First Flat Tire Ever … Lessons Learned

This is old hat to many – most – of the readers here, but there might be a few who don’t yet know some of these really esoteric points. They were certainly new to me, not having owned (or even ridden) a bicycle between 1967 and 2013.

Monday the 7th, I was out on a pre-ride of the B– route with Bob G., who will be leading it on the 10th. About 4 miles short of the end I had a rear wheel flat. I cussed for a moment, but that ended when I realized I have ridden with the SOBs for over two and a half seasons, plus all my personal riding, with nary a flat … not too shabby. We walked 100 yards or so to a good no-traffic area to handle the repair, and broke out the tools.

Because there were two of us with different tool kits, I did not have to call home for a ride … if I had been alone, I’d have been S.O.L. Here are the things I learned.

· This first item was my primary source of pain … bicycle tire tubes have stems of different lengths! I never knew that, although about 3 seconds of thinking about the different wheel designs I have seen made it pretty obvious that would be the case. My flat tube’s stem was 1-3/8″ long; the spare tube’s stem … 1-1/8″.

· That missing 1/4″ made it impossible to thread the outside retaining nut onto the stem, which in turn made it difficult to be sure the tire bead was fully seated in the wheel rim at the stem. (I figured out that with the nut loosely in place as a retainer I could have pushed the stem up into the tire while seating the rim, then pulled it back out to tighten and inflate. Easy stuff … with the correct stem length!)

· After getting the tube in place, inflation then became a problem. Bob and I both carry CO2 inflators of different styles, but with the shorter-than-intended stem neither one would seal onto that little stub of stem. (Here’s where I would have been calling home if I’d been alone.)

· Enter the hand pump. This was able to attach to the little bit of stem and air flowed as intended. The one Bob carries is a neat little pump (REI) that threads onto the valve stem. It creates a tight seal that I judge might be hard to maintain with a clip-on style connector. It also has a short flexible hose between the pump and the valve stem that eliminates the movement that would occur during pumping strokes if there were a rigid connection.

So, today I’m off to buy the right tubes, and maybe a pump. Bulging tires, wrong tube stems … I wonder what will be the next cycling thing I learn the hard way.


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