Stuff Happens

The military theorist Karl von Clausewitz called it “Friction,” stating that everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult.

Some people call it, “Murphy’s Law,” which states that anything that can go wrong, does.

I think a popular bumper sticker puts it best: Stuff Happens.

(note, I have made a slight editorial change to this phrase in the interest of civility).

Close followers of my odometer will note that the count hasn’t risen rapidly as of late.  Long hours at work, family chores, and inopportune rain storms have colluded to keep me off my bike far more than I would have liked.  Stuff happens.  I was excited to jump on first thing Saturday morning for a fast time trial.  After raining throughout the night, the skies parted and the temperature was fantastic.  All was well and I was making a very respectable 18.5 mph pace through the hillier portion of the ride.

I flatted five miles into the ride after attempting to ride over a significant amount of gravel at a road intersection.  I was forced into this area by a car which was moving alongside me at precisely the worst possible moment.  I could have slowed and swerved around the gravel, but I was pushing a personal best pace and didn’t want to give in.  In the midst of the gravel, I hit a particularly large stone with my front tire and within seconds knew that I was doomed.

Stuff Happens.

Abandoning hope for a personal best, I set about replacing my inner tube.  I was very proud of myself for being fully prepared for this event.  I had a spare tube and a CO2 cartridge which I have been lugging about for over a year without an opportunity to use.  I even brought some Gatorade to sate my thirst when I normally wouldn’t bother for a short 17 mile ride.  I had my cell phone and my ziplock bag with $5 (although I couldn’t imagine what use that would be just yet).  I felt fully prepared to take on this job.

And everything went exceptionally well.  Regular readers will recall how difficult my Conti 4S tires were to put on.  After several months of use, they were much easier to remove.  I put the new tube on and inflated the tire with my super cool CO2 cartridge (which really is fun to use) and in ten minutes I was ready to hit the road again.

At this point, experienced cyclists would simply have continued on their ride, slightly more sweaty and greasy but proud of themselves for having completed a repair while on the road.  A little voice inside of me told me to not do this and to head home.  I rarely listen to this voice despite its excellent track record but this time I did.  Very shortly, I was very happy to have done so.

As I pedaled home, I contemplated my damaged tire and tried to decide if I needed to discard it.  I could see the torn fabric on the left side as the tire spun.  Soon, the tear became a bump in the tire.  A few hundred feet further and the bump became huge, so large that the tire was no longer on the rim for about three inches.  I stopped and inspected the problem.  The damaged side wall was no longer able to handle the pressure of the inner tube and had given way.  I set the bike on some grass to begin another temporary fix, except the force of the bike hitting the ground (it’s not like I slammed it or anything – I just picked it up and set it down again) caused the inner tube to burst with the sound of a shot-gun, which reverberated through the quiet morning hours.

Stuff happens.

I was less than a mile from home, so I took off my shoes and began walking.  Along the way, I met a nice man who inquired about cycling as a hobby and despite my condition he remained very interested in my thoughts and encouragement.  In a short while I was home and planning my next trip to the LBS for inner tubes.

Here’s hoping not much stuff happens tomorrow.

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23 thoughts on “Stuff Happens

  1. Sorry to hear about the “stuff” and congrats on listening to your inner voice (mine isn’t as well calibrated to reality, I think).

    Although I haven’t had occasion to try it, I have read that you can fold up a dollar bill and place it inside the tire as a temporary patch to prevent the tube from pushing out through the tear. Good enough to limp home if you are farther than waking distance. I suppose this wouldn’t work if the tear was very large.

  2. Steve, I’m sure as an ex Squaddie (& Rupert to boot) you would know that famous saying by Field Marshall Helmuth Von Moltke. “No plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.”

    I know that as a truism…

  3. This is the gods’ way of telling you that rest is sometimes the best training, It could have been worse; the tire could have exploded while you were headed downhill in traffic.

    Okay, I am out of rationalizations. Just remember the immortal words of Field Marshall S. O’Hara: “Tomorrow is another day.”

    • It can ALWAYS be worse, can’t it? 🙂 I was very fortunate to have this issue so close to home. Oddly enough, the great majority of my flats occur within ten miles of my house. Things seem to get safer the farther away I am from home.

  4. Glad that you listened to your inner voice! May it comfort you somewhat to know that you aren’t the only one that “stuff” happens to. While coming home from doing errands yesterday, I saw a cyclist with his bike resting upside-down with his helmet, tools, etc. laying on the grass almost precisely like your photo. I thought of you and how you have avoided having flats lately. Sorry if I jinxed you!

    • I’m sure we were but two of hundreds of people with similar challenges this week. Bikes are machines and as such they tend to break from time to time. No worries!

  5. Sometimes when stuff happens, nice stuff happens. Recently I punctured twice (ie had already used my spare tube), a car stopped, he said he was a cyclist, would I like to call by his house half a mile down the road……..I did, he gave me a new tube and use of his track pump.
    Random acts of kindness also happen!

  6. Not the kind of back in the saddle again ride you were hoping for. Bright side – not too far a walk in the end. At least you flatted with style!

  7. A $5 boot probably would have worked, but with only one CO2, you’ll have to inspect your tire first.

    Whenever you flat, make sure to inspect your tube. I just run my thumb/finger around the inside of the whole tire. You’ll feel any thorns or glass still sticking through (which can flat your new tube), and hopefully catch any irregularities in the tire or sidewall.

    You can also carry two CO2s and a patch kit just in case, but I usually consider the double-flat rare enough to warrant a call for a ride home.

    • I ran my fingers along the tire as you describe, but the problem was I didn’t appreciate the effect the hole in the sidewall would have. I should’ve known better!

  8. I had that kind of thing happen to me at the beach. I kept getting thorns in my tire … I learned to run my fingers over my tires if I get run into stickers. If I get a flat … run my fingers inside the tires. I busted 3 tubes until the cycle shop showed us that trick.

    Here’s to a great ride tomorrow?! 😀 I rode hard the other day … gonna go for a kayak tomorrow. 😀

  9. We’ve done much less cycling this year than usual, mainly due to the weather. All very frustrating, but hopefully the rain will actually stop soon and we can go out. Bad luck with all that stuff happening. All part of the fabric of life I guess.

    • I hear that much of Europe has had a wet April. Here’s to green grass, reservoirs full of water, and the eventual blue skies which will come your way.

  10. Following up on Tuckamoredew’s post, back in the day puncture outfits always used to include a little square of canvas for just such an occasion. The latest idea is to cut out a little section of an old tyre, and I know you now have at least one !! and include that in your kit for next time.. cheaper than $5..

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