Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fools with tools.

It should have been no big deal.  A flat tire on a road ride.  In town.  Ten minutes tops.  But that assumes we were prepared as well as we thought we were.  Oh no...not even close.

JeffJ and I.  That is me on the left.

JeffJ and I were about 70 miles into an 80 mile loop and we were just beginning to feel the strain of the day.  I had some time constraints, so when we pulled out of the gas station/mini mart after tanking up on water, I was not real happy about feeling that soft and squishy response to pedaling.  No, not a fully loaded chamois, just a rear flat.

So we pulled over into the shade of a gas station across the street and set to fixin' things in the grass of a planter area.  No biggy.  We had three tubes between us along with two sets of quick fills, two pumps, one patch kit, etc, and it is not like this is my first rodeo with an airless tire.   So I whipped off the rear wheel and opened up my tool bag to find no tire levers.  Really?  No idea where they went.  But JeffJ had some so that was fine.  It takes a village you know.  Buddy system and all that.

Tire removed, I set about finding the source of the leak.  A thin piece of wire had pierced the casing in the tread and about ten minutes later I had it out of there with my fingernails.  Note to self:  Add metal tipped tweezers to road bike tool kit.

I grabbed my spare tube, which I keep carefully wrapped in a baggie so it survives rot and rubbing, and went to put it in only to find that the valve stem barely made it through the rim.  When I swapped wheels it had not occurred to me look at the valve stem length of the spare tube.  Rats.  OK, we had grabbed a spare tube out of JeffJ's garage before we left and that was in my jersey pocket.

JeffJ's garage

I install that and grab my pump but JeffJ's pump is a bit more full-figured so he hands me that.  It does everything I ask of it except put air into the tube.  Why?  Dunno.  So I go to grab my pump and JeffJ offers his quick fill.  Ok.  Sheesh!  This is getting to be quite a circus and time is passing by.

A quick blast and we are at pressure.  Into the bike the wheel goes and about the time I close the QR, I realize the tire is flat.  I ask JeffJ, "was that a good tube?"  He does not know.  Take any bets on it?  So he grabs the tube out of his bike's seat pouch.  In that goes and I try my quick fill.  The dispenser will not move, like the plunger is frozen but I only find this out after I pierce the cartridge.  I have never used this device and it must have gotten wet in the bag and so here we are.  I grab the frozen, non-air dispensing device of dismay and, holding it both hands, press the nozzle against the sidewalk and push HARD.

'paaaaWIIIISHHHHhhhhhhh' goes all the cO2 in a frenzy of frosty air pressure escaping into the mid day heat.  The valve, once it got moving, stayed open.  Nice.  I could just cry or laugh and I stand there, staring at the comedic circumstances unfolding before me uncertain which is the most appropriate response.

You never tested your quick fill dispenser AND your tube has a short stem AND your tire levers are missing?

So we still have my pump and out it comes with the tube number three from JeffJ's seat bag.  He had been bragging to me about how good his tires were and how it had been YEARS since he had a flat and so on and so forth and all this is still ringing in my ears as I pump frantically with air escaping out the tube in every crease of the tube's folds.  Rotten to the core.  Really?  Is someone filming this?

My spare tube is rotten?

Time is slipping by.  I am going to be late for sure for my afternoon appointment, but the bigger thought is that we are fast running out of options here.  So I grab the tube that has one hole in it from the wire and try to patch it but the wind is so strong that I cannot feel the air leak.  I take it all in my arms and go behind the gas station into an area that must be the urinal for every homeless person in Ventura County.  No deal...cannot get enough air in there with a tiny pump to feel the leak and I am fresh out of water barrels, koi ponds, or deep puddles to submerge the tube in.

Amazing.  About now the Mexican gardener comes by and looks at us as he stands next to his running lawnmower.  The lawn he wants to mow is the one we have bikes and parts spread allll over.   Really, dude?  Verdad?  Verdad.

We pile it all on the sidewalk and keep at it.

So as a last resort, in goes the good spare tube I had (with the short stem) and JeffJ grabs his last quick fill and crams it on there, hits the button, but the connection is not good and canned air air goes everywhere but in the tube.  Then he bends the valve core as he pulls the tool off the stem.


Plan B.  It was close to this...too close.

I straighten that without having it break and thread my pump on there hoping there are enough threads to get it to seal.  There are, but barely.  It is our last hope before we hit the rescue flares or I ride on JeffJ's handlebars back to the car.  It works and inflates but we are on a wing and a prayer for the last 15 miles back to the car.  One more flat and we are toast.

So some morals to this slapstick comedy of a story.  Check yer stuff.  Do your tools actually work?  Are they in the bag?  Is your spare tube just a long rubber band?  We made it back and after a post ride burrito, discussed what we should do next, what we learned from all this and we came to a decision.


There really was only one career path for JeffJ and I to pursue. One way for us to help others learn from our mistakes.   Come by and see us some time.  We fix flats.


Jeff Johansen said...

Thanks for letting me clean my garage before snapping the photo.

As for the frame pump, Stanley, it was definitely operator error.

Jeff Johansen said...

Actually, that is my living room. My garage will someday be the focus of a two hour special edition of 'Hoarders' ;~)