it affects speed. And also, it is very hard to do scientific tests with such small samples and testers.

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    8. I respect Jan's descriptions of his experiences, but honestly don't know what to make of the discrepancy between mine & his impressions. The ti vs rando article really brought this home more than anything I'd read in BQ previously. Been mulling over whether to write a response to that article.

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    9. I haven't read the article yet, but I had heard about it, which is one reason that I was wondering about your experience. I can't quite believe the conclusion, but I'll have to read it to understand the details; their route could have a significant impact on the results---and maybe many long routes do favor rando bikes. In another area of my life, big wheel unicycles can cover large distances. People who ride both pure (direct drive) and geared (2-speed hub) report that over many miles, they end up the same, which also seems a bit counter-intuitive.

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    10. Short route. Sprints and hill climbs on pavement. Differences they reported were tiny, but still. Some food for thought, for sure.

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    11. "...start to skip madly over rocks and ditches..." Are we on roads?

      My first mountain bike was a 1989 Gary Fisher HKII. Known earlier and later as the HooKooEeKoo. It came with Fisher Fattrax 26x1.9 tires that measured 42mm over the casing. A little more than that over the knobs, but knobs don't hold air and they got shaved pretty quick anyway. So it's a 559 and holds less air than 584 Hetres. And I weighed more than 50% more than V. The bike was a tank well over 30#. Always had a saddlebag of trail supplies. That bike did rocks and ditches. Didn't skip over them madly if you put the wheel where you wanted it. There were some 40mph singletrack descents that coulda been bad if the tires went mad. They never did.

      If you need big cushy tires to go the places you want to go it's OK to use them. That's personal. Most of us or at least a lot of us are just fine, indeed very comfortable and secure, with a lot less tire. Those rando tires are supposed to keep it safe when it's been all night long on unfamiliar roads, maybe in the rain, maybe with a glimmering vintage Soubitez to show the road. There are circumstances where you could not have too much tire. If the bike is threatening to go out of control on ordinary roads and small adventures maybe the saddle should be lower.

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    12. "If you need big cushy tires to go the places you want to go it's OK to use them. That's personal ...a lot of us are just fine, indeed very comfortable and secure, with a lot less tire."

      Agreed 100%. My answer was personal, not general and certainly not prescriptive.

      To be clear, I can ride and have ridden on dirt on tires as narrow as 23mm. But 650Bx42mm tires just feels so much better (to me) that I don't see any reason not to go that route. 700Cx35mm is nice also. Narrower than that starts to feel less nice. To each their own.

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  48. "So: In your experience, is a rando bike the way to go? Or would a relaxed (or not-so-relaxed?) road bike be better? What is the speed difference (for the same effort) of your Seven vs. the various rando bikes you've tested? For comparison, of your previous fleet, I guess the Sam would be the closest to the 520. Probably too vague to answer, or you've already answered this question before..."

    I can't speak of Seven, but I've commuted (15 miles 1 way) on two custom Rivendells, both converted to fixed gear drivetrains. I also owned, for about a year, a 1958 Herse randonneur. I must say that, as nice as the Herse was -- it fit me very well, and did so almost immediately, and it "encouraged" energetic riding despite its stout tubing -- I just prefer my higher trail Rivendells. Their fit and feel has become my benchmark. My only regret is that I didn't accept Grant's suggestion and have the seat tube made 72* instead of 73*. But with a long-setback post, they are fine.

    When I ordered my 3 Riv customs I told them that I wanted to use them for fastish road riding with no need for fat tires. As it turns out, with normal reach calipers, I can squeeze in 34 mm tires and fenders if (1) the fender is the right shape and (2) I am careful about installation. I sold my initial Riv and now have a fixed commuter and a fixed gofast.

    I also briefly owned a Sam Hillborne and I have to say that, compared to the Herse, the other Rivs, and to various other road bikes (including a very nice 1973 Motobecane Grand Record) it felt sluggish on pavement, much more like my Fargo with 35 mm Kojaks than like a nice road bike. Don't get me wrong, the Sam is a very nice bike for its purpose, but its purpose is as dirt+pavement all rounder, not a fast road bike.

    Have (Deo gratias) just come into unexpected ownership of a nice blue Rambouillet frameset and I am eagerly collecting build parts (tubulars!). I think that a used Ram or the current Roadeo, from the Riv lineup, would be much more to your liking.

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  49. I have never had a tube split on a seam in many years of riding and hundreds of flats. What is this a function of? Running high pressures, mounting issues, or maybe heavy braking on downhills.

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    1. We're thinking it's a manufacturing defect. This particular tube was relatively new and didn't get much use.

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  50. Tube splitting has been pretty rare in my experience. Most of the shops I've worked at have used cheap tubes from J&B or Action (mostly rebranded Kendas or similar) which are heavy but seem to hold up well enough. The splits have almost all been on lightweight tubes geared towards racing.
    Mostly we get pinch flats, a lot of punctures, valve damage and on one occasion, a bullet hole.

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  51. This year I twice had the problem that carrying two spare tubes was not sufficient. Two spares and both defective as soon as I tried to pump them. New. Fresh. Boxed. Bad valves. Bad seams. Yes, there is a quality problem.

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  52. The Big Dummy's not housebroken, so it just gets flipped upside down outdoors on some patio furniture. Had to swap a Big Apple for studs, was pleased to see that the fit was looser on Salsa Gordo than on Sun Rhyno Lite -- got the tire on barehanded, versus snapping tire levers with the Rhyno Lites.

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  53. Sorry if somebody already wrote it in one of the 87 comments above but judging from the last image that inner tube is much too skinny for the tire. Manufacturers often mark their tubes with highly optimistic fitting ranges like "622/37-60" (OK I exaggerate) while the tubes are really only suitable for the skinnier end of the range.

    A too skinny tube must first be expanded to fit the tire carcass making it much more vulnerable to all types of flats, especially splitting. Much better to find the fattest tube that will fit neatly inside the tire... regardless of the tube's "official" size.

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