Sunday, July 30, 2006

Zen and the art of changing a bicycle tube

So you know, this is purely a cycling post. You‘ve been warned.

I abandoned a ride yesterday at fifty one miles as I cut a tire. I only had twelve miles to go. I‘d felt the bumping in the back tire for a couple of miles before it finally blew. I had even stopped to check if I was flatting but everything felt fine. (Note to self: next time you feel something amiss check more than just the tire pressure.) Of course, it blew on a 40 mile an hour descent on the steepest part of the entire route. It blew with a loud pop and I offered-up the obligatory, “Oh %&^#!“ response. Fortunately I was able to come to a stop without the tire coming off the rim.

This was a large training ride for the upcoming MS-150 and there were 250 (or so) riders, and it was very well supported. Within minutes a sag vehicle was there to offer help. Several other riders stopped to help as well. Several suggested that I could place a dollar bill in my tire and that it would protect the tube enough to finish. None had ever tried it though. I didn‘t have a dollar, but if I had a dollar for every person who suggested it I‘d have five. Do you think an Abraham Lincoln would work or does it have to be a George Washington? Anyone ever try this? No wife‘s tales, I want to hear from an actual person who did this and lived to tell the story. If I don‘t hear from anyone I‘ll try posting this question to Yahoo! Answers. (Which reminds me I‘m not done with that thread.)

Yesterday afternoon I went to our new Performance bike shop in Cary to get some tires. This shop only opened here last week, but I can see now why people shop there. They‘re cheap! (Or is that inexpensive?) They are the Walmart of cycling, and I‘ll be curious to see which of the local bike shops will be the first to fold. Anyway, buying tires is always a fun experience. For me, it‘s an affirmation that I‘ve been riding a lot. I purchased a pair of Continental Ultra Gatorskins, and it is here that my problems began. I have never had a tire that took so much effort to get on the rim. It was a nightmare. It was worse than putting on a tubeless UST on a mountain bike rim. I got huge blisters on both of my thumbs trying to coax the tires on. I stopped after doing the back, and went for my morning ride. This afternoon I tried the front and I still haven‘t got it. I even tried lubing up the bead and can‘t get it on. I hope they soften up some with some riding because I don‘t even want to think about having to replace a tube out on the road if they‘re going to be this difficult.

Which brings me to the zen piece. Last winter I flatted on a shop ride, and as is customary several people stopped to assist and get me back on the road asap. On this Sunday, Bill took charge. After I removed the wheel he immediately took it from me and proceeded to remove the tube from the tire with his bare hands. No tire lever. He then asked for my tube. I pulled it from my pack and he gave me this really disgusted look. He says, “You need to keep those tubes in a ziplock bag and in talcum powder.” Okay! I‘ve asked a dozen people since and NO one treats their tubes this nicely. So I ignored that piece of advice, but I can‘t get over the bare hands thing. Every time I‘ve flatted since I‘ve tried to get the tire off with just my hands and I haven‘t even come close. Anyone know the secret? I can‘t even get my tire back on the rim so I can‘t imagine getting it off with just my bare hands. I have to know…

UPDATE: I get so many reads of this post I felt I should update it with what finally worked for getting the remaining tire to go on with ease. This technique was recommended by my spin class instructor Danny Thomas. He told me to put the tire in the clothes dryer and warm it up. It didn't take but a few minutes. The warmed-up and softened tire went on with ease.

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