The Season of the Flat

Sad Trombone. Camera: Pentax IQZoom 928. Film: Fuji Superia 200.

I tend to not get that many punctures on my bikes these days. This wasn’t always the case. Back in my earlier “Portland bicycle commuter” days, I seemed to rack up a lot of flats. It was most likely due to my inherent cheapness: bike parts came down to the lowest price possible, and cheap tires tend to attract flats. Since then, I’ve invested a lot more money into bike stuff. Not only that, but I’ve moved largely to wider, high volume tires, and these tires tend to see less flat than narrower, high pressure jobs. (And yes I’m sure that some of you ride 23mm wide tires at 120 psi and have no problems. Good for you!)

I hadn’t had many flats this year, maybe two. I don’t know if you can attribute that to my current tire theories or the fact that I haven’t ridden that much. In any case, my flatless streak has ended, because we are in Autumn, The Season of the Flat.

Why autumn? Well here in the Pacific Northwest it marks the first good rains since spring. After months of dry weather, this new dampness means stuff that’s been sitting around for awhile is now floating to the surface. Add to that the abundance of puddles and bike lanes/shoulders full of leafy debris, places where sharp tire-biting things like to lurk.

I got my first flat on Saturday November 7th. On a ride back from North Mississippi Ave on a damp night I got a puncture on the Raleigh Superbe. When I got home I couldn’t find any obvious source of flat, most likely it went in and out quickly. Whatever, I got like four other bikes, so I put it aside.

Well, the Flat Gods do not like that thinking. When you “put one bike aside for later”, they start hitting the other bikes in short order. It was just a few days later that I got my second flat. I was riding the short distance up the hill on my Schwinn Heavy Duti to pick up coffee beans and get a cup (Coffeeneuring Ride!) when I heard an unpleasant noise in the rear tire. Turns out a long and bent rusty nail got in there. So much for the Coffeeneuring Ride, as I limped home dragging bike and coffee.

The culprit.

I also put the Heavy Duti aside as it will be the most complicated rear wheel removal I have. Unlike my derailleur’d bikes, where rear wheel removal is fairly straightforward, or the British three speeds with bolt-on wheels and a cable undoing, the Heavy Duti has a three speed drum brake rear wheel. There’s bolts, a reaction arm, and not one but two cables to deal with! I knew I’d eventually have to stare down this reality at some point, but that day is not today. Let me brush up with some YouTube videos first…

Of course, this just means the Flat Gods will smite me again, and they did. My Raleigh Crested Butte got a slow leak around Friday November 20th. I didn’t realize it until I got on to ride, attempting to do a Coffeeneuring Ride. The bike felt…funny, then I knew. The Flat Gods are not just making my life difficult, they’re also ruining my Coffeeneuring plans! (Don’t worry, I finished the Coffeeneuring Challenge, but barely.)

Not wanting to tempt those Flat Gods anymore, I finally got around to fixing the Raleigh Superbe. I’ll get around to the Crested Butte soon, as I have some wheel plans. And I definitely need to make time with YouTube for the Heavy Duti. And I really hope that the Flat Gods will smite someone else, as three flats in less than a month is more than I want to deal with…

One thought on “The Season of the Flat

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  1. This is the curse of the flats: when it rains, it pours. I swear, it’s like impossible just to get one flat and move on; they seem to come in multiples.

    Sorry about your flat woes! It seems like you’re about due for another long flat-less stretch;)

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