Don Blount’s post about flats called to mind an experience I had a couple of weeks ago. In fact, it was at the same ride where I climbed the “big” hill. And it reminded me how important it is for bikers to acquire at least the basic minimum knowledge about bike maintenance.
I pulled into the parking lot at the restaurant where the ride would start. Although it was 8 a.m., the crowd was already pretty big, and I squeezed into a parking space between two other cars. As I got my bike out of the back and started attending to details like checking water bottles, making sure I brought my sunglasses, transferring money from my wallet to the ziploc bag I carry on rides, the woman at the car next to me started complaining.
“Augh! What is this?” she cried. “Am I going to be able to fix this?”
A guy who was with her looked on. He obviously couldn’t answer her question.
“What’s the problem?” I asked.
“It’s this,” she said. “The top of the valve came off. I’m not sure how to fix it.”
The presta valve on her rear tire had broken in two.
“No, you’ll have to put in a new tube,” I said. “Do you know how?”
“Oh, no!” she answered. “I don’t have a clue.” She looked at the guy, who apparently was her husband, or boyfriend, or something.
“I saw how to fix a flat on YouTube once,” he said. “But I don’t know if I could do it.”
I took the tire. As I pulled out the old tube, I talked my way through the procedure, so they could see what I was doing. I’m not much of a bike mechanic, but I’ve fixed my share of flats.
She handed me a new tube from the trunk of her car. I blew into the valve to give some shape to the tube and fitted it inside the tire. I explained how to work around the tire to get the bead inside the wheel, while being mindful not to pinch the tube between the wheel and tire. The bead did something my tires rarely do: it popped into place easily.
I pumped about 30 pounds into the tire, then showed them how to check to make sure the tire is seated correctly, with no tube sticking through.
“I think you two can probably fill it the rest of the way,” I said, handing the tire and pump to the guy.
She thanked me profusely. I turned away to get on my shoes and helmet. The ride would start soon. The tire change had taken me about five minutes.
Changing a tire is simple, yet satisfying. If done right, you’re left with a tire that you can depend on through normal riding. If done faster than usual, you’re left with a sense of accomplishment — of improvement. So don’t be afraid to learn. It’s a necessary skill, and one all bikers should have. If you don’t know how, I did what the guy did — I looked it up on YouTube. Here you go: