Monday, March 22, 2010

The world is not (a) flat (tire).

Years ago, I once remarked that a (then) recent spate of flat tires on my bike was remarkable. My feeling was it was beyond odd that I'd be getting so many flat tires in such a short time. My friend Charlie responded that he viewed it as perfectly normal and expected. To him, getting flat tires at more evenly distributed times would be far more remarkable. I must admit that this perspective still leaves me scratching my head. All I know is that I am something less than overjoyed when ever I get a flat, be it the first or the Nth in a string. Flat tires, if you'll permit my slipping into vernacular, suck.

Let me, for emphasis, repeat that. Flat tires suck. They are certain to suck the life out of the moment, out of your momentum, and they can suck the life right out of your ride. How can I be so sure? Well, not that I really needed confirmation of this, but I've had more than what I consider my fair share of flats recently, and I've had them on three different bikes ridden in three different locations in three different circumstances: dry conditions on a commute, wet conditions on a commute using a different route, wet conditions on a brevet, and dry conditions on an entirely different brevet and route. The flats on the brevets have really taken the steam out of those rides, and changing a flat in the rain is only adding insult to injury.

The bad run of flat tires has taken me on a bumpy and circuitous emotional route. I was a bit grumpy but resigned to the reality when I first started getting the flat tires on my commute. Given the route the odds are in favor of getting a flat at some point, and frankly it has been a while. After several of those though, the flat tires on the first brevet really hit me hard. I was already late when I had the first flat, and having to change a totally grimy tire in the rain was hard to take. In short, I was pissed. By the time of the second flat, things had changed and I was back to simply being resigned to the reality of it all. Having caught up to several riders and having had the chance to ride along, chat, eat, etc. made a big difference.

Another flat on a commute had the sting taken out of it by the knowledge that the recent rainy weather had ended, and taking the long way to work always gives me a bit of a lift. On the most recent brevet, the Santa Rosa 200km, I had not one but two flats before the first control, which comes early at mile 10. By this time, I was hardly phased by the second flat, and just set about changing it out and getting back on the road. I had lost 25 minutes very early in the ride so I had little hope of catching anyone. A flat, or even two late in the ride is quite different in that there are always riders behind that you can ride with after fixing your flat. Get one at mile 10 of a 125 mile ride, and there is no choice but to chase, and chase solo.

It will of course tempt fate, but I think my string of flats is ending. So is the rainy season, the end of which is a bit early but not impossibly early. I managed to commute for over a week without a flat, and I got through an entire 200km permanent without flatting as well. We'll see what gives this weekend on the SFR 400km.


Fatmex said...

I had my spate of flats at the end of last year and through the first brevet of the season. I had two flats on that brevet (one in rear and one in front tire.) Since that January brevet, I have had (knock on wood) no flats. The rain really does bring out all the crap back on the road.

BTW, I completed my first 400K on 3/13. 20:50 hrs. Not bad. So, I will not be riding with SFR this weekend as I had originally thought I would. I still plan to ride the Night time brevet in June with you guys, though.

rob hawks said...

Hi Jaime,

Hey, congrats on your first 400km. Many riders feel that is the hardest distance. Our 400km is of course saturday. When you come up in June for the Overnight Brevet, bring some fellow SD randonneurs!

Joe B said...

Same things happens to me. A bunch of flats all at once. Usually, it's a result of worn out tires. Occasionally, it's a flat-producer that I've failed to find and remove. Even multiple bikes' flats have been explained this way.

Best of luck on your 400K!

DR Codfish said...

Well sure, you knew I’d have something to say. I’ll just have to sort out what stays and what goes or my ‘comment’ will eclipse your post.

That ‘fix a flat by the side of the road in cold rain…” I try to think of that as character building, after all I did go for a bike ride in cold rain. Most times that works, but sometimes rage and despair fight for the reigns.

I’m not sure if flats do come in flocks (bevies, herds, squadrons?) or if it just seems that way. It seems that way to me in the recent past (few years). When I was younger and cheaper, my tires were cheaper and they seemed to get flats at more evenly spaced intervals. I think the difference now is that it takes the ‘end of life of tires’ or a bad stretch of road/weather to bring the flock in. Remember, your glass is only half full of flats.

Yr Pal Dr C