I love to ride bikes. I'm a zealot about commuting. I also think that biking can save the world. It's an elegant solution to most of the world's energy problems. I've been a commuter for over a decade, but I also just love the ride.
Fall is glorious. It’s prime time for riding because the temperatures aren’t too hot or too cold yet. It’s that golden time of the year when it seems like every sunrise and sunset is Mother Nature’s attempt at showing off.
The skies have these marvelous mood swings and a ride that starts out sunny could end up in a ferocious storm. Every moment seems more impressive than the last.
I keep my rain gear close at hand and just go. I enjoy the seasons changing it up and skies spreading their wonder and I pedal on breathing in and out and in and out. Thrilled to ride.
The day is dawning and you’re feeling invincible. You race the birds and you tell the squirrels to scoot and shoo and get up the trees and it seems like you’re the only one on the roads. Two miles, three, five… then you get your sixth flat.
Six flats in five months and two of them were in the garage when the bike was parked. Not a good way to start any day. It’s one of the top three reasons people stop riding a bike. That’s based on pure opinion and informal chitchat with people who claim they stopped riding a bike years ago because they could get a flat. When people start talking about what they hate about bike riding, flat tires are in close proximity to the other classic reason, “Because it makes my butt hurt.” For me, this summer was all about getting under the rim of the whole issue of my flat tires.
I’ve biked for as long as I can recall and I have commuted for 20 years. I ride all the time. What’s the “normal” amount of flats a rider might get? I have no idea. My normal was about twice a year. Usually there was a giant nail involved. Sometimes a staple that didn’t look like much but ends up being a slow leak. Nothing too extreme. I’m a fanatic about checking my tires, so for me this flat issue is out of the ordinary.
Over the summer that changed significantly. Let’s say that I was thinking by the time I had my third flat that I should learn the fine art of fixing a tire. In July, that’s what I did. Good for me, right? I learned and when I had my fourth flat, I fixed it and thought that was it. The bike gods were testing me.
I was gone for three weeks and did not ride the bike experiencing all the flats. Then I started to analyze the number of flats. Six flats in 13 weeks seems out of the norm. Seems extreme and even careless, as if I’m intentionally riding in glass or looking for contruction sites and purposely riding in lanes made of tacks or something. I was flummuxed. Was it the tire? I was thinking my bike hated me and I needed some sort of tire-exorcism. Did someone have a voodoo bike and puncturing the tires?
Two weeks ago, I went on a 30 mile ride and I came home and parked my bike in the garage just like always. I looked over the tires and everything seemed fine. They were inflated. Then it happened again. I went to the garage the next morning and I had another flat. Can you imagine my utter shock and dismay at the whole situation?
Later in the day I drove my bike to the bike shop because something bigger had to be going on. Owning the bike for only 13 weeks, maybe I used the wrong tube or didn’t pay attention to some detail. Let’s go over it all again. We did. The owner, Wake was very helpful and we went through the tire with a little vacuum and he did give me some great tips on getting the tire back on the rim. I was a sponge soaking up all the technical details and thinking I would like to be a bike mechanic. It was very satisfying. He lubed up the chain and I was feeling great about it. I concluded that yes, it was me. I had missed a step and this would be the end of the cycle of flats.
I came home and went for a ride to clear out the funky feelings I was having about a variety of issues not related to biking. What a great ride. I had a renewed sense of joy. The chain was lubed and not squeaking like a broken swing, and after 10 miles I felt like my bike was healed.
The next morning… yep, flat as a pancake. Again.
At this juncture, I’m done. I’m want my money back. My bike is clearly defective. I couldn’t deliver the bike back to the shop. I had to be somewhere else, so my husband offered to help me out. He took the bike back and this time the tire and rim were replaced on the back and the front tire was also changed. I was happy that the shop could see what I’d been dealing with over the last several weeks. My husband texted me he was on his way home and the bike was in great shape.
I was home when he pulled the car into the garage. I was thrilled to see my bike and filled with certainty that this was the end of the flat period. I’m looking at the bike on the rack and guess what? Another flat! The bike was on the rack and this time the front tire was flat. The flat disease was spreading! I was shocked and dismayed and so frustrated. My husband pulled right out of the garage anddrove back to the bike shop. Come to find out, they were out of the Shrader valve tubes in the size needed, so they resued one of my old tubes with the intent of replacing it when they got more tubes. The old tube split during the drive home. They did have some new Presta valve tubes, so one of those replaced the one in the front tire. My husband reported that there might be some concerns about two different valves on the same bike, but someone said, “This is Bike Goddess you’re talking about.” I love that and I really like that I have two different valves. How cool am I?
It has been two weeks since my last flat. Flat tires can deflate a person’s confidence about riding a bike. I still go out to the garage just to see with my own eyes that the tires on the bike are fine and fully inflated. It’s reassuring. There could have been something on the rim that was not sitting right with the whole tube and when I think about the slow leaks and the types of flats my bike was getting it does seem like something was happening that was harder to diagnose. I’m grateful that the bike shop techs were asking questions and trying get me to articulate exactly what was happening.
Flats make even the most experienced rider apprehensive about riding. Have you ever had so many episodes of flats? How did you handle it?
A few months back I read this article about how this person used a pool noodle for keeping cars a safe distance away while touring. I thought it was a clever idea and vowed to give it a try. I was at my local Walgreens last weekend and picked up one on sale for $2.29 and immediately added it my bike.
Traffic in the summer is frenetic and out of control. People in their convertibles and jeeps all seem to think speed limits don’t apply. The zoom effect is the one that always scares me out of my mind. Vehicles are a close shave away and despite lights, mirrors and signals, no one seems to give notice.
My experiment was a success. The pool noodle is clearly a biker’s best friend. What a great idea and even if it looks a bit silly it keeps me safe. No one yelled, honked, glared, zoomed by or even flipped me off. Frankly it was shocking how calm drivers seemed around me and my noodle.
Pool noodles keep you afloat even on roads.
Pick one up, especially if you’re touring around, but I do feel like they improve visibility better than a neon jacket. Good for any season. A commuter’s best tool outside of a patch kit and hex wrench.
In music a sharp rasies the pitch while a flat lowers it. On a piano keyboard you learn in one of your first lessons that sharps are up and flats are d-o-w-n. When someone sings off key they are flat. When you hear them sing you often make a face to show disdain for what you heard. When pop has “gone flat” it has lost it’s fizz. Being stretched out, outstretched, spreadeagled, prone, reclining, sprawling, supine, prostrate, or recumbent is to lay flat. Lacking interest, being dull, lifeless and level is also uh, flat.
One of the top five reasons people don’t ride their bikes is they could get a flat. I hear that excuse anytime someone talks about riding their bike to work. “Are you afraid of getting a flat tire?” Well, yes, I am. But it really hasn’t been an issue for me until this year. Actually until about May. Since May I have had three flat tires. All on the back tire.
After my second flat tire I decided to take matters into my own hands. I wanted to be less dependent on others to get me back on the road. My family is not handy. I don’t recall my father ever changing a tire on a car. I never learned how to change a car tire and usually any flats I would have on my bike happened on a group ride and there were resources around to change a tire. You know, bike mechanic people who race against eachother to see how fast they can change a tire and get you back out there.
All in all, after 30 some years of riding, it hasn’t been a big deal until now. I went to a bike shop near me, Bad Boyz Bikes and Larry helped me out. Larry is not the cat. Larry isn’t pictured. Larry is the owner and he’s a great guy. He helped me out with flat #1 and that’s when I thought about learning how to do this for real but decided to get a mani instead and leave it to the experts.
But when I had the second flat I was on my way to co-lead a bike tour and my husband had to come rescue me and deliver me to the bike shop and they fixed the tire. At that time I had an Armidillo tire put on the back. I thought that would be the end of it but I knew it was time to step up and put on the mechanic’s apron and learn how to be self sufficient.
Before another flat would sideline my bike adventures, I went to visit Larry, the tire whisperer. Beforehand I popped in on him to see if he’d help me get over my fear of flats. He said yes, and we set up a day. He doesn’t drink coffee but a smoothie any my gratitude would be his only payment. In about a hour he taught me how to get the tire off the rim and break the bead and check the inside of the tire for debris and get the new tube on the rim and inflate it and get going. He had me flip over my bike and do everything as if I was out on the road. I did mention how much I despise getting grease under my nails and he gave me a pair of shop gloves. He admitted he didn’t like that either. Well, alright then! We did this on the front tire and he took some time to show me how to handle my back tire. He didn’t just talk through it with me, he let me work it out and learn. I felt like I was in 8th grade shop but instead of talking to my friends I was paying attention.
I left Larry’s armed with new skills and ready to fix a flat. I looked for bikers in distress and in need of my skills. That’s how confident I was feeling. I worked out all the bits that are needed in my flat repair kit: hex key, patch kit, tire levers, CO2, gloves, mints, Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer. I’d rather not carry a pump even though mine is one of those Lezyne mini pumps, but I’m still not adept at using CO2 so for now I’ll keep the bike pump. It’s great for building upper body strength.
After flat #2 I had Armidillo tires put on the back in the hope that those would help. I prefer Continental tires, but sure, I’ll give those Armidillos a try. That was about a month ago.
Flat #3 happened today. I was at mile 16 and I stopped for awhile and when I returned to my bike I had my third flat. I was weirdly ready to fix that flat. Except in all my arranging and rearranging of my flat repair kit and bags I didn’t have my hex wrench. Texted my guy and he came to the parking lot and we loaded up my bike and in the safety of my own driveway I took my time and fixed my first flat.
The first hardest part was breaking that bead. Once I got the tube out I inflated to twices it’s size to find the puncture.
It took me and hour and 45 minutes and that includes watching a couple of YouTube videos to get some help with the bead bond. My husband helped me a little when he came to see what was taking me so long. Getting the tire on and off the rim really requires some finesse. I had it on one side but not the other. I was waiting for that satisfying PHEW it makes and I really couldn’t see that it needed to happen on both sides.
Now the last part was the most frustrating was getting the tire back into place. I felt like it was an archery contest trying to pull the derailleur back and the chain out of the way so the wheel wouldn’t hang up on anything. It should be as easy as putting bread into the toaster, but instead it’s like putting a toaster into a piece of bread. Larry said the secret was to have the bike in its lowest gear, so I played with that for another 30 minutes but at last it came together.
I haven’t patched the tube yet. I think I’ll go visit Larry and buy a new one for my flat repair kit and have him show me the finer points of patching. I think I’m ready.
Flats aren’t fun. They are flats after all, but I feel better about fixing them. I don’t fear them. No bike is flat proof.
Flats happen. Bottom line, I’m rolling again and that’s what important. I learned a lot and I’m more confident about what to do the next time.
Any advice for me on fixing a flat? How long should it take to fix a flat? What’s in your patch kit?
If bliss or being “blissed out” is a type of happiness resulting in a state of utter contentment then I’d say that biking rapture is being lifted out of oneself in such a way that it’s a sort of elevated state of being.
It’s so rare in life when something exceeds expectations that it’s often something we don’t talk much about. Usually we’re looking for the negative. From the moment I walked into the eBike shop to this very moment when I’m composing this blog post I can honestly say I’m overjoyed with my bike. It’s as if I am on a trampoline and I jumped and I’m still enjoying being suspended in the air with my arms overhead and my legs kicking up alongside. I’m that happy. Rapturous!
Where do I begin? Two months ago I added to my fleet of bikes. Now, with a thousand miles on my Specialized Como 5, I can tell you that this bike exceeds all expectations. It ticks all the boxes and if anything I’m still in the phase of learning what else she (the bike) can do.
With over a 1000 miles on my new bike after two month I think the Specialized Como 5 is da bomb! Okay, hold up. The truth is I have had two flats on the back tire and that’s no fun. For some people that alone is a deal breaker. My bike tires are still just tires with tubes and it’s a machine people, and machines require attention. There are also factors that are not your fault. I blame the debris in the roads. The first flat happened a few weeks after I had the bike and it was a giant nail in the bike lane. The second was possibly due to lack of inflation. You have to remember that you are going faster on an ebike and it’s not uncommon to pick up some extra road flotsam on any route. It’s also a sign from the gods that I need to up my game and learn how to fix a flat. I’d rather pay someone. I did opt to have those armadillo tires put on. Hopefully I’ll never have to talk about it again. Right?
The cheating issue is silly but it’s almost the first thing people say about an ebike. “But isn’t that cheating?” Is a carbon fiber road bike cheating? I also like to remind people that an ebike is only cheating oil companies. If the whole point is less car traffic and less dependence on cars, then ebikes could save the planet. Also, if you don’t work on a pedal assist bike then you’re not going anywhere. You have to pedal, otherwise you’re going to slow down and fall off. It’s not a Vespa. You have to work.
I get a better workout in less time and I don’t have to worry about making it up a hill at 6PM on my way home with my head pounding or a gallon of milk in my pannier. Also, I’d like to talk about headwinds. They are a fact where I live and at this time of the year it is not uncommon to have a headwind in the morning and one on the way home. A little “e-juice” helps give you extra power to deal with the winds right on your handlebars. It’s a great feeling. I’ve put a thousand miles on a bike in less than two months because all I’m doing is riding. Isn’t that the point. Ride on! The Specialized Como 5 has a great range so even if I wander outside my usual routes I can use the app, Specialized Mission Control, to make sure I have 5 miles left to get up the hills home. Just like they say on the website, “It’s you, only faster.”
When people say that phrase, “follow your bliss” I always think of riding a bike. I think of open roads and the only obstacle in my way is time. The ride on an ebike is rapturous. You feel outside yourself like I imagine a bird in flight. Summer is all about the open road and time to spin. That’s my plan. More rapturous riding on all my bikes, but the Como is you only better and faster or as fast as you want to be.
One more thing. I do want to thank that outstanding people at the eBike Store for all their help and support. When people love what they do it shows and these people are pedaling with you all the way. They want you happy with your bike. Such good people who want to get everyone on eBikes.
Take some time and enjoy a ride, ebike or your choice. Get out there. Your future self will thank your for it.
What are you biking plans this summer? Tell me more in the comments. Thanks for reading.
I didn’t mean for it to happen. I only went to check out the store. Then it seems I was handing over my bag and taking a bike for a test ride. One thing led to another and now I’m in love with another bike.
Three bikes. That’s what I tell all my friends and anyone who asks me about buying bike. Always test ride three bikes. Ask questions and leave the store armed with knowledge and sit on it. Don’t buy. Wait until you feel the pull of love, the nudge of lust. Wait until you feel the bond with the bike. Yeah, I’ve said that. Shameless. I believe it. However after that test ride I felt like done. Decision made. However, I did not buy. Yet.
I’m pining right now. I’m pining for a bike. Again. I didn’t expect to find love again. I mean come on, I have this beautiful e-bike made by Faraday called the Corland. It’s one of the only bikes with a belt drive and I added her to the fleet in December of 2016 when I decided I’d commute both to and from work. I love my Lulu, and she’s had some issues of late. Long story short, but it looks like the future of the company has hit a wall and there’s no longer any support for the bike which means as things go wrong it will be a challenge to keep her on the road. Since I commute with Lulu that presents a dilemma. Also a little heartache. I love my Lulu! She’s beautiful and people always a shocked that she’s an ebike because she’s soooooo pretty! I mean look at her. She brightens up any day. She is the blue sky when there is none.
We’ve been separated now for about a week and I miss her. People are throwin’ some shade on her because of the company going bankrupt or whatever. It makes me sad enough to drown my sorrows in another bike. There’s no therapy for what’s happening here. Except retail therapy at a bike shop.
I went to a bike shop, The Ebike Store, I’ve never been to before. I went to check it out the store and their collection of gear. Brian and Jeff and someone else were extremely helpful and easy to talk to about my needs. I wanted to see what they had to say about my Corland and I wanted to chat about what I need in an ebike. I need one that has more range (Cortland can do 18-20 miles) and can handle the rough rains and road conditions of the Northwest weather. I watched a few EBR (ElectricBikeReview) videos and I had it in my head that a Raleigh ebike might be an option. While at the store I was dazzled by the frame of the Specialized Turbo 5.0. I had never seen one and frankly didn’t know Specialized was in the market. The Specialized uses the Brose motor and I was immediately interested. The Bosch and Brose motors seem to be the two main players. They are the only ones I’ve heard of aside from the proprietary one on my Faraday. The older Raleigh models were using the Brose and that’s one reason I wanted to try one out. But they didn’t really have one. Let me put it this way, if they did, I didn’t see it because I suddenly couldn’t see anything except the Turbo step through and step over. Well, hello sweet ride!
Why yes, I would love to try one out!
The Brose motor is as quiet as a classroom upon learning that they have to make up that snow day. I was impressed enough to consider what I would name it after two spins around Peninsula Park. The rain seemed to stop and I had this new stunning bike under me and we were enjoying a moment. We bonded quickly and with little effort. The first downstroke of the pedal and I didn’t even have the e-juice yet.
Conversation was easy because the Como speaks my language; perky speed, comfortable geometry and zippy. It’s agile handling makes you feel like you’re riding a mountain bike but it has the comfort of my childhood bikes. Instant love, lust, whatever. The Como wants to “Come on-a My House” in the words of the 1951 song. If Goldilocks was taking the test ride she would have said this bike was just right. Plus did I mention how light it is? I don’t actually know how much it weighs, but it’s light enough to pick up without feeling like you’re lifting a tree.
It’s hasn’t been 24 hours yet and still I’m pining. I’m considering giving Lulu an early retirement and riding her in fair weather only. I think she’s earned that after 6,500 miles.
I love bikes. I mean it’s not that hard to see the beauty in virtually all bikes. Even the worn out relics that people use in gardens are lovely. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am. That’s the thing about love and bikes.
Maybe another test ride. After all I left my bag behind the desk and didn’t have my phone to give a proper look to my blog followers. You want more, right?
Thanks for reading. I’m getting on my Belle and ripping up some dirt. Displacement activity.
My profession is library. I’m a middle school librarian and I get to read amazing books. Today I finished To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer. There are many beautiful revelations in this novel and one favorite is the quote about finding something in life than “animates your soul.” It’s all along the same lines as “Follw your bliss” or “happy place” and yet it delves deeper.
March 7th we had what I hope was our last flake of snow until next winter. Temperatures seem to be leveling out and while I know there is rain on the way I’m happy to see a change in the seasons.
Riding my bike is my happy place. Bike rides are my bliss. Being in the saddle and challenging myself daily “animates my soul” to borrow that phrase with appropriate attribution. Every week I have a goal of 75 miles and the last two weeks I went over 100 miles each week. Last night I was looking at my Strava stats and saw this minus 13 miles.
I was close to 100 for the week and a 1,000 for the year to date. Just 10 miles would accomplish both. I put my book down for an hour and went for a ride on a stunning Spring day and let the clear skies and emerging season wash over me. Then there’s that moment when you’re senses catch up with your brain and remind you that this is it. This is you soul getting filled up with all that’s wondrous and beautiful about surviving the winter. The buds are starting to burst, the days are getting longer and the wheels on the bike go round. Adding up the miles to the next 1,000.
Wherever you are in the world I hope the weather is mild and you have an opportunity to get out there and ride.