New Derailleur – Old Tire Trouble

Thanks to the generosity of Bike Noob reader Mel Hughes, I’ve got a new Shimano Ultegra rear derailleur on the bike. He shipped it out earlier this week, and my super local bike mechanic, David V., installed it Friday. I had a good Saturday morning ride with it, made better by an unplanned meetup with David D., or “my friend David” as Bike Noob readers know him.

One of the local hills I like to climb in the neighborhood has the colorful name, “Convict Hill.” Recently, I started timing my climb up it. (No, I won’t become a Stravaphile — I don’t use Strava. An old-fashioned stop watch works just fine.) Anyhow, the first time I put a watch on it, I clocked two minutes, 43 seconds. As I gradually improved, my target became 2:30, which I almost hit two weeks ago, with a 2:32. On Saturday, it was 2:27! It must be the new derailleur, right?

Because it’s a long cage derailleur, David V. warned that it might not shift as smoothly as I’ve been used to. “It’s really for a triple,” he said. And I did encounter some minor issues, like skipping between shifts. But a quarter turn of the adjustment barrel fixed that. I was looking forward to the Sunday morning club ride.

The club ride promised to be a small affair. Sunday was the day of the Livestrong Ride in Austin, and most of the club turned out for that — with several riders going for their first century. I posted on our Yahoo group that I’d be up for a ride to Creedmoor, if anyone was interested in joining me. Six others were — and they were all A riders. This was going to be interesting.

I stuck with them, courtesy of a few well-placed stoplights, for about 10 miles. At one point, we came across all the Livestrong riders as we tried to cross a city street that was part of the route. The traffic cop on the corner refused to let anyone cross the street, but he said we were welcome to turn onto the same route as Livestrong, then make a left turn at the first cross street. We did, and avoided getting caught up in the large peloton.

After our little group crossed Interstate 35 and headed for the country, the As took off. I was suddenly on my own, but had more to worry about than not keeping up with the group. My rear tire felt funny. Not funny ha-ha, but funny hmmmm. I turned into the driveway of a closed dance hall and checked my tire. It wasn’t quite flat, but well on its way.

This was a problem. When I flatted last week on a borrowed bike, I made sure to put a fresh new tube in its seatbag. But that left me with suspicious old tubes for my bag. I decided not to trust the replacement tube I brought, but instead, took out my patch kit and set to work.

Patching is an easy process, but takes more time than replacing the tube. I got ‘er done, and figured I’d save time by using a CO2 cartridge to fill the tire instead of my trusty frame pump. I’ve had bad luck through the years with cartridges. They invariably misfire. Or I misfire them. Sure enough, that happened here, too. I turned to the pump.

It took some effort, but I got the tire pumped up to an acceptable pressure, and set off again. I was headed for the convenience store in Creedmoor, where I could assess my situation. Only one dog chased me on the road to Creedmoor, but it was a particularly nasty Chihuahua (ever notice how aggressive those little guys are?) and I was glad to get by him. At the store, I took a large gulp from my water bottle, then felt the tire. It was soft.

Okay, pump it up again and set out on a return trip, rather than the loop I had planned. I had a nice tailwind behind me, and made good time to I-35 again, when I stopped at another convenience store. Sure enough, the tire had gone soft.

I threw in the towel. I could have pumped it again, then stopped to pump again in another five miles, and hope I would get home. Or, I could risk the dicey replacement tube. Or — and this is what I did — I could call my domestique to sag for me.

It’s good to be on the bike again. I like my new derailleur. But why I’m having this run of flats baffles me. I’ll let it sit for a couple of days, and then try again.

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