I’ve flatted four or five times over the past couple of weeks – enough that I’ve actually lost track of the precise number. Flats, like Karma, really are a bitch. This is especially true if one has neglected to check and ensure there’s adequate kit in the road bag to facilitate a remedy for said flat. Or when a flat occurs, say, two kilometers from home and one becomes engaged in that internal debate over whether to fix the flat right there on the spot or to sling one’s bike over the right shoulder with a profound, robust, and totally disgusted, “Well fuck it. I’ll just fix it at home.” That long, fuming walk up the hill, bicycle hanging upon one’s torso always seems a whole lot longer in this situation.
I’ve had a really great run of good luck, apparently. If memory serves, it’s been over two years since the last flat. This leads one to become somewhat delusional. One begins to feel downright bulletproof, to believe that “it won’t happen to me.”
But of course it does. Eventually, the odds catch up.
It’s at this point I begin to worry about the odds catching up in every facet. Dammit, I don’t want to have to change a road flat on the rear wheel of the fixed gear, especially since I’ve got that thing so nicely aligned and the chain so perfectly tensioned. And double dammit, I don’t want to think about road changing a flat on the three-speed. I’m too big a wuss to properly adjust the cable after putting the wheel back on without a bike stand.
Another issue with flatting is money. I’m cheap. Tubes, which used to seem to me inexpensive – at least in my rose colored memory – have gotten to be expensive. Ten bucks for an inner tube? Yikes! In my cheapness – heck, let’s give me the benefit of the doubt and refer to this characteristic as “frugality” – well, in my frugality, I’ve always patched tubes that were patchable, and even made a valiant effort to patch a few that weren’t even close to repairable.
Patches were, at one time, a nearly permanent solution. They were made of rubber, and used rubber cement or something very much like it. I had the art of patching down to a deliberate science. I actually rather enjoyed patching a tire, feeling like I had crafted my repair. Feeling like I had extended the life of the tube.
But the tubes I buy today seem to have fallen victim to a philosophy of planned obsolescence. Don’t repair them – toss them, replace them, and move on! This grates at my craw. The patch kits no longer come with rubber patches. They are self-adhesive stickers. No tiny tube of glue. No rubber – they’re made of thin vinyl. They are a far cry from permanent: I imagine their sole purpose is to simply get you home in a dire emergency, where one is then expected to remove the repaired tube, toss it, replace it, and move on.
All winter long I rode on bikes that had patched tubes. All winter long I had nary a problem. On two occasions this spring those bikes were in the back of my car, basking in the interior warmth from sitting in the parking lot at work all afternoon. And on both occasions, the tubes failed. The adhesive on the patches warmed enough to soften, allowing air to leach out; the tire flatted. This, without actually having moved an inch.
Toss, replace, move on.