I hadn’t seen it before I left home this morning, so when I heard, for like the fifth time this year, the all too familiar HISSing sound signalling a puncture, I was livid. Can I not get a break? What did I run over this time? There was no glass! I am more vigilant than a bloodhound chasing a smokey Polish sausage. I’m telling you the road was clear of sharp objects. Just your usual grit and small stones.
Well, turns out that when you’ve exposed the inner thread of the tyre because there is no rubber left, you don’t actually need all that much to pop the inner tube. As I got off the bike, only six kilometres shy of the office and swearing to myself quite excessively, I wondered how big a nail I was going to find to justify such a loud hiss. Nothing. I spun the wheel once and there was nothing sticking out. What the..? Oh wait, what’s that?
It was a hole. Well, more accurately it was a lack of rubber that caused the thread to be exposed and therefore the inner tube. I didn’t need a nail to spell the end. The small gritty, and evidently sharp, little stones that I roll over routinely had been enough. All it takes is one to nestle in the threads and slowly weaken the tube with the regular friction of rolling and then all of a sudden POP! it can’t take it any longer. My tyre had gone flat very fast and so it was that a decent size tear was visible.
Alright, time to get out the tools and change the tube. Of course, I knew that replacing the tube was going to temporarily solve the problem, but with the whole in the tyre still being very present I was not convinced that I was going to get very far. The tyre changing exercise proved to be an exercise in managing my anger as well. The first tube went in, bunt when I had got the tyre back into the clinchers I noticed that the valve was not coming through as it should. A little frustrated yanking and wiggling resulted in no improvement so I removed the tyre again. I don’t know whether I tore the new tube when I put the tyre back on, or when I rather aggressively took it of again, but that was hardly important. What was, was the fact that I now had a new tube with a hole in it, and staring at it in disbelief was not going to change that fact.
OK, nobody panic. I have another tube. I knew it would pay to have two in my back pack. Worth the extra weight now, hey? But be careful. You’re not carrying three tubes, so you pop this one as well you really up up the proverbial creek without a paddle.
Alright, I am on my way again, and I am doing my best to avoid every single pebbly looking object that I see on the path in front of me. I am dodging here and there and frankly if anyone had been following me at that early time in the morning they would have cited me for riding under the influence. I did, however, get to the office, something I put down to my skilful if not erratic bike handling skills. Would I get back though?
I didn’t have to get the whole way back. I wanted to, but I at least wanted to get within 8 km of home because it was there that I planned to stop at Rossi’s bike shop and pick up a couple of new tyres. I can be stubborn sometimes and really try and bleed my monies worth out of a tyre, but I figure I already had one bald patch in the rear and it wasn’t going to get any smaller so I should bite the bullet and invest in a couple of new tyres. In the garage at the office I squeezed the rear tyre and it felt a little soft, no doubt due to my lack of caring that morning and simply not putting in enough air. I topped it up as best I could using the little hand held pump, and set off.
By the time I reached Rossi’s thirty minutes later I was elated. I’d done it. I’d cheated the inner tube gremlin and defied all the odds, and once again I put this down to my über bike handling skills. The bloke at Rossi saw my tyre before I even said anything and suggested that I might like to get a new one. With the fall fast approaching and the likelihood of more wet riding, I opted for a set of Continental Contact 700 x 28C with some pretty darn good treads in them. I am not sure how many litres a second of water they can move out of the way on a rainy day, but they’ll certainly be a far safer fall/early winter riding tyre. I was also dead chuffed at the price: only $40 each. I am used to paying double that and more for just one road tyre.
I rode the rest of the way home with a rather stupid grin on my face, now almost looking for sharp objects to ride over, and with my two new tyres slung over my shoulder à la Tour de France circa 1930.