The Bulging Tube

My wife’s bike needed some attention. It’s an old steel hybrid, but she rides it like a road bike — sort of. Anyway, it gets a lot of use.

Lately, I’ve noticed that the tires were showing signs of wear. Heavy wear. They’re excellent tires — an “urban” model called the Session by Fyxation. It’s just that when the bike is ridden as much as hers is, the center tread wears out, and a flat spot appears all around the circumference of the tire. I rotated the back to the front and vice-versa, but then she got a puncture in the front tire. It was worn past the point of replacement. I paid a visit to the bike store where I had bought the tire.

Sure enough, none were in stock. The alternatives the sales person suggested were too race-oriented. I ordered a replacement tire and waited. About a week later, it was in.

Some tires, when they’re new, are the uncooperative sort. That was the case with this one. Those last three to five inches over the rim refuse to seat. I did what you’re not supposed to do — I used a tire lever to get the bead over the rim, checked the seating, and pumped it up.

Or at least, I tried to pump it up. Sure enough, the tire lever had punched a small hole in the tube.

I retrieved another tube from the garage and started the process again. This time, it took even longer, because I was determined to get the bead seated only by using my fingers. Finally, it was there.

Again, I tested the bead to make sure it was in properly. I pumped the tire to 30 pounds and carefully checked it again. Then I pumped it up and put it on the bike.

A few days later, my wife went for a ride in the middle of the day (She works from home — she can do that). I figured that since the tire survived its shakedown cruise, things were well.

Saturday, we decided to get in a quick morning ride before the weather turned foul Sunday morning. I got the bikes onto the driveway and pumped up the tires of my bike. Hers, I let sit. Based on my past experience, her tires wouldn’t need topping off for another week.

I stood in the driveway with my bike, watching the comings and goings at a garage sale down the block while I waited for my wife to finish getting her helmet and shoes on. Suddenly, the peace of a Saturday morning was shattered by a loud bang! At first, I thought the sound had come from somewhere else. But then, I glanced at her bike. Three inches of tire bead were outside the rim.

I brought the offending wheel and tire into the kitchen. “The ride will be delayed,” I said. “Your tire blew.”

“Oh, I was going to tell you about that,” she answered. “When I was riding the other day, I noticed the tube sticking out from under the bead.”

Since she had made it home, she didn’t consider the situation to be too serious. But I showed her the ruined tube, with a half-inch hole where it had blown out.

I retrieved another tube from the garage. This one had been patched, and when I pumped it up, air escaped from a weak seal on the patch. Another trip to the garage for another tube.

As short as her ride had been the other day (less than 10 miles), it must have had the effect of getting some of the stiffness out of the tire. The tube went in easily, and I had little trouble getting the bead over the rim this time. After two or three checks to make sure the tube was staying where it should, I pumped up the tire (a little less than normal) and we set out on our ride.

Except for being cut off twice by impatient drivers who think it’s just fine to stick their cars out into the bike lane when bikes are coming at them at 15-20 mph, the ride was uneventful. I hadn’t had to deal with a tube that peeked out from the rim in almost seven years, so this was a good reminder that those things can always happen.

But I reminded her that whenever she sees a tube sticking out from under the tire, that means there’s no ride in store, and she should have me fix it right away.


  1. says

    I’m impressed your wife made it that far! When it happened to me I only managed about three hundred yards. The bang went off like a shotgun blast and concerned neighbors peered over their fences to see if the neighborhood was under attack.

  2. says

    Yeah, that’s been my experience, too. I don’t know where on her ride the tube started to stick out. She refuses to learn how to change a tire (“It’ll wreck my nails!”), so I’m glad she made it home.

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