Having reported on my less-than-satisfactory performance on Bike-To-Work Day, I shoved off towards Nokesville, intent on traveling more than 30 miles for the first time in over 15 years. The sun was setting, so it would be a race against time. If I could average 15 mph, I should be able to make it. I was very pleased with my start. The wind was calm and I felt good as I moved off Rte 234’s bike path and onto Bristow Rd. The route was rolling hills with the general trend downward toward the Occoquan River crossing (I am constantly crossing this river at various points – probably a good photo montage one day). As I approached the river at the 12-mile point, my speed was excellent and I was feeling very strong. Breaking 30 miles would be a snap!
Then suddenly, it happened.
While climbing the hill on the far side of the Occoquan, I felt a sickening sensation that I remembered from my earlier cycling days. The back tire was vibrating – not good. I pulled over and tested the pressure. Sure enough, the tire was soft. I quickly discarded my hopes for completing my route and turned my thoughts toward triage. Maybe, just maybe, this was a slow leak and I could somehow eek out a ride home. I turned around and began my retracing my route. No luck. Within a quarter-mile, the tire was completely flat.
Now any cyclist worth his salt would have a spare inner tube, some tire changing tools and a hand pump with him. Sadly, I am not quite worth my salt yet. This reminder from Fate gave me the opportunity to once again come to the conclusion that I have a ways to go in this hobby. I did have one key piece of equipment – a cell phone – and I used it to call my sainted wife, who gladly agreed to come fetch me. I then began “The Walk Of Shame” as I trundled up Lucasville Rd toward its intersection with Rte 234. I walked a mile and half and was passed by many cars, not one of which stopped to see if I was ok. To the teenage boys in the back of a pickup truck who yelled and laughed at me as they passed, thanks – you made my day.
Today, I took the bike into my friendly local bike shop, Olde Towne Bicycles, where I purchased TWO inner tubes and happily watched a technician named Tyler use one of them to fix my tire. Along the way, Tyler explained a few things about tires that I didn’t know. First off, the type of flat I experienced is known as a “pinch.” It almost certainly occurred on the bridge over the Occoquan, when the space between the asphalt and the concrete was too large and the tire pressure was too low for the tube to handle. The tube was consequently pinched between the wheel rims and the bridge concrete, creating the puncture. These flats are particularly nasty because they result in two holes (one for each rim) and the tire loses pressure in seconds. Other flats caused by glass punctures or whatnot result in slow leaks that sometimes take days to lose the air.
I was surprised to hear that my tire pressure might be low. After all, I just had a full service done on the bike a month ago. Tyler explained that a tire can lose 5-10 PSI each week and it should be reinflated every two weeks, at a minimum. Hand pumps like the one I have on my bike aren’t going to get the job done. They are merely for a road crisis and designed to get enough pressure in a tire for you to get home. A proper floor pump (with pressure gauge) is required to ensure the tires are inflated properly.
While I had the bike on the repair rack, I asked Tyler to tweak my gear shift, which every so often fails to put my bike in gear. Tyler completed the tweak and I departed the store, my bike repaired, my wallet slightly lighter, and my knowledge significantly improved!