Monday, September 18, 2006

Flat No. 3

Yesterday afternoon the rear tire on my bicycle went flat for the third time (since I've been keeping track this year). I had just had the bike looked over and adjusted by Justin (scroll down to Bike Repairs) in exchange for doing some editing and was almost home, when I heard a strange sound. As I pulled into my garage, the sound clearly became a hissing noise, and soon the rear tire was deflated. I could see a round flap in tire from where the air was leaking.

It was Sunday afternoon, and I didn't have anywhere to go, so I just left the bike. Then this morning, in an effort to learn how to change my tires more efficiently, I searched the Web and found a couple helpful articles: "Levers? Levers? We Don't Need No Stinking Levers!" by Asa Salas and "How to Fix a Flat Tire on a Bicycle" by Ken Kifer.

First, I was able to hold up my bike, shift the gears, and pedal in place (thanks to my toe straps) so that the chain dropped onto the smallest cog in the rear.

While repairing my last two flats, I just propped the bike on its side, but both articles suggest flipping the bike upside-down onto the seat and handlebars to remove the rear tire. However, my handlebar rear-view mirror prevents me from resting the handlebars on a flat surface. At home, I can rest the bike on two plastic file boxes, which I did. On the road, I would have to dangle the mirror off the side of a curb.

Next, I unlocked the brakes, released the wheel, and removed it. Removing the tire and changing the tube is the easiest part of the process for me. The puncture was caused by a shard of glass still wedged in the tire, which I carefully pried out with the end of a screw driver. (Same type of culprit that caused the previous flat, which also happened just as I was arriving home.)

I haven't yet graduated to patching my tubes. I carry patch kits with me, in addition to a new tube, and should probably patch the punctured tubes I have saved, but that's a future step. Right now, I'm focusing on removing and replacing the wheel properly, so I just use a new tube.

After installing the new tube and pumping it up to an acceptable level (my new hand pump works so much better than the previous micro one), I followed the instructions to fit the wheel back onto the chain and drop it in place. That part is a little complicated, but by being unrushed and trusting the directions, I successfully held up the chain (the top side when the bike is upside-down) using a rag, fitted the smallest cog onto the chain, and let it roll into place.

Then I carefully tightened the quick release lever and made sure I closed it properly this time. (I had been riding around with an open release lever since my last flat.) I turned the bike right-side up and pumped the tire up to pressure using my floor pump.

There is certainly a sense of accomplishment in being able to fix my own flat tires, and I have more to learn. However, I may look into some of the suggestions for preventing flat tires.

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