So now I’m one for three when it comes to changing flat tires on my bicycle when I’m out on the road. For years I didn’t even bother with the idea. If I got a flat I just walked my bike home. I’m usually within a few miles of home when I cycle since my route is circular and it takes no more than thirty minutes to walk home from most points. So I never bothered with a tire changing kit. Last year after one too many flats I changed my mind and bought a small under-the-seat bag for my bike, an extra tube, a portable air pump, and a 30-in-1 bike tool. Earlier this year when I got a flat I changed out the tube lickety-split. The next two times I was not so lucky.

Oddly enough both flats came on my front tire. Since my body weight is over the rear tire that’s where I usually get a flat. Maybe one out of ten flats happen on the front tire. For the first one I think I hit a small pothole and the tire popped. The roads are a mess from the long and snowy winter and there are potholes in lots of places but I usually avoid them. This one I didn’t even see but I felt it as I went over it. The tire made a popping noise and immediately deflated. I hopped off my bike, gabbed my tools, and took the tire tread off of the rim. Then the trouble started.

The tire valve has a little hand tightened thumb-nut on it. When you put the valve stem through the rim you tighten the nut on it with your thumb and finger and the valve pulls off of the rim a little and locks into place so an air pump can fit over the valve. Except this time I couldn’t unscrew the nut with my thumb. I think a winter of water, ice, salt, and road grime locked it into place. A simple pair of pliers would have rectified the situation but guess what tool my 30-in-1 bike tool doesn’t have on it? That’s right. Pliers. It has all sorts and sizes of wrenches but this thumb-nut was round. I eventually got frustrated and tried cutting the valve off the tube but that was useless. The valve was still locked into place on the rim. Plus the tube couldn’t even be patched then. That was a dumb move.

So I ended up walking my bike home. It was especially annoying since I now had the tube and tread off of the rim. I supposed I could have tried putting the tread on by itself to walk the bike but that didn’t seem like it would work well. And since I didn’t want to risk ruining my rim by rolling the bare metal along the ground I had to hold the bike up on its back wheel and keep the front wheel off the ground as I walked. I made it about a hundred yards before I noticed having the bike upright like that made my water bottle fall out. I had to back track to find it. Yeah, that was a frustrating morning. Plus as I was looking for my bottle I noticed a large dead frog in the road. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dead frog in the road before. Weird.

That was on Sunday and the second flat came on the following Saturday. Not a pot hole flat this time though. I was nearing the end of my ride and I noticed a funny noise coming from my front tire. I thought the brakes were rubbing or something. A couple of hundred yards later the noise got louder and more persistent and I realized my front tire was leaking. I pulled over. Sometimes with a slow leak you can fill the tire up with some air and ride again for a bit. Since I was near the end of my ride I decided to try that. It didn’t work. My slow leak turned into a fast leak and the tired got flat as soon as I stopped pumping air. Oh well, I decided to change the tube.

This time the tube change went easily. No problems. I even filled the tire with air and had no problem. Then I tried to remove the pump from the tire valve. These tires have what is called a Schrader valve. It’s a couple of inches long and on the end is a tiny valve that you unscrew to get the air in it. There is a little metal stem inside the larger valve body that holds the tiny valve in place. The tiny valve should not come off that metal stem when you unscrew it to fill with air. This time it did. I’m guessing that I filled the tire to about 60 PSI (with my larger pump that tire gets 90 PSI) and as I was trying to remove the hand pump I met some resistance. I don’t know why. The pump usually comes off smoothly. I gave it a little yank, the pump came off, and the tiny valve flew off the valve stem and was lost forever. As a matter of fact the little metal stem flew away too. All I was left with was the plastic stem with nothing to stop the air from coming out of it. I walked home.

That second flat was a puncture flat. I must have hit a piece of glass or some such. Usually a couple of flats in a row mean my tire tread is wearing thin. I checked out the tread and it didn’t seem too bad but then I wondered what I was really comparing it to. I determined that I was really comparing it to other thinner treads that I felt when trying to decide the same thing in the past. I ordered a new tread. I put that one on my bike today and I’ve got to say that it has a lot more tread than my old one. The old one really was thin.