Changing a Flat

I was delighted when my friend Debra invited everyone out to ride with her and Russ south of Dripping Springs. I haven’t been out there for some time. Debra is just about recovered from foot surgery, and is easing back into riding. So I responded that I would be there.

The usual B contingent bowed out, because of injuries or out-of-town commitments. I thought I would be the only one joining them on this morning’s ride.

So I was pleased see a group of people unloading bikes when I arrived at the park on the west side of Dripping Springs at 8:15 Sunday morning. Brian, one of the B’s, had just returned from out of the country, and George and Steve, two A riders, had showed up. So had Don, who is new to the club. An eighth, Ira, was running late, but said by phone that he would catch up to us.

He did, about nine or ten miles into the ride. Ira is really fast when he wants to be, although he maintains that distance riding is what he does best. It wasn’t long before he and the other A’s were well ahead of us.

But we had agreed to meet him at the crest of a hill with a great view, and even though he joined us before that point, everyone stopped when we got there. Debra was befuddled, and wondered why we weren’t going down the hill. But we all seemed content to rest and chat a bit.

Debra anticipates the big downhill we'll soon enjoy.
Debra anticipates the big downhill we’ll soon enjoy.

A curious sound made everyone pay attention. It sounded just like air escaping from a tire. We pinpointed it to Ira’s bike.

“Yep,” he said, pinching the rear tire. “It’s dead.”

The group watches Ira work at changing his flat.
The group watches Ira work at changing his flat.

Okay, we were going to be here awhile. There are worse places to take a break. Ira fiddled with the tire a bit, trying to find the cause of the leak. And why, when he was stopped for several minutes, would it suddenly start leaking?

He narrowed it down to a faulty tire valve, and began the process of replacing the tube.

Ira works on his flat.
Ira works on his flat.

Now, Ira is old school, and prefers to use a hand pump to inflate his tires, but he had neglected to bring one on today’s ride. Don offered him a mini-pump, and Ira started pumping up the tire, but the process was slow, and another rider suggested he use a CO2 inflator.

“Here, I’ve got the kind with threads,” said one.

“I’ve got this kind, unthreaded,” said another

Debra was getting impatient. “I’ve got this, I’ve got that, you got that? I got this!” she muttered.

Ira came up with one of those hand-held containers for a cartridge, but couldn’t figure out how to get it to trigger. He was concerned his cartridges would misfire, and wanted to get it right the first time.

He tried a little chuck that screws onto the cartridge, and fires by turning it slightly. “It works!”

“Hey, I got this one to work, too,” said George, who had been messing with the plastic unit with the trigger.

Didn’t matter, Ira was satisfied with the pressure in his tire, and he mounted it back on the bike.

"I know what you're doing," Steve says. "You're getting proof that I do slow rides, too."
“I know what you’re doing,” Steve says. “You’re getting proof that I do slow rides, too.”

The odd thing about this whole adventure was, every one of the riders out today has been at it for years, and every one can change a flat in about 10 minutes. And yet, we resembled the Keystone Cops getting this one tube replaced.

And that’s probably why our Sunday B rides are such low-key events. No pressure, no sense of urgency to complete the repair and get back on the road. We flew down the hill, through a ranch, and then decided to take the short route back to the start. It would mean only about 26 miles for us, although with the hills it felt like 40. Several of us capped off the ride with Mexican food for lunch at a nearby restaurant.

“What do you think?” asked Ira, sipping his iced tea. “Was that a typical B ride?”

“More like a B-minus, I think,” I replied. The A’s did 57 miles and had several flats on messy roads. Once again, their ride broke up as some riders shot off the front, and others were unsure about the route. We finished mostly together.

“I like riding out here,” said Steve, who has been the state champion in his age group for both the time trial and the road race. “I can look at the scenery and talk with my friends. Not every ride has to be a hammerfest.”

I agree.


  1. Jeff A says

    A timely post. My club went for their Monday After-Work ride last night…we had some less experienced [and young] riders with us so we made it a “fun” ride. That translates to “not a lot of hills, slower pace.” As we were coming back on the home stretch, one of the riders got a flat. He had CO2 but no tube. I offered him the tube I was carrying in my seat bag, and we were moving again in a short time. But yes, we were all standing around gabbing while he was taking care of the tire.

  2. says

    A flat should be a zen moment, no time to rush. Some riders are experienced and can change a tube in 3-4 minutes, but that is purely in ideal conditions (everything in the toolkit accounted for and working). I mentioned a good toolkit for begginers in my blog, but the reality is that very few of us actually replenish and take care of updating the toolkit contents regularly. So you get these situations where a flat will cause a good 15 minute wait.

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