The flat from hell

Posted by SuperClydesdale on August 17, 2011 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

I had the most bizarre ride this weekend.  In all of my years of road riding, I’ve never had a situation like this.  Maybe this is a mountain-biking phenomenon: a magical flat that could not be repaired.

I went riding with a couple of buddies on a common out & back trail we do.  It’s got butt loads of rocks, but very little in the way of climbing, so it’s a fun ride – probably 15 miles.  A  “quicky.”

We got to the top of a small climb, and the rear tire felt a little squishy.   I check the tire, and it’s low.  I figure I’d pump it up to see how long it can hold air before I commit to fixing the flat on the trail.  If it’s a slow leak, I figure I’ll just pump it up a couple  of times on the ride, and fix it when I get home.

Not wanting to waste a CO2 cartridge, I borrow my friend’s manual pump.

I try to attach it to the stem, and after a second or two of hissing, realize that it’s a Schrader valve – my friend had used it to pump up a ball for his kid, and had switched it from presta to Schrader.  I’m a little cranky, because now it’s totally flat.  Mountain bike tires don’t require the pressure of a road tire, but there’s so much air volume, that it takes forever to pump it up, especially with the little crappy $20 girly-man pump that my friend had brought.  He converted it back to a presta valve and I began pumping.

Lesson learned:  carry a quality manual pump in addition to the CO2.  CO2 is for convenience, I can handle the weight of a manual pump as well.  At 240 pounds, what’s another few ounces?

So, I spend what seems like 20 minutes inflating the tire.  As I remove the pump, I can hear a faint hiss.  I’ve got a damn leak.  Fast enough to hear — no waiting to fix this.  No problem, I’ve got a spare tube.

I take off the wheel, pull out the tube, and feel around for whatever may have punctured the tube.  Nothing.   Pump up the tube, find the hole – a very small pin-prick of a hole.  I do the normal routine, I map the hole in the tube to the spot on the tire where that part of the tube was.  No sticker.  I try the other direction, in case I lost track of what side of the tube came from what part of the tire.  No sticker.  Okay – must have been a quick “in & out” type of thorn or something.  It came through the tire, put a hole I the tube, then fell out or remained attached to whatever evil vine produced it.  I did the inspection again just to be sure.

I got out the spare tube.  It’s a 29er tube.  I’m on my 26er today.  F!

No patch kit.  Bonus.

Oh well, next, I borrow a tube from one of my friends.  Brand new tube – perfect.  Since I spent 20 minutes pumping up the tire just prior, I figured “what the hell – I’m using the CO2 this time.”  It does its magical goodness – and the tire is pretty much where I like it within about 2 seconds.  Phenomenal.

Put the wheel back on the bike, and as I am locking the hub, I hear that damn hiss again.  Arg!

At this point, a few other riders pull up and ask if we need assistance.  “Does anyone have a real pump?” I ask.  And, they do.  They also have a patch kit.  And, one of these guys has several CO2 cartridges taped to his frame.  This guy’s a genius!  Despite seeing that he had extra CO2 cartridges, they seemed somehow off limits.  It felt like it would be downright rude to ask for a CO2 cartridge — crossing that line.

Take off the wheel, take out the tube, and this time there’s a little slit in the tube.  Not sure if it’s a manufacturing defect, or what, but since I used nothing but my hands to mount the tire, and it went on easily, there’s no way that I could have torn the tube.  As usual, I had inflated it tiny bit to keep it from twisting as it is mounted, and to insure that it will not get pinched under the bead of the tire.  I chalk that one up to just bad luck.

Not ready to resort to the lowly task of repairing the tube, I get another new tube from my second riding buddy.  Perfect!

Once again, I check the tire.  This time, I am like a TSA agent groping an elderly traveler.  There’s no way that there’s any foreign object in that thing .  I put in spare tube #2.  Pump it up using the “real pump” and within minutes, I’m good to go.

Take off the pump and….   I hear the thing hissing!  Crap!  Mother f-er!  The stream of obscenities was, I’m sure, impressive.

Now, time to stoop to the stranger’s patch kit.  All he has are the crap self-sticking clear ones.  But, they are better than what I brought (aka nothing).  So, we patch the tubes (both of them), and I put in now-repaired tube #1.   This time, I have both my friends check the tire, the rim, my prostate.   Nothing!  There is simply nothing in the tire.  We bend it, try to force whatever may be concealed in Pokies the rubber of the tire to show itself, feeling for something all the while.

Put the tire back on.  Seems to be holding!  Hallelujah!!!

We’d been sitting on the trail trying to repair the tire for at least a half an hour, and it was getting pretty hot.   At this point, we decide that instead of going to the end of the trail,  that we’d just head back.

Not 50 yards into the return trip, the back tire is squishy again.  Crap!  Mother f-er!

I stop, and I probably have about 10 PSI.  I figure, what the hell?  At this point, I’ll just get up out of the saddle and ride slowly back.  That didn’t last long.  Within a minute, the tire was totally flat.   Unbelievable.  More obscenities.

I take out the tube, and it’s got a hole in a totally different area.

We are now down to a lone tube, one that has a borrowed patch on it.  This time, I am taking no chances.  I take the tire off, and hike down the hill to the lake and rinse it out thoroughly, just in case.  I rub my hands over it, give that thing an impressive examination.  I hand it to my friend, he does the same thing.  Nothing.  We re-examine the rear rim.  As smooth as a baby’s butt.  Nothing.

I put in the tube, and pump up the tire on the crappy little pump.

It’s f-ing hissing!!!!!!

I was speechless.  No amount of cursing was going to make me feel better — I’d had it.  No tubes left, no patches – not that it would have mattered, this thing was just toying with me.   It was possessed!!!  I didn’t know what to do – defeated by a small hoop of rubber!!!

We are about 5 miles from the trail head.  I tell my buddies that I am just going to walk back.  We discuss faster options, and it’s agreed that they will ride back to the car, and one of them will take the back tire off and the other will ride it back to me.  Sweet.  Good plan.

I figure I’ll just walk back and meet them somewhere in the middle.

After what seemed like a very long time walking, I’m hot, and I’m definitely ready to get this “ride” the hell over.  I figure what the hell?  I’ll just ride back slowly, stay off the seat to keep pressure off the tire, and just slooooooooooooooooowly ride back.  I’ll ride on the soft dirt, and when I get to a rocky patch, I’ll get off and walk it to make sure I don’t damage the rim.

One thing that will really drive home just how damn slow your riding partners ride than waiting for them in a situation like this.   It seemed like they must have gone to lunch or something.  Maybe they did for all I know.  My view of what was soft dirt that I could ride over, and what was a rock that required me to dismount seemed to… change as the ride continued.  Pretty soon, I was only dismounting for the largest of rocks.  The rear end of the bike was fishtailing around on the slightest of slopes.  Despite that, my pace seemed agonizingly slow.

I recall Lance Armstrong completing the Leadville 100 on a flat 2 years ago.  I felt like Lance.  Just 90 pounds or so heavier.

The sun reflecting off of the trail and the rocks, and the fact that there is very little shade on this trail made time pass very slowly.  I was melting.  My slow-ass friends were nowhere to be seen.

By the time I saw my buddy with the tire, I was less than a mile from the trail head.  My back tire at this point was in shreds.  Any idea of riding to preserve my back rim was tossed aside long ago.

My buddy had at least one good excuse for the slow return.  He had the tire strapped to his backpack, and he got out of the saddle on a climb, and when I went to sit down for the descent, the rim got caught on the tip of the seat.  He ended up with his weight too far forward, and went over the handlebars.  He had a nice contusion on his shin – a scrape with a massive lump underneath it.  Misery loves company, so I took some relief at the site of that.  Serves him right for riding so slow.  Bad karma.

So, I take off my wheel and strap it to my Camelbak for the return.  I pop on the new wheel, and ride back.

What should have been a 90-minute ride ended up taking the entire morning.   When we got back to the car I was in a crap mood, and roasting.

Nothing that a couple of Sierra Nevada’s couldn’t fix.

I haven’t had the courage to examine the rear wheel to see if I trashed it.  The rear tire is mutilated to the point that I will never be able to determine what was the source of my misery.  Just as well!  I need to burn that evil tire — It’s cursed.

So, my lessons learned:

- Carry a manual pump as well as my beloved CO2

- Strap several CO2 cartridges on the bike like the smarter guy who stopped to help.

- Carry a patch kit.   Maybe two.

- Carry an entire case of tubes at all times.  I’ll need a bigger backpack.

- Ride with faster friends.

Add A Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.