It has been brought to my attention that there is some magic to be had in a blonde ponytail. I hate to admit this, but it may be obvious. I don’t like changing a flat tire. I hate it actually. At first I was convinced I didn’t know how. We all know that isn’t true now. I can change a flat, although those CO2 cartridges can still be pretty tricky. Yet, I have been notoriously known to try to avoid the inevitable tire change.
Here are some excuses that have been used:
1) But you are so much better at it!
2) If we are going to make it back before sundown, you should change the tire.
3) I can’t get my tire off. I think this lever is broken.
4) Hand pump? What’s that?
5) I think this tire is too big for the rim.
6) I think this tire is too square for a round rim.
7) Wait, which tube had the hole in it?
8) Here, I will hold your bike…and…
9) I was reading somewhere about pinch flats. You want to show me how not to get one?
10) I race on tubulars.
Lately as my training volume has increased and I have found myself on the open roads solo more times than not, I have learned to be self-reliant. I have full confidence I can get myself out of the mess of a flat tires, yet it is still comforting to ride around in West Marin knowing there are myriads of cyclists around just in case. As I ventured out onto the roads of West Texas, a whole new land was discovered—a land where a cyclist sighting is about as rare as a hill. A land where a cyclist is a foreign being, and you must be able to “do-it yourself”.
Good thing I can change a flat, but I am sure glad I don’t always have to do so.
Tricks to changing a flat.
1) Put a little bit of air in the new tube before putting on the tire,
2) Baby powder on a tube helps it not stick to the tire, some tubes come “pre-powdered” which is great.
3) Check the tire for what caused the flat. Often the sharp object of glass, thorns, or needles is still in the tire, and there is nothing worse than changing the tire, start to roll away and blow it out again.
4) After securing the tire on around the tube, check the circumference of the wheel for any chance you will get a pinch flat.
5) Tubulars don’t pinch flat, and you can use some sealant and CO2 to keep rolling after flatting on a tubular. So, if you love the thrill of riding around on posh carbon tubulars, you can still “fix” your flat until you get home.
6) Don’t ask me for a trick on the CO2 cartridges, but I recommend wearing gloves because you can get a “freezer burn” from the cold compressed air.
7) Bring two tire levers. It makes it easier to put on and take off the tire.
8) If you blow a sidewall or get a huge gash, try inserting a wrapper to further protect your tube to make it home.
9) What goes around comes around, lend a fellow cyclist a tube, because one day that will be you stranded on the side of the road looking for help. Remember to pay it forward.
10) When in doubt, see if the blonde ponytail helps. If not, buck up and do it on your own.
When I flatted in Texas, I responded by calling Z to have him come help me out because I was out of the proper equipment after the 2nd flat…
Where are you? He asks.
I respond, I have no idea, but I am on a Farm Market Road, is it 1609, 1606, 1608, or 1607.. and I hear gunshots and see a barbed wire fence.
That’s a lot of help, A.
Thank heavens for Google Maps on the BBerry as it tells me where I am. There is no magic when you are all by yourself on the wide open plains of West Texas. One older gentleman stopped to ask me if I needed a wrench. No sir, I am fine. Another group of farmers in trucks asked if I needed a ride. No Thank you. Another woman in a Dodge dually asked if I was lost and if I had a family. Yes ma’am.
In West Texas, you buck up and change your flat all by yourself. You pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Yet, if you find yourself in a bind, there will be many the helpful soul in a place where the only thing as big as the state itself, is the size of the local’s hearts.
Out in the wind swept plains of oil rigs and raccoons, the blonde ponytail doesn’t get your flat changed, but it might get you a ride home, a new friend, or a warm meal of BBQ brisket and cornbread.