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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pre-race bike drama

This story is pretty embarrassing but I'm going to go ahead and share it...

I'll be the first to admit that I know next to nothing about bike maintenance and repair.

On Saturday evening I checked my tires and decided that it would probably be worth it to add a bit more air.  However, instead of adding air, I managed to let all of the air out of my back tire.  Then when I tried to reinflate it, the tube didn't seem to be taking air.  I checked the valve and noticed that it seemed to be broken.  My tires have presta valves and the piece that you unscrew wouldn't stay unscrewed at the top.  Instead it seemed to be collapsing down on itself.  Of course, I immediately panicked.

I called my brother, the only person I could think to call that knew something about bikes, and he confirmed my suspicions that I probably needed to replace the tube.  It was during this conversation that I checked the tire repair kit attached to my bike and realized that I had no spare tube.  As background, when I got my bike from my friend in January I took it in for a tune-up.  I told them that I knew nothing about bikes, but figured I needed to purchase a basic kit in case I got a flat.  I purchased the one that the employee recommended and I was told that it could be installed during the tune-up.  To be honest, I can't remember if there was any conversation about the spare tube that I would also need to purchase, but I guess I just assumed that I had purchased one of those as well.  Apparently, I had not.  I also had not thought to check out the contents of the kit until this very moment.

My brother said he had a spare tube at his apartment, but that he couldn't be sure it was the right size and that if I could go buy one, that was probably the best idea.  At this point it was about 7:45 pm.  I realized that the bike shop near my apartment might close at 8:00 so I hung up with my brother, sprinted to my car and drove over there.  Sadly, it had closed at 6:00.  So, I called my brother back and he said that if I could pick him from the party he was currently attending and drive to his apartment, he could get his spare tube and come back to my place and help me install it.  So I picked him (and his girlfriend) up at the party in Arlington, drove into DC to go to his apartment and then came back to my apartment.

It appeared that his spare tube might be slightly too large for my tire, but we decided to go through the whole process because we thought it still might work.  I got a crash course in removing the back tire on my bike and how to replace a flat tire/tube.  However, as soon as we put some air in the tube it was clear that it was too big.  There was no way that we could have put the tire back on.

Although my brother had asked me if I was sure that my original tube wasn't taking air and I said I was (pretty) sure, at this point he tested it and it did seem to be taking and holding air (thus confirming that I am completely clueless when it comes to all things bike related).  So, we reinstalled the original tube and were able to fill it and put the wheel back on.  And yes, I was totally embarrassed and apologetic about the whole situation.  Fortunately, they were good sports about it and I returned them to the party that was still in progress!

When I got back to my apartment I noticed that my wheel was now rubbing against one side of the frame.  I was kicking myself for not noticing this before he left, but somehow I realized that it was probably screwed in too tightly on the side.  I was able to make the necessary adjustments and get it centered and spinning freely.  A small win that made me feel slightly better about myself and my abilities to approach problems logically and rationally.  (I also may have texted my brother again in a panic, but had managed to figure out what to do by the time he got back to me suggesting the same strategy).

By the time all of this had wrapped up it was around 10:00pm and after all the (self-generated) drama, there was no way I was going to fall asleep right away.  So much for my planned 9:00pm bedtime before a 4:00am wake up call. 

9 comments:

amy said...

This could have been me! Seriously, I always leave my tires worse-off than they were originally, and I cleaned my bike yesterday and was scared to touch most of it. Way to figure out it!

Sarah said...

This sounds like something I would do. Glad it all worked out!

Katie said...

the first time i put air in my tires i got a flat. actually, the first 5 times. sigh.

Beth said...

Gah, that sounds like something I would do too. All I know about bikes is how to pedal forward.

Elizabeth said...

Whew- glad that got resolved. Cycling is a great sport but it's too bad that it's so dependent on the equipment! No need to be embarrassed, how are you expected to know everything about tires?

I RUN LIKE A GIRL said...

You are not alone! :) This has happened to me many times - and while frustrating at 1st, always funny in the end. I get seriously nervous before every triathlon bc if something happens to my bike (besides a chain drop), I'm screwed! :)

New follower - and so excited that you are a local Arlington runner. Let's def meet up on June 11!! Will you be at the CSC bike race in Clarendon later that day?

B.o.B. said...

you sound just like me! i have NO CLUE how to do this bike stuff. i absolutely had no idea how to put my bike chain back on when it came off during my last race. i looked like such a moron. at least yours happened pre-race. can't wait for your recap!

Erin @ UntilYouTri said...

Oh my, what an adventure! I am pretty clueless when it comes to bike stuff, too. I think I finally have the changing a flat tire thing down (after having to do it several times over the past few years), but that is ALL I can do. I know nothing else about taking care of my bike/chain etc. I keep meaning to take a bike maintenance class but have never done it. We should do one together! Lol:)

Rachel said...

i'm just as clueless when it comes to bikes! it's sad really. i'm always afraid that mid-ride something will go wrong like a flat and i'll be stranded. i've watched videos and know how, in theory to change a flat, but probably would go blank in a real situation. in fact, just trying to set up my bike in my indoor trainer ended with me crying in frustration! so don't feel too bad : )