Since I’ve been suffering from an epidemic of rear flat tires lately, I decided to keep my latest training ride fairly close to home. In preparation and to prevent any additional flats, I had invested in a new rear tire with “Flat Protection System” assurances. I also had a new tube with Slime – the green goo that is supposed to seal punctures in the innertube almost instantly. It’s quite a bit heavier than a normal tube, but I felt much more confident given the recent rash of flats I’ve had.
I chose La Tuna Canyon – a decent training climb of about 1,800 feet over three miles. I had done this once before – the first time I took my new bike out for a long ride, actually. I felt much stronger and more efficient than I had before. I thought that it was quite a bit easier than Little Tujunga, if only because the duration of the climb is shorter.
Things went very well. I took a slight break at the top to hydrate. I remembered to unclip each time I needed to, so there were no unnecessary dumb crashes. So far, so good.
On the downhill, I hit 28 mph at one point, and probably could have gone a bit faster. My legs were still fresh, I felt in control. I freaked myself out a bit though, thinking of how badly things would be if I crashed going that fast, so I tapped the brakes. (I can’t imagine what 40+mph feels like, which is how fast both my sisters say they’ve gone on some recent rides.)
I had just hit a flat straightaway and was leaning into the pedaling when I heard it – the telltale pop and hiss of a flat. I pulled over, remembering to unclip first, and still heard a hissing noise accompanied by a faint splattering sound. The slime tube was doing its job – I could see the green goo rushing out of a hole in the tube, trying to self-heal. But if I could see it coming out of the tube, that meant there was also something wrong with the tire itself.
On closer inspection I could see the tire had what looked like a slit in it. And each time I tried to pump the tube up to full capacity, it hadn’t had enough time to fix itself, and with the slit in the wheel, both remained stubbornly uninflated. I considered swapping out the Slime tube for the spare I had with me, but considering the state of the tire, it seemed rather pointless. (As it turned out, the spare I had with me was the damaged one from my last ride. Not my best moment.)
When I got home, Cim and I examined the wheel and tube more closely. The tire’s damage looked as though a knife had been taken cleanly to it on the sidewall. Beyond that, there was even wear and tear around the circumference of the tire at the same angle as the slit. The tube had two smaller puncture holes in it at the same spot.
I had been considering just buying a new tire and tube, but at Cim’s insistence, I took the whole thing in to the bike shop to see if there was some other defect with the bike itself that I was missing.
The defect was mine. User error. Apparently I hadn’t set the wheel properly in the mounting forks. Rubber from the tire was visible on the bike frame where it had worn down from rubbing on something it shouldn’t have been. They put on a new tire (Gatorskin) and tube and remounted the tire. As the mechanic looked more closely at the bike, he determined that the rear brake wasn’t responding correctly or quickly enough. He recommended removing the “cosmetic” brake set, which would also entail re-wrapping the handlebars. At the same time, he would give it a complete tune-up.
I got the bike back yesterday, and feel much better knowing that I’m not the one who’s mounted the wheel. It looks more professional without the secondary set of (useless) brakes, and the new wrapping is purty. I also found out that the shop sponsors a women’s-only ride on Tuesday evenings, so I plan on joining that next week. I’m excited to get some group experience under my belt, and feel better not having to wait until Saturday each week to get a ride in.
Meanwhile, my other training continues as well as can be expected. I still teach my two cycling classes each week, and have started attending another early morning in where I can push myself harder than I can do when I’m teaching. I went running this morning for the first time in three weeks. It may have been too soon to let this piriformis thing heal fully, but it sure did feel good to be out there again.
Meanwhile, people are asking me if I’m ready. The short answer is “No.” The longer answer is, “I won’t know until it’s actually time.” The real answer is, “I’m working on it.”