I was out for a ride with Mrs. Noob the other day. We were doing a Mopac loop, which is fast becoming an unfavorite of mine after riding it lo these many years. It’s just getting too busy. Traffic whizzes by, faster than ever, and thicker than ever. The shoulder is consistently covered with grit and gravel. And yet, it’s a traditional biking route around here, so it’s something most of us do without even thinking about it.
Anyway, I was tootling along, out in front of Pat by a good margin, when I noticed something odd about my front tire. It appeared that something was flapping on the tread with every spin of the wheel. I was concerned, because it looked like a flap of tire tread. And with the poor condition of the road’s shoulder, I wouldn’t be surprised if something had cut it. It occurred to me that rather than keep riding on a potentially dangerous tire along an increasingly dangerous road, I’d better check it out.
I slowed to a stop, liften the front wheel off the ground, and spun it slowly. There it was — it wasn’t a flap of rubber at all, but a pebble stuck to the tread. (I use the word “tread” advisedly, because the tires I run have no tread — they’re slicks. But I mean the center of the tire where it contacts the ground.) Somehow, I had picked up a spot of road tar, and it in turned picked up a sharp-edged pebble. I flicked the pebble off the tire with my fingers, and saw that it left a depression in the rubber, but hadn’t cut into it or, more importantly, pushed all the way through it. I gave the wheel a gentle spin again, and found another pebble — smaller this time — embedded in the tire exactly opposite where I’d found the first one. Because of it’s smaller size, it hadn’t made nearly the mark on the rubber as the other one. But two in one go — yech!
By this time, Pat had caught up to me, and I told her what happened. Her tires do have a tread design, and from time to time I have used an awl to pry small stones from it. She shrugged and said, “Well, no harm done,” and pulled around me to keep riding.
When I got home, I grabbed a rag and rubbed the tar hard, trying to make it disappear. My efforts weren’t 100 percent successful, but at least I haven’t picked up anymore potential flat makers.