You — Yeah, You! — Can Get Paid To Ride Your Bike

They say that if you can do what you love while making a living at it, you’ve got the best of all possible worlds. Guest poster Jeff Hemmel might have stumbled onto that situation — he thinks.

HemmelsRide2I am so pro. If, that is, your definition of professional cyclist is someone who’s getting paid to ride his bike. Just this morning alone I made an easy $3. By month’s end I should have about $40 in the bank.

And if you use Strava, now you can be paid, too. The details were in an email that crossed my desk last week. Competitive Cyclist (, which is part of the better-known, is paying Strava users $1 an hour, up to $40 a month, just to ride their bikes. The money gets put in your Competitive Cyclist account, where you can then spend it on whatever gear or equipment you want. Your money expires at the end of the next month, meaning if you ride a decent amount you can have about $80 to spend every two months.

I thought there had to be a catch, but there’s really not. You have to set up an account on Competitive Cyclist or Backcountry, and then link that account to your Strava account. There really wasn’t much to the whole process. Your credits then show up automatically. I went out for my first ride, came home and updated Strava and, boom, next thing I knew money was waiting for me. Sure, Competitive Cyclist is getting some basic info about you. Apparently they also hope that users will review products, and they can eventually increase the validity of their reviews by showing how much the writer rides.

Think $40 isn’t that much to spend on cycling gear? Think about what you routinely buy. I go through Clif Shot Bloks pretty regularly, and love Skratch Labs drink mix, but both aren’t cheap. They’re cheap enough, however, that my newfound credits will pay for a month’s supply. Bankroll two months at the $40 max each month and you’re $80 into that new pair of bib shorts, jersey, or pedals.

I know, I know — it’s good to support your local bike shop. And I do, believe me, and still will. There’s just too many parts and services that I want to go to a local shop for, and this $40/month won’t change that. But I don’t know of many people who couldn’t use some more money to spend on those endless necessities, or long-lusted-after piece of new gear. And if every hour I ride my bike banks me $1, I can certainly find a good use for it.

Road-Tested, Inexpensive Holiday Gift Ideas For Cyclists

Unlike the tongue-in-cheek Christmas gift ideas I posted a couple of weeks ago, our guest poster Jeff Hemmel has some ideas that might actually merit a spot under the tree.

HemmelsRide2Recently I was asked to write a Holiday Gift Guide for one of the publications I write for in the real world. The task got me once again thinking of all the great things I’ve assembled over the last year for my bike. Looking back, my favorites aren’t pricey, high-end items. Instead they’re simple, smaller products that just make day-to-day riding a little bit easier.

Need something to get the cycling enthusiast on your shopping list…or more likely, a few hints to drop for a stocking stuffer? Here are a few of my road-tested suggestions, all available for under $30.

Fix-It Sticks ($29.99)

I like to keep a small multi-tool in my saddle bag, but my former tool had a few limitations. The most obvious was that its jackknife-style tool design didn’t allow me to generate a lot of torque when trying to loosen or tighten a bolt. I also didn’t like the way it rubbed up against things — like spare tubes — in my compact saddle bag.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 3.15.28 PMFix It Sticks are a pretty cool alternative. Rather than the typical “jackknife-style” multi-purpose tool, Fix It Sticks are literally two separate aluminum “sticks” that fit together (each stick has a hexagonal hole in the middle to accommodate the other) to form a T-handle wrench. When not in use, they sit side-by-side in a cool, slim case made from recycled tubes. When it’s time to go to work, just fit them together so that one stick forms the handle and the other the working end. The setup generates far more torque than possible with a mini tool, yet takes up less space.

You can get Fix It Sticks in a variety of combinations, depending on what you need most for your bike. I like the simplicity of the original version, with its fixed bits. A replaceable bit version is also available.

aLOKSAK ($8.39/3-pack)

I throw my phone, license, credit card, and a $10 bill in my jersey when I ride. To keep them together and sweat free, I’ve long opted for a bag like the Jersey Bin. It protects the items within, allows me to use the touchscreen of my iPhone through the bag, doesn’t cost much, and is a lot more durable than a Ziploc sandwich bag.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 3.17.56 PMBut while I still like the Jersey Bin, this year I was given a thinner, more flexible bag from LOKSAK. Made from a polyethylene blended film and guaranteed to be 100% water and air tight, the aLOKSAK pouch offers all the advantages of the Jersey Bin, but has so far been able to resist the cracking that could plague the latter product with frequent use. aLOKSAKs are favorites of divers, as they’re certified to a depth of 200’. I just know they’ve kept my phone safe — and usable — for about the last 10 months with no problems.

aLOKSAKS are available in a wide range of sizes in three packs starting at $8.39.

Bar Fly 2.0 ($24.99)

Like a lot of riders I use a Garmin Edge bike computer, but I don’t like the stock rubber O-ring attachment setup. It just seems a little flimsy, plus I like the idea of getting the computer out ahead of my handlebars where it’s easier to see. There are a number of products on the market that solve the problem, but my favorite happens to be one of the cheapest — Tate Labs’ Bar Fly.

For starters, it’s simple. Just loosen the plastic clamp and slip it over your handlebars, then tighten at your preferred angle with a 3mm Allen key. Once in place, just attach your Garmin with the familiar 1/4-turn mounting system used by the stock attachment. The BarFly 2.0 offers two attachment points, stacked one atop the other, to handle a wide variety of Garmins, including the 200, 510, 800, 810, Edge Touring and Edge Touring Plus. As the mount is Delrin plastic, it won’t dig in or damage the tabs on your Garmin through repeated attachment and removal. The Delrin construction also means you don’t have to worry about over tightening and damaging carbon handlebars.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 3.19.42 PMBarFlys come in a variety of cool colors, have a lifetime warranty and a “buy one and you’re done” crash guarantee. If you’re lucky enough to run Shimano or Campagnolo electronic shifting, you can also mount the shifting module on the underside.

Cutaway Neck Gaiter ($18.00)

Hardcore riders don’t stop when the weather gets cold, but that doesn’t mean it’s always fun…or comfortable. Last year I added a Cutaway Neck Gaiter to my wardrobe, and it’s really made a difference on those really cold rides.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 3.23.13 PMOne of the best things about a neck gaiter is its versatility. Sure you can use it just to protect your neck, but gaiters can also quickly turn into headbands, or open-top beanies to cover your ears. I like to pull mine up to over the lower half of my face balaclava-style and fend off the wind chill. The lightweight microfiber is comfortable and breathable. It’s also moisture-wicking, meaning your hot breath won’t end up making it all damp and nasty.

Cutaway’s Gaiters come in a variety of cool prints, including one dedicated to popular Cannondale/Garmin rider Ted King.

The Kinda, Sorta Garmin Edge Review

Guest poster Jeff Hemmel is back, with a look at an item the Bike Noob has so far successfully avoided.

HemmelsRide2Judging by the stems and handlebars of an increasing number of riders, Garmin is taking over the cycling world. Or at least, the bike computer part of it. Seemingly everyone has, or wants, one of the brand’s pricey little, GPS-equipped Edge units. Ray confirms he’s about the only one in his group who doesn’t use one. Fellow guest blogger Don Blount is a longtime user. I’m not immune to the little gadget’s allure. When I got the chance to test ride an Edge 500 for myself (I have a relationship with Garmin through my real-world job in the boating industry), I jumped at the chance. Normally, that would result in a standard-issue review, but considering that by now endless other outlets have already done that job quite well, I decided to take a different approach.

Jeff's Garmin Edge. Yeah, he recently did a century. But he says he's not bragging. (Click to embiggen.)

Jeff’s Garmin Edge. Yeah, he recently did a century. But he says he’s not bragging. (Click to embiggen.)

To be blunt, I decided to look at why so many riders had happily purchased a computer that costs several hundred dollars, when far cheaper alternatives — that do the basics quite well — could be had for much less.

For my friend John Matthews, part of the answer was the unit’s multitude of features. “It goes so far beyond the standard wired or wireless bicycle computer that there really isn’t any comparison,” he says of his compact Edge 500, referencing the computer’s ability to display not only speed, time and distance, but up to 61 other pieces of data including cadence, heart rate, elevation, lap times, and grade. Don agrees. “Lots of data,” he notes, while also pointing out the Edge’s accuracy, long battery life (12-18 hours), and auto shutoff feature. “That saves me from putting my bike away, forgetting to shut it off and discovering before my next ride that it is not charged.”

John also points out the unit’s ability to be easily transferred and configured to multiple bikes, and the Edge’s extensive customization potential. On the 500, up to five separate screens can be individually configured, with as little as one — or as many as eight — information fields per page. John also found the customization process, and the unit’s overall operation, highly intuitive and “ridiculously” easy to learn.

It seems to me that an equal part of that answer, however, is that a lot of us take our riding pretty seriously. As the Edge units are ANT+ compatible, they work seamlessly with any number of external add-ons, including wireless heart rate monitors, cadence sensors, even power meters. They can also record and store all sorts of stats from multiple rides for those who like to upload the information to sites like Garmin Connect or Strava. Don notes Garmin’s online log allows him to “download my data and compute totals and compare as far back as when I first began using a Garmin.”

Stats recording was a compelling reason for another friend, Tim Robinson, who purchased a touchscreen Edge 800, a larger device that includes color maps and can display turn-by-turn directions. Tim likes to track his rides, but found fault with the current slate of smartphone apps. “I had been using MapMyRide and Strava on my cellphone, but it would die part way through a big ride,” says Tim. “I wanted something that would do the same thing, but keep my cellphone fully charged for emergencies.” As part of our local group had recently taken to heading out of town for hillier rides in preparation for Georgia’s Six Gap Century, he also wanted a unit that would show his position and a route map so he wouldn’t get lost if he got dropped from the group.

As to Edge model’s high price points, all seemed willing to make the investment. John contends his 500 is actually a great deal. “I have not found anything else that comes close to this functionality,” he says.

Initially, I thought I’d go back to my previous computer after my test period with the Edge 500 ended, but now I, too, have grown pretty attached. Why? All of the above. Like Tim, I also got frustrated with the Strava iPhone app killing my phone battery. That same app also seemed to not accurately record my elevation, a minor detail but something I like to track when I get the chance to do some serious climbing. I also like the Edge’s ability to be recharged via the same USB cable that uploads its data to my computer. My old computer’s battery indicator was woefully inaccurate, and batteries died unexpectedly several times.

What’s not to like? Don notes the somewhat flimsy, rubber O-ring mounting system. He’s opted for a stiffer mount from BarFly that also puts the computer ahead of the handlebars. I’ve tried a similar mount from K Edge that I would recommend. Don also adds the 500’s side-mounted buttons can be cumbersome to use if you’ve also got a light close by on your handlebars.

Still, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives…but is that enough to justify the expense? I guess the answer will depend on how serious you are about your cycling, how obsessive you are about your stats, and maybe just whether or not you think there’s better stuff to spend your money on.

Clearly a lot of people, however, are living on the Edge…pun intended.

What’s In Your Saddle Bag?

Guest poster Jeff Hemmel opens a discussion of one of biking’s most common items.

HemmelsRide2Recently I came across a discussion of what people carried in their saddle bags. It piqued my interest, because over many years I feel like I’ve really streamlined mine to the true essentials, while still allowing for a few items I’ve come to appreciate from experience…and some people might overlook.

What do I bring along for the ride? I dumped the contents out to jog my memory. Chime in to add anything you think I’ve missed.


A Spare Tube — This one is obvious. A spare tube is there to save the day should you flat on any of the detritus that lines the roads, and as such should be the key item in any saddle bag. Tip? Bicycling magazine recently suggested to wrap a spare in plastic wrap. I guess the idea is to keep it “fresh,” but it also keeps the tube as compact as possible, as well as protects it from some abrasion by other items in your bag.

Perhaps the real question should be one tube…or two? I try to keep things as minimal as possible, so I go with one, reasoning that I can call someone for a ride should things go really haywire. If I’m venturing out into some unknown area, however, I sometimes squeeze a second one into my bag…just in case.

Patch Kit — One reason I often go with just the single tube is that I carry a patch kit. You can find them in tiny little packages that are easy to add to your bag. That way if you ruin your spare, you can do a quickie repair.

Tire Levers — I usually just use my hands to remove a tire, but I still keep a pair of tire levers in my bag. They’re helpful for getting a tire off the rim, especially if the tire is new and not very pliable.

CO2 Inflator — My brother gets on me about this one, noting that all of us quick-fix types aren’t doing the environment any favor. But a small CO2 inflator is the simplest, quickest way to get you back up and riding, especially if a group may be waiting for you…or you don’t want to lose them. CO2 inflators, however, are notorious for misfiring. After a little trial and error, I’ve settled on a Genuine Innovations Air Chuck Elite. It’s a tiny, spring-loaded, inexpensive inflator head that’s got a great reputation. There are flashier solutions, but I’m not sure any really better.

CO2 Cartridges — I have a mini frame pump that tucks behind a bottle cage, so I stick with just one CO2 cartridge in my streamlined bag. For the typical road bike tire, one 16 gram cartridge should get you back up to about 110-115 pounds. Theoretically it should fill to 130 psi, but I’ve never quite seen that happen.

Presta Valve Adapter — This summer I had what I’ll call the “flat change from hell.” Suffice it to say my old CO2 inflator leaked, my frame pump broke, and I was eaten alive by mosquitoes on the side of a steep country road. I was finally able to walk to a convenience store, only to find I had to do a little surgery on their air hose just to get a little bit of air into my tire. Then and there I vowed to get one of these little adapters (about $1.50) and throw it in my bag. I may never need it again, but if I do, it’s cheap insurance.

Multi-Tool — I’ve seen better (and bigger) alternatives, but I think most people can get by with just a simple tool, like Park’s tiny IB-2. It’s got a multitude of hex wrenches, a flat-blade screwdriver, and an I-beam handle for strength.

Grease Monkey Wipe — I scoffed at this when a friend gave me one, but these little foil-wrapped wipes really do clean up your hands after a chain issue, or even a dirty tire change. I just used the one I was given. Time to find some more.

Oh, a side note…the makers were funded by one of the “sharks” on ABC’s Shark Tank.

As to the actual bag I keep this stuff in, I’ve found one — again, a small one — that works perfect for me, the Serfas EV-2. I like the bag’s durability, but I primarily appreciate that it’s not just one wide-open bag. Instead, there’s a mesh pocket in the zippered entry flap (a great spot to stow that little inflator and Presta valve adapter), a pocket on one side to hold my multi-tool, and a strap on the other to tuck in my CO2 cartridge and tire levers. Best of all it’s even got a strap with a clip to securely hold a house key…something you definitely don’t want to lose out of your saddle bag when changing a tire on the side of a hill while being attacked my mosquitoes.

Not that I would know about that sort of thing.

Editor’s Choice — Essential Cycling Gear

Guest poster Jeff Hemmel is back, and he’s got the results of an informal survey.

HemmelsRide2Let’s face it, the title of this blog may be Bike Noob, but it’s a description that no longer really fits Ray, its creator. Nor does it really describe occasional contributors Don Blount or myself. Between the three of us, we’ve logged tens of thousands of miles, including multiple centuries, big charity rides, serious mountain ascents, races…and even changed a cassette or two. And along the way we’ve learned, often through trial and error, what kind of stuff helped us to better enjoy the ride.

So I emailed both Ray and Don and posed this question: What five items were your best purchases, or do you consider most valuable? My thinking is that the answers just may improve the ride for both noobs and experienced riders alike…not to mention save the expense of a drawer full of unused gear. (Don’t ask me how I know about that last one.)

As you might expect, there were several shared answers. Both Ray and I gave the nod to quality tires, specifically Continentals. “I run 25 mm, because I like the extra little bit of cushioning they give,” notes Ray of his favored Gatorskins. “They’re 100 psi instead of the 120 I had run on my 23s. Earlier this week, a club ride had a whole mess of flats rolling over grit left after a rainfall. Me, no problems.”

I wholeheartedly agree, although my favorite style is the GP4000S in the 23mm version. Before I switched to the Continentals, flats were a little too common. In the years since, they’re a rare occurrence. Hope I didn’t just jinx myself.

Ray and I also agreed on the merits of a good base layer in cooler weather. Base layers provide some warmth, but perhaps more importantly, wick away sweat so it doesn’t stay against your skin and chill your core. “Let me sing the praises of a base layer t-shirt I got last year,” comments Ray. “It’s a polyester T from Performance that fits loosely, and I think the air that gets trapped in the folds helps insulate me. It’s never as soaked with sweat as my clingy base layers.” Me, I like clingy, but agree most “polyester-feel” shirts leave me soggy. My runaway favorite is the Pro Zero from Craft. It’s pricey (I waited till I had a credit at Performance and the shirt went on sale), but I can honestly say it’s worth every penny. Something about the material feels more like a cozy cotton, or maybe even a nice, non-scratchy wool. It does a fantastic job of wicking away the moisture, keeping me feeling dry on those cold days.

Ray recommended two more pieces of clothing — a long-sleeved jersey from Performance, and a pair of wool socks, specifically Wooleators by D-Feet. “I’ve had the jersey for years, and I still look forward to wearing it,” says Ray, noting the lightly brushed fleece lining. “Great by itself in the 60s, with a base layer in the 50s, and under a windbreaker in the 40s.” As to the socks, he notes they do what wool does best — keep his feet warm in cold weather and cool in the heat.

Don and I agreed upon the benefits of a professional bike fit. “I rode my bike for a few months with the setup I received at the bike shop before going to a professional fitter,” says Don, who has had a fine-tuning since and plans on getting checked again before Spring. “A good fit goes along with a good ride.” I, too, received an initial fit with the purchase of my bike, but later fine-tuned it with a professional fitting. My fitter put me into a far more comfortable, efficient, and dare I say faster position on the bike. Fitters can also take into account previous injuries or limitations.

Don and I also tout the merits of a comfortable saddle. “Ever ride with a sore bum?” asks Don. “Enough said.” Don favors the Selle Italia SLR Gel Flow saddle. I’m still looking for my preferred perch. Along the same lines, Don and I both recommend a quality pair of cycling shorts or bibs. If you ride a lot, this isn’t a place to scrimp. Cheap alternatives are available, but pricier shorts typically feature far better chamois pads and more comfortable materials and cuts. Well worth the investment.

Don also suggests choosing the correct gearing. “I did an all-time high of more than 90,000 feet of climbing in 2012,” he says. “I rode with a 50-34 compact chainring and an 11-28 cassette. I know folks who switch out their rear cassette depending on the terrain. I am too lazy to do that, but this combo works pretty well for me for the riding I do.” I stick with my stock 11-28 when I get the chance to go into the mountains, but have added a 12-25 for the everyday flat conditions here in Florida as I feel it gives me more choices in my typical range. Truth be told, a cassette is actually a pretty simple thing to swap, although you’ll need a couple inexpensive tools. It’s also a good idea to match a chain to each cassette to prolong the life of both.

Other personal favorites? Don pegs comfortable shoes. His Bont ctt3 shoes are heat moldable, better to accommodate his “platypus” (wide across the ball, narrow at the heel) feet. He also likes to wear something under his helmet. “Even with padding, a bicycle helmet can feel like sandpaper on my shaved head,” says Don. He has proper headwear for every season — a breathable, sweat-absorbing skullcap for hot weather, a wind-blocking style for cool to cold temps, and a Walz wool cap (with earflaps) for really cold days.

Me, I’ve grown pretty attached to a sports drink, Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix. Adequate fluids are essential while riding, but I’m sick of syrupy Gatorade and hate those fizzy tablet drinks. All-natural Skratch (formerly Secret Drink Mix) tastes great, is flavored by real fruit, and has some sharp, science-minded bike nerds behind it. It’s pricey, but hey, I don’t drink that other bicycling staple — coffee — so guess that’s how I justify the expense.

One last item? Don suggested a bike computer, specifically his Garmin Edge. “It helps me keep track of time, distance and vitals such as heart rate, elevation, cadence and speed. In short, it provides great feedback for my riding.”

If there’s one common thread throughout all our picks, it’s comfort. “I believe comfort goes a long way in helping a rider’s performance,” suggests Don. “If one is not comfortable on the bike, then you won’t spend time on the bike.” Ray also notes that, with perhaps the exception of his tires, most of his must-haves are pretty reasonable in terms of price. “Not a lot of expensive stuff (on my list),” he says. “But I’m not the gearhead some of my fellow riders are. You can have a great cycling experience for a modest outlay.”

Agree, disagree, or have a few suggestions of your own? Let us hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Misplaced Loyalty To The Local Bike Shop?

Guest poster Jeff Hemmel liked his local bike shop — until he realized he didn’t.

 We hear a lot about doing business with the LBS, or local bike shop. For the most part, I agree. These are businesses in our community, supporting our sport. Sure, I’ll get something online if it’s truly a fantastic deal. But for the most part, I try to keep things close to home.

Lately, however, I’ve been having second thoughts about which of those community shops deserves my support.

This isn’t about calling anyone out. Suffice it to say one bike shop is where I have bought two bikes, some semi-expensive wheels, numerous parts and accessories, and a decent amount of service over the years. They’re close and convenient. The other is where I have bought a few things at best, and gotten the occasional service. They’re neither close nor convenient, especially if I have to leave my bike or get there by car.

Seemingly it would be a no-brainer to keep going to Shop #1, except for one significant detail. With a couple notable exceptions, the staff is just not that friendly. And it’s not just me who thinks so. I’ve had both neighbors and friends share similar experiences. I don’t expect them to roll out the red carpet. But as a polite, friendly customer who has spent a lot of money in that shop, I do expect to feel valued when I go in there. Heck, at one time I figured I’d probably end up friends with some of these guys. Instead, I sometimes feel like I’ve annoyed them just by coming in the door. As I said, there are a couple exceptions, including one mechanic who always has a great attitude. The overall vibe, however, is just downright weird. Friendly conversation, beyond the basics, is rare. The quickest tweak usually results in a charge. The “friendly” wrench went out of his way and taught me how to do something several months back; the next time I came in one of the others made a snide comment about how much time I had wasted.

It would be easy to dismiss these negative encounters as the occasional misunderstanding or bad day. But sadly, I’ve come to expect it as the norm.

Contrast that experience with Shop #2. On the whole, I haven’t spent much money at all there. I’ve bought no bikes, and few parts. Most of my visits have been when I’m riding by and stop in for something simple. But when I walk in their door, I’m always greeted with a friendly, sincere hello. They ask how I’m doing, how’s my riding going, etc. On the occasion that I’ve mentioned a problem, they’ve immediately thrown my bike on a stand and given it a tweak. Simple, quick adjustments are never followed with a charge (I typically respond with a tip for their generosity). The one time they did do a more extensive repair — a bottom bracket replacement — they compensated for a delayed part by temporarily putting a completely different crank and bottom bracket on my bike, just so that I could keep riding rather than be left on the sidelines for a week. They’ve never asked for my long-term business. But their actions, and their friendly nature, show they deserve it.

For some reason I’ve felt some kind of strange loyalty to Shop #1. I’ve even gone so far as to defend them when others have criticized. But finally, I’ve stopped to ask myself why. Why do I support a shop that I almost dread going into? Why do I ignore a shop that always makes me feel welcome?

I urge you to support your local bike shop. But just because a shop is local doesn’t mean it deserves your business. You’ve got to feel good about where you spend your money…and they’ve got to earn it.


By the way, here’s a special offer for Bike Noob readers. The concoction called Secret Drink Mix, which Jeff profiled awhile ago, now has a new name. It’s called Skratch Labs. And they’re offering a 15% discount. Visit their website, go to Products, and place your order. Enter Bike Noob in the discount spot.

Comedy of (Mechanical) Errors

Guest poster Jeff Hemmel finds that sometimes, rides just don’t go as they’re planned.

Just as in life, some days on the bike go smoothly…while others make you wish you had just stayed home. Proof? I offer a glimpse into today’s ride…or as I’m calling it, the comedy of mechanical errors.


Text friends (or at least the short list of friends who also work from home and thus can ride on a weekday morning), see who’s ready to ride. One’s out, one’s not responding. Begin mindless wandering on Internet.


Still no response, so come up with a solo plan. Just for grins, I’m going to tackle several Strava segments in the area and see if I can post some ridiculously fast times so everyone will think I’m a cool cyclist. Haven’t heard of Strava? It’s a GPS-based, mileage-tracking app with a social-media component…but let’s face it, it’s really just a way for people to compare themselves to others and convince themselves they’re cool cyclists.


Finally leave the house, heading toward the downtown route favored by the local cycling club. Approach the first segment I’m targeting, bordering a local country club. Pop a caffeinated energy gel into my mouth and get ready to hammer. Instead, realize I have a flat and curse the loss of precious, Strava-busting momentum. That makes two flats in about three days in the same tire…or two more than I’ve gotten in about the entire last year.


Remove the tire, lay my bike on the grass, and begin my inspection. Yes, I know that guy on YouTube does this process in 45 seconds, but I’m actually trying to find out what caused the flat…not just have it repeated another couple miles down the road. After two minutes of tentative feeling around inside the tire (does anybody really want to discover the cause with their bare fingers?) I find a tiny piece of glass. It’s buried, so I spend the next several minutes trying to dig it out.


Overcome the revulsion I have about putting something in my mouth that has been produced in a factory and attempt to blow a little bit of air into the tube to give it some shape. Nothing’s happening. Un-strap my Lezyne mini pump (hey, like a Boy Scout I’m prepared), then spend the next several minutes in frustration trying to unscrew the air hose which is housed within the pump body for storage. Curse myself for not greasing the threads.


Finally pump a little air into the tube, then start wrestling with the tire. After thousands of miles it’s decided to snap itself back into a kinked, twisting figure eight that my frazzled brain simply cannot decipher. Nice elderly lady stops by to offer assistance…obviously she’s never seen an experienced cyclist change a tire before.


Grab CO2 cartridge and let ‘er rip, anxious to get on with my ride. The tube begins to fill, then quickly the gizmo fails, adding a few greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and causing me to whine like a baby about my now-frozen hands. No spare cartridge, so go back to the mini pump.


One thousand, three-hundred-and-twelve pumps later and I’m exhausted. My tire is just on the firmer side of mushy. I’m obsessed with this Strava thing so I soldier on, ignoring the fact that I’ll soon be passing through a little rougher side of town with no spare, no patch kit, and no other tough-looking guys in badass Lycra. Okay, I do ponder for a moment who I can call should I have another problem…and wonder how long my puny self and expensive road bike will sit unnoticed while said person comes to pick me up.


Start to roll once again and realize my tire is mush. Stop, un-strap pump once again, and pump another thousand times (give or take). Tire pressure is now maybe an optimistic 70-psi.


Once again get underway, but aft water bottle is jumping wildly with every pedal stroke. Inspect and discover the cadence magnet on my crank arm is now inexplicably colliding with the remounted mini pump, which in turn is springing the bottle in question. Pedal in weird, half-arcs until I find a park bench…where I proceed to stare at the situation with all the knowledge and experience of a guy who just took 30 minutes to change a single flat tire.


Give serious consideration to the theory that a crank arm that can handle all the force generated by a Tour de France winner just bent under the weight of a 16-pound bike frame sitting on a well-manicured fairway. Un-strap pump, put it in my jersey pocket, give up on being king of the GPS-tracking-app mountain, and head home, completing a whopping 16 miles…in 1 hour and 37 minutes.

I did finally solve the mystery, or at least the part of it that didn’t involve my own incompetence. The pump bracket has mounting slots, rather than boltholes. Though the bolts seemed tight, the bracket had somehow slid to the left…just enough to derail my best-laid plans.

Hmm…maybe those Strava guys did it.