Friday afternoon, after a family vacation to Colorado and business travel had kept me off my bike for the better part of two weeks, and I was finally able to find some time to ride. All was right with the world: I was done working for the week, the sun was shining, and I was on my bike.
About a mile and a half from home, I felt the back wheel begin to wobble. I knew instantly that I had a flat tire. The tire was worn, and I had put off replacing it too long.
I got off the bike, began walking, and then decided that I should call my wife to let her know that I was going to be home later than planned. She asked where I was, and said she’d pick me up in the car. Thank you!
This was the second time in two days that my wife had rescued me. The day before, she picked me up at my office when a heavy downpour cancelled my ride home. I now pack a cell phone instead of the tools and patch kit that I used to carry wherever I rode. I call when I run into trouble, and my wife collects me and my banged-up bike.
After supper, I looked through my bike stuff in the garage, and found a tube that fit the tire. I had purchased a new tire in the spring, and was going to replace the back tire along with the tube. I’d ride like that the rest of the season, then rotate the back tire to the front and buy a new back tire next season.
It didn’t take long to replace the tube and tire, but when I tried to fill the tube with air, it wouldn’t take any. I pulled the tire off again. When I tried to fill the bare tube with air, I discovered a leak about three inches from the valve. At the same spot on the rim, the tape had shifted and exposed a nub of sharp metal where one of the spokes attached to the rim. I had found the source of my trouble.
The same thing had happened a couple of years earlier, and I knew that I needed to take it into the bike shop. I’m not much of a mechanic, and this required attention to detail that is above my level of expertise. I also decided that I’d have both tires replaced, instead of waiting until the end of the season.
I had noticed a bit of a shimmy in the front tire a week or so earlier, so decided that I’d have the wheels trued, too. The flat tire that I couldn’t fix had provided me with an opportunity for a much needed tune-up. And one that I couldn’t do myself.
I loaded my non-functioning bike into the car and made my way to the bike shop. After explaining what I wanted done, I was told it would probably be three days before the bike would be ready for pick up.
Two days later, the bike was ready. With a pair of new tires, it looked like a different bike. I couldn’t have been happier.
Until the next day. I reattached my panniers, loaded my lunch and sunglasses into one of the bags, and headed for work. That’s when I discovered the difference that truing the wheels makes in the performance of a bicycle. The bike rode better than it has in quite awhile.
And it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of others. My wife was kind enough to drive me home, saving me time and a long walk. The mechanic did a far better job repairing the bike than I’m capable of doing. Left on my own, I wouldn’t have had the time to get the bike to the store before it closed for the evening. I’d have been without my bike for at least another day. I might have been able to change the flat tire, but I’d have been riding on a mismatched set of tires, the wheels wouldn’t have been trued, and the bike wouldn’t have ridden nearly as well.
In cycling, as in life, we can’t do it alone. Sometimes we’re provided an unexpected, but welcome, ride back home. Other times, we’re the driver helping someone in a jam. Working together, we all do better.