Monday, May 18, 2009

Always be prepared!

No, this isn't the big update I was talking about. And, no, that's not a picture of me - but I imagine the frustration level of that rider and myself earlier today were somewhat similar as I stood on the side of River Road between St. Paul and Newberg, Oregon after 2 hours of fighting headwinds (Avg. heart rate: 168; time in upper zone: 1:32:38). Oh, and this was my second flat of the day! The first one happened about 7 minutes into the ride!

So, many of you who may be my regular customers have heard me talk about what I carry every time I ride. (Spare tube, patches, tire levers, combo CO2/mini-pump, 2 full CO2 cartridges, multi-tool, tire boot material.) Well, today, I needed everything; including something more!

The first flat was easy and I had the whole thing done in probably around 5 minutes. Remove the wheel, get the tube, find the hole (or holes in this case - double pinch flat), check the tire for other debris, install new tube, inflate, install wheel, get rolling. I've done it enough times it's just a routine. The rest of the ride, while hard, went just fine. I was feeling good and beginning to think that I might have my zones set wrong on my monitor based on the amount of time I was spending in my upper zone and how good I was feeling. Then, while rolling through a shady spot at about 22 mph it happened - that stray piece of debris (which I think in this case was some metal strapping of some sort by the way it sounded; I never found it) hidden by the shade and made harder to see by the changing light and dark glasses (a beautifully sunny day here in the Willamette Valley). Instant flat - with a tire sidewall blowout!

Now, changing a flat when you're 35 miles into a tough ride and pretty toasted is something that you want to have some practice at - because mentally you're just not in a position to think on your toes. So I'm glad I've changed some 5-digit quantity of inner tubes thanks to my years as a mechanic, because that makes it pretty natural. But I discovered that my plan for booting a tire was fatally flawed. I had good material in my pack - re-purposed cloth Velox rim tape which is strong and has adhesive on the back to stick in place. I've put 800 miles on a Michelin tire with a Velox tire boot in it (I don't recommend that by the way). The problem was - it was a complete roll: enough to cover one complete road rim - much more than I needed. And, I had nothing to cut it with.


So, I'm going to amend my list of things you should always carry with you when you arrive based on today's experience. That additional item - the "something more" mentioned above? Energy bars or gels!

I've done this in the past and I don't know why it never occurred to me to add it to my list; but the foil wrappers used to package energy bars and gels is the perfect material for booting a tire. It has great tensile strength, easily conforms to different shapes, and is sizeable enought to cover a considerable amount of space inside the tire to keep the tube from pushing through the hole in the tire again.

Never booted a tire: Here's how. You're going to need to do this - sometime - if you're riding a bike at all.

1) CARRY SOMETHING WITH YOU THAT YOU CAN USE AS A BOOT! High tensile strength that doesn't tear easily under pressure: Velox tape, food wrapper, Tyvek race number or envelope segment or even a dollar bill (yup, I've done that once before too...) . Park Tool even makes adhesive tire boots made specifically for this purpose if you're one who likes having the "right tool for the job". I've read stories of people using leaves from the side of the road - to that I say: "b.s.!" That is a last resort only! I grew up in Idaho - there's no leaves in high-desert, agrucultural, rural Idaho. Be prepared!

2) Find where the cut in the tire is - any cut larger or longer than 1/8" needs to be booted. I know that's small; but in a high-pressure road tire, that is enough for a tube to push through that hole.

3) Place the boot inside the tire. To me, this seems like common sense; but I've had a lot of people ask me where the boot goes. In or out? Here's the deal: if the boot were outside it would either be abraded off the tire by the rotation on the road/path or be pushed off the tire by the hemrhoidal tube pushing back through the cut. By going inside the tire, it reinforces the casing of the tire and keeps the tube inside. This is why the boot material does not have to be adhesive - when applied to the right location the pressure of the tube against the tire holds it in place. This also is why the boot must be rather sizeable. Something the size of an inner-tube patch can move out of position or the tube can push around it and through that same hole/cut.

4) Finish repairing your flat as usual. For me, this involved actually getting my original tube and patching it - because the two sets of "snake-bites" from the pinch flats were smaller and easier to patch than the massive blowout I'd just experienced - which brings up my other new, big bit of advice on flat repair: KEEP THE OLD TUBE! You never know - that puncture might be easier to fix than the one you may have down the road. Yeah, some of you think it's cool to throw your punctured tubes over tree branches or power lines. That is irresponsible on several levels; but that's not what I'm talking about. When you have a massive, catastrophic puncture 25 miles down the road - you'll be wishing you had that tube with the little pin-hole puncture that is now draped artistically across the power lines 75 minutes behind you.

So, today's tally is: 3 tubes, 3 CO2 cartridges (that's right - I carried extra), 4 Park Tool glueless patches, and 1 used Raspberry Hammer Gel pouch.

Before my next ride I'll be cutting up some of that Velox I keep in my seat pack. I don't carry scissors when I ride. Somehow, I connected "don't run with scissors" to "don't ride with scissors either". But, If I'm in a pinch - I'll always have a gel pouch with me - empty or full. Stopping to fix a blowout is a good time to fuel up anyhow!

I need more CO2 and patches next trip to the store...

Any other good flat-repair stories or ideas? Go ahead and leave a comment!

Thanks for reading! And, remember to drop back by Tuesday or Wednesday for big news...


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