Sometimes you hit a run of bad luck. Sometimes, the bad luck is extremely specific. This is the story of such an occurrence.
I ride my bicycle a lot. It’s my preferred mode of transportation, weather permitting, and I’ve been using the kid’s bike seat to take him with me when we need to go somewhere in town. For the most part, our current town’s been decent enough to bike around in. But one day, I was on campus and went to get my bike from the rack to ride it to daycare and pick up the kid, but found that the rear tire was flat.
I didn’t have a repair kit, so all I could do was load my bike onto the bus and head for the only bike shop in town for a fix. I called my wife to see if she could pick up the kid, since I was clearly going to be later than planned. She declined on the grounds that she was too busy, so all I could do was call the daycare and tell them I’d be late by some unknown amount of time. In the worst-case scenario, I could drop off my ride at the shop and then schlep to the daycare in about a quarter of an hour.
Fortunately, they had a guy free who was able to change the tube out quickly. It had a pretty big double puncture that he said was likely the result of a “pinch” from going over a bump with insufficient pressure, although the process of going flat must have been slow given that I’d added air to my tires a couple of days previously. In any case, I was able to pick the kid up in a reasonable time frame, and given that this was my first flat in over a year in our current town, I figured that was the end of the business.
The next day, the same tire was flat again.
I took it back to the shop, hoping that it was an error on their part or a bad tube, and that I could get a repair for free. But no, this time it was a nail about a centimeter long that I’d managed to pick up somewhere in less than an hour of riding. It was clearly time to get myself a repair kit that I could attach to my bike. It would be an initial investment that was likely to pay itself off sooner or later.
A couple of days later, before I’d gotten around to buying a kit, I got another flat – this time in a front tire. So on my next trip to Target I looked for a kit (which they didn’t have in stock!) and picked up a “self-repairing” tube with some sort of slime inside that would supposedly slide around the inside of the tube, cover punctures, and dry out like a blood clot to keep the hole closed. Unfortunately the tubes at Target were all listed in inches while by bike’s measurements were in metric, so it turned out that the largest tube wasn’t big enough.
And then when I tried to deflate the tube in order to return it, some of the slime bubbled out of the valve… and performed its intended function. Right job, wrong place, and with the valve stopped up, the tube was functionally useless before it had even been used. I was able to return it later, but the moral of the story is clear: don’t spring for a self-repairing bike tube.
It would have been better to just go to the bike shop for what I needed. (The only reason I didn’t is because it was getting ridiculous at this point, with three punctures in less than a week.) But lesson learned, I ordered a kit on Amazon, then went back to the shop to get a new tube for my front tire.
I was able to put in the new tube without any trouble. And the next day, it was flat again.
Four flat tires in the space of a week. This time, when I was going over the front tire as carefully as I could, I came across a little bump that I had missed before. There was a tiny sharp pebble embedded in my front tire. It was so small, and embedded so deeply, that it wasn’t even visible unless you flexed the rubber… but it was enough to have punctured my tube twice. But then my kit came and I was able to spend ten minutes slapping a patch on the hole and save the cost of yet another new tube. And with any luck, that’ll be the end of it for a long time.
(I have a backup tube waiting, though.)