In early summer, 2007, I had ridden the Trek mountain bike several times, simply as an alternative exercise to jogging. But I realized that the Trek was slower than I wanted, so I pulled out the Raleigh, and started riding it instead.
My helmet was one that I had bought 15 years before. It was the old-fashioned styrofoam kind, with a cloth and net cover. I had a pair of mountain bike riding shorts, with a padded bottom, but instead of a biking jersey, I wore an old t-shirt.
Not far from the house is a major 4-lane divided highway with wide shoulders–great for biking. A brief trip through neighborhood streets gets you to the highway, and a right turn onto it starts you on a small downhill stretch that lets you build your speed. From driveway to driveway, the route is almost exactly 13 miles, and in the summer of ’07, that was a good ride.
I was starting to learn the idiosyncracies of the Raleigh. Its narrow road tires indicated a maximum pressure of 100 lbs. Pumped up that high, the tires rolled with minimal resistance. But about halfway through the ride on a warm July day, a loud bang interrupted things. The rear tire had blown.
I was at the farthest point from the house on the ride. I didn’t carry a spare tube in my saddlebag. I could only start walking the bike home. It was more than three miles by the most direct route. It took more than an hour.
That weekend, I took the bike into a local bike shop to buy a new tire and tube. Since I was there, I figured they could mount the new tire for me. The mechanic beckoned me over.
“This wheel is an old one,” he said. “It doesn’t have lips to clinch the tire. If you want to keep from getting flats, I recommend you don’t inflate it more than 70 pounds.”
It seemed to ride okay at the reduced pressure. But there would be more flats. From this point on, though, I would be able to handle them.