Pigeons in the grass – alas!

I’ve tried coming up with an equivalent phrase for this –

sideoftheroadBike with a flat – how ’bout that?
Bike what won’t go – oh, no!
Bike with no tire – oh, my-er!
Tire with no air – beware!

But at the end of the day, the only honest bit of verse that comes to mind is –

Take this bike and cram it, d*mmit!

Yesterday I had a plan, and it was a good plan, but it didn’t have any details* (*courtesy of “Man with a Plan”) – basically, it was “work, ski, ride for two and a half hours, swim for an hour”).

The “work” and “ski” parts got done. But the bike ride did not go as planned, and the swim did not go, at all.

The main part of the bike plan was “take the bike to the valley and ride outside”, as it was supposed to be in the 60s Fahrenheit, and sunny. So I took the bike to the valley, to Liberty Park, where I’ve seen many, many cyclists riding their bikes while I’ve run laps.

N.B. – when I’ve watched those cyclists riding, while I was running, was usually early AM. I had never considered what the park might be like mid-afternoon – and by “mid-afternoon” I mean “mid-afternoon on the first sunny warm Sunday of the spring”.

By the way – the answer to the question “What is Liberty Park like at mid-afternoon on the first sunny warm Sunday of the spring?” is CROWDED. VERY, VERY CROWDED. So crowded that I found myself getting irritated (one jogger, who liked to take the middle of the running/jogging area, had his headphones on so loud that he simply could not hear the phrase “On your left!” no matter how loudly I yelled it. I know – I finally yelled it into his ear as I was riding by, on the edge, and he just looked at me strangely) and decided to get the heck out of there.

I put the bike back into the car, and drove up to the Capital, and got out and rode up around City Creek onto 11th Avenue to the Shriners’  Hospital.

Along the way, I was getting passed by sprites on bikes – I have no way to describe these folks other than to say that they didn’t look like people – they looked more like bicycle engines. Large-lunged anorexic bike engines that somebody had wound up or recharged, placed onto bicycles, and released into the wild; they were zooming up the hill at downhill speeds, and I couldn’t even tell that they were breathing.

Anyway, my plan was to rid up to the Shriners’ Hospital and back, and then plan my next loop. Well, I made it to the hospital, and almost back. Suddenly I heard, and felt, a roughness that I’d not heard or felt before – looked down and, golly gee, I had a flat tire.

I wasn’t too worried – I had that little sack under my bike seat with all of the fix-a-flat goodies.
However, I found out that none of the fix-a-flat goodies had any fix-a-flat instructions – at all. I suspect that printed directions probably weighed too much, so the manufacturers decided to forego any instructions, since their target demographic is obviously sprites on bikes who don’t actually place any weight at all on the tires, and so why worry about flats ever happening? Besides, these alien bike-creatures probably can’t even read English (based on body type, I suspect that they communicate through musical notes – “play the pipe tones, please’).

So there I was, standing by the side of the road, with a sack full of useless goodies with no instructions, and a flat rear tire, feeling exhausted from my week of training, and listening to the whistle of hyperspeed anorexic cyclists going up and down 11th Avenue while I stood there, tired and tire-less.

So I gave it my best shot. I took the rear wheel off of the bike (not knowing, at the time, just how much difficulty I had gotten myself into when I would have to put the rear wheel back on) and then trying to get the tire off of the wheel. Eventually (after much sweating and golf language) I figured out what the little plastic pry-tool was for, but never did figure out why I needed two of them.

At that point, I had the tire off of the wheel, and then I pulled the inner tube out. I looked at the inner tube, and looked at my patch kit, and thought “How in the world would one patch an inner tube standing on the side of the road?” The best way that I know of to patch an inner tube is to fill it with air and then put it in a tub of water – but I had no tub of water, and my “air” supply was the contents of two CO2 canisters. So I wasn’t about to use one of the CO2 canisters to find the leak.

However, “luckily” (I said, in quotes, sarcastically, with my lips pursed) I had a spare inner tube. So I put that inner tube around the wheel, and – again, with much sweating and golf language – finally managed to get the tire back around the inner tube.

N.B. – while this was going on, dehydration was setting in, and my hands were beginning to cramp while I was working.

If you ever decide that you are too happy, I can recommend an antidote; train for many months for a triathlon, then, at the end of a long, hard training week, ride a bike through a crowd, then ride that same bike straight up a hill while being passed by space aliens, then have a flat tire, then suddenly realize that you have no idea how to fix the flat tire, then – while you are trying to fix the flat tire that you don’t know how to fix – have both hands (which are covered with axle grease) cramp up on you such that your thumbs spasm themselves to a point were they are shut tightly against the sides of your hands.

Then have the phone ring.

So there I was, with the tire back around the inner tube back on the wheel, and I look at the little CO2 cartridge, and I realize that I have no idea how to get the CO2 out of the cartridge and into the inner tube in the tire on the wheel. I am helpless, a stranger and afraid in a world I never made, standing by the side of the road on a hill with whizzing space-aliens – as alone as I’ve felt in many a decade.

But look – here comes somebody who seems to be human! I call out to the cyclist, and he – no, she – turns out to be a nice person from Ar-kin-saw. I ask her if she has a bike pump, and she allows as to how she doesn’t, but how can she help?

Turns out that in my little sack, I have a gadget – and adapter, that is designed to screw onto the CO2 cartridge and onto the valve stem. Sakes alive!

But about five minutes later, we’ve determined that the valve stem that I have on my spare inner tube is the wrong size for the adapter – the adapter fits the valve stem that I have on the flat inner tube. So I have precisely the WRONG solution to my current problem.

But fortunately, a nice lady has stepped out of the house behind me and offered the use of a bike pump. Yay! So I borrow her bike pump and pump up the inner tube of my spare…
…and it pops and goes flat.

And I’m standing on the side of the road, with TWO flat tires.

So I call Ethel (my cell phone is now covered in axle grease) and I sit on the wall beside the bike beside the road, and give up forever. I just open up and let the water into my lungs and say goodbye.

I’m done. Cycling is a component of triathlonning, and I can’t cycle, so I can’t triathlon. Come to think of it,
I’m still no good at swimming, which is another component of triathlonning, so I can’t triathlon.

Come to think of it, while I’ve been doing this triathlon training, I’ve managed to lose what little bit of running capability I had regained, and since running is the last component of triathlonning, I can’t triathlon.

And I’m so tired that I don’t care.

And it’s 24 hours later, and my hands are still cramping.

  1. Karl Watanabe said:

    In 1992 I went on my first ever road ride with my brand new road bike. About 10 miles in, I got a flat. I didn’t even have ANY flat tire equipment. Fortunately I had $20 and called for a cab to take me home. Barely had enough to pay for the ride. Well, I guess I might have had more money in the house. Don’t remember that long ago. After that day, I learned how to change a flat and never left the house without the stuff. That was long before CO2 however.

  2. Dave C said:

    That’s one of several reasons I don’t do triathlons. Way too complicated. Way too many things that can go wrong that are not really under my control. Running is bad enough — a couple of time I have had a flat in a Nike air-sole.

  3. Chris again said:

    I about 1975 I went on a week-long bike ride across Iowa with a group of people. Our official starting point was a field in Sidney, IA which happened to have a lot of thorns in it. I patched every tire on every bike in our group before the ride even started. I was 14 years old. I rode a Schwinn Varsity which weighed about a thousand pounds, for 450 miles that week.

    I complained too.

    I don’t know why, but bicycle riding is frustrating, much more so than running. In my small experience It is second only to golf in the frustration department. Why is that? I think maybe because much of the time it is deceptively easy and you start to think that’s the way it should always be.

    p.s your story says you took the rear wheel off but your picture says it’s the front. But still a good story!

    • Thanks for the note, YipYap!

      You are correct; the story says the rear wheel, but the front is off. That’s because I took the picture after I had put the bike back together, but taken the front wheel off to get the bike into Ethel’s car : )

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