The fourth flat of the season and the third one in the last 160 miles occurred on a slight uphill on Rte 234, near a plant nursery. I was almost 12 miles into a planned 40 mile trip which would have permitted an exploration of some nooks and crannies of the Brentsville area. As with the previous three flats, the rear tire was the culprit.
I’ve become quite practiced at removing my rear tire so this no longer was a signficant emotional event for me. I’ve also become very accustomed to having sweat pour off me as I attempted the repair. This time I was able to find a shard of glass that had penetrated the tire. I was once again ready to install the new inner tube and be on my way when once again I met with an insurmountable problem. This time, the tire itself refused to cooperate.
My tires have a kevlar band on either side to help prevent flats (HA!). Somehow, one of these bands had “rolled up” and would not lie flat. It was almost as if the tire was twisted incorrectly, kinda like a garden hose sometimes won’t lie flat. I flipped the tire inside out and continued rotating it in this manner until the outside was on the outside. Now the OTHER kevlar band was rolled up.
I dealt with this for half an hour. I am pleased to report there were many good Samaritans on this stretch of road who offered to help. Even some truck and van drivers took pity on me and offered their services. I thanked them all for their offers and told them I had the necessary tools to fix the problem, if it could be fixed.
The problem couldn’t be fixed.
I eventually elected to inflate the tube on the messed-up tire. I put about 60 PSI into it (25 less than normal) and inspected it. The problem side was causing the “good side” to ride much more toward the center than normal. Still, it was ridable and I decided to limp home with it in this state.
I once again took the bike to Olde Towne Bicycles, where I am quickly becoming a recognizable face. I fully expected the owner, Dave, to tell me how I had made a simple mistake when changing the tire. He would then fix the problem I had created and I would thank him for his patience then sheepishly leave the store. This did not happen. After hearing my story and fussing with the tire for over 10 minutes, Dave (a man in his 50′s who has presumably seen his fair share of broken bikes) announced he had never seen anything like this. He had no idea what would make a tire do this, other than to say that turning the tire completely inside out during the inspection might be the cause. With kevlar banded tires, he recommends simply running your fingers inside the tire to find the obstruction. I told Dave I had used this technique on the previous two flats and came up empty. My frustration over continued problems caused me to take more radical measures.
Dave grabbed a new tire off his rack and slapped it on. He then noted my quick-release spring on the rear tire was damaged so he swapped that out as well. After a quick service, he gave me a tip on replacing inner tubes: always put the valve near a recognizable feature on the tire (with my tires, there is a red label). This way, when you flat and figure out where the hole is in your tube, it’s relatively easy to determine where to check the tire.
So let us hope the cursed rear tire problems have been solved with the replacement of the original tire. It’s been two weeks since I have been worry-free on mechanical issues. I’m ready to get back to pedaling and taking pictures and not focusing on the mechanics of my hobby or learning how to remove grease from cycling clothes.