August 29, 2008

Appeasing the God of Rubber

I had the day off.

I haven't ridden much this week, been a touch sick. Laryngitis isn't good when you talk into a microphone 9 hours a day. I've been quite raspy, having to expend more effort just to be heard. At times I've recognized elements of a chain smoker's hack in my voice, and shades of a ranting Nick Nolte. Interesting, but annoying after the nine hours of talking. Luckily I'm pretty much the only one who has to hear it.

The few bike rides that I've gone on the past week have proven to be a crescendo of tire and inner tube troubles. I've been going through inner tubes like water. My commute takes me down the 195 (a highway with a wide shoulder on the west end of town for those of you not familiar with Spokane) which has a ton of gravel and debris. This Spring and Summer I've had pinch flats, snake bite punctures, one blow out and even an 8 penny nail in the rear tire of my commuter. Pretty much all of these have occurred on, or shortly after riding on, the 195. It is frustrating because I'm extremely conscientous about my tire pressure. I'm a big guy--220lbs--and recognize that there is a lot of weight on my back wheel, so I top off the air in my tires pretty much every time I ride (or the night before for commuting).

So the first part of the crescendo was on a Sunday evening ride up around 7 mile (a point in the state park along the west side of town where a road and paved trail run along the Spokane river). Halfway through the ride, as I crossed the 7 mile bridge, I noticed a very regular bump, bump, bump. I noticed a weird, kind of twisted lump on my front tire, like the weave of the tire was coming unravelled. I stopped, thought for a minute, decided that changing the tube probably wouldn't make a difference, and decided to keep riding, though not aggressively in case it blew. It didn't, luckily. I investigated the situation when I got home. The tire was worn out, unravelling, so I pitched it. I mounted the spare that I had and filled the rear tire for my commute the next morning (I ride my road bike when I commute to the Valley--Spokane Valley).

The next morning I woke up late, lost my voice, and my rear tire was flat. I changed the tube after work.

Tuesday I woke up late. Wednesday too.

Thursday I woke up only a little late and decided, "screw it, I'm going to ride even if I'm late." I was a little late, but felt a little better.

This morning I planned to wake up early so I could go on a long ride before anyone really got going for the day, so it wouldn't screw up everyone's plans. I woke up late.

I decided to go anyway. I was going to do a loop that would take me through Cheney and Medical Lake (two neighboring towns). Before I even made it to Cheney my rear tire started feeling sloppy. I bounced a bit and felt it bottom out. Flat. I changed the tube on the side of the road and kept going. I was a little wary. I only carry one extra tube and a CO2 cartridge to fill it with. This has worked for me for a long time since I never go anywhere too far or remote and have always made it home. But this flat came a little too early in the ride, and after all the flats I already had this week, I was losing faith in any air staying put in my tires. But since I was frustrated at not having ridden nearly enough the past two weeks, I resolved to push on. My intuition, however, was correct. After passing Cheney, but before reaching Medical Lake, at pretty much the furthest point from home, the rear tire blew. I was going about 24 mph and nearly lost my balance as I plowed into the gravel shoulder. My tire was ripped up like scraps from an 18 wheeler you see on the side of the freeway. I was done. I called Veep and she found me without too much trouble.

Here's the aftermath.


Later I went to the bike shop and dropped $120 on two new, thicker composite tires that are touted to be puncture resistant--whatever that means--and an inner tube filled with some of that puncture resistant resealant stuff. Heavier, but hopefully now the God of Rubber is appeased. I just can't keep changing these tubes.

The rest of the day was better. After Veep brought me home, I rounded up the kids, loaded my commuter bike, the girls' bikes, and the Burley trailer for Sal, and took them out to the Centennial trail (the paved bike trail) and went for a family ride. The girls were tired in the mid-day heat but didn't complain too much. Sal sat in the trailer, drank a ton of water from the Camelback, and asked me tons of questions. I rode really slow and tried to answer the ones I could.

When we got back to the car, I coaxed the kids to go look at the park across the street--Mirabeau pond. It is a fake waterfall filling a little pond with a dock and picnic shelter. The kids weren't too interested until they saw a small herd of rabbits mingling under the picnic tables. Boofis immediately perked up. She's a big rabbit fan. She cannot sleep at night unless she has her stuffed animal rabbit as a pillow, and is always on the lookout for anything rabbit.


The kids moved slowly over, sat down quietly, and waited for the rabbits to come near. They never got close enough to pet.


Some ladies eating at one of the picnic tables had them at their feet. If only Boofis had some crumbs to share.


The waterfall is fake, but the little pond is kind of nice and relaxing. There were a bunch of turtles on each of the rocks. Can't see them on the cameraphone photo.


Then we packed the bikes back up, stopped for some school supplies (school starts Tuesday) and headed home. No more flats, looks like the indulgence has been paid.


  1. Looks like a fun family day of biking.
    Your Big Dummy building project with the Rohloff hub sounds pretty similar to what Vik is running up in Canada ( It will be cool to see one here in Spokane once you're done.
    I've noticed from your commuting related pictures and posts that we cover the same ground pretty regularly, but I don't think I've crossed paths with you out on the road yet. Our house is a few blocks north of 57th on Hatch so you probably passed it all the time on the way home before the recent road construction. Last year I would occasionally ride down the hill and into town on 195 in the morning like you do, but I haven't done that yet this year- mainly because I haven't been getting up early enough. Despite the crud on the shoulder, that's always been one of my favorite ways to ride into work.

  2. Wow, that tire is really shredded. I hate flats. Luckily, I haven't had to deal with too many. My problem seems to be broken spokes.

  3. Jason,
    You are the linkmaster! I've been checking out your blog links for a couple months now. Thanks for the info. I'm waiting on spokes and tandem length cables. Pretty much everything else I have or is already on the bike. I'm hoping to have it ready for Spokefest, but have a feeling I won't.

  4. Flats come in threes, usually. You should be good to go for a while. :) Or maybe not.

  5. That was a stretch of bad luck. I'm thinking of getting a road bike next spring because I use my mountain bike to ride the bike trails here and I always get passed up by people (even old ladies) on road bikes and I know I'm not that weak. I think.
    I hope you don't mind that I read your blog. If you do just tell me to get lost.

  6. Kaerlig,
    I don't mind. I imagine it is not too interesting. Maybe I will have to touch on some disco rollerskating techniques to liven it up.

  7. Now that would be interesting. Disco skating is a legacy that we plan to pass on to our posterity and is initiatory to marrying an Andersen. Can't skate? Sorry, we can't date.
    And yeah, you pretty much lose me on the bicycle parts, but your wife takes some cool pictures. I've read her blog and she's pretty funny (not that you aren't).

  8. P.S.
    you are mentioned (not in a bad way)

  9. Not sure what you bought this time around for tires, but I'm a big fan of the Schwalbe Marathon XR and the Big Apple. Both have good tire puncture protection. For the ULTIMATE in flat protection, consider the Schwalbe Marathon PLUS (with Satan Guard), good for tacks, glass, roofing nails, goatheads, the works. They are heavy, but if you have an internal gear hub like the one on my Azor Oma, the Marathon Plus's are worth the xtra weight for never having to patch/replace a tube. Hope you're flat problems are over for a while! BTW, I found you through vik's blog, same as the first commenter mentioned!