Festive Fun with Flats
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.
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.
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.
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!