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Tag Archives: Flat tire

I Hope I Don’t Get One Tonight

A flat tire.  What a buzzkill!

Most cyclists are prepared for a flat.  All cyclists hope that they don’t get one.  The odds are against us though.  Flat tires are inevitable.  It is not a case of “if,” but “when.”

On rare occasions inner tubes have manufacturing defects.  This causes tubes to split along a seam, or tear at the junction with the valve.  There is not much you can do to prevent inner tube failures.

A self-inflicted inner tube failure is the pinch flat, also known as a snake bite.

Puncture Pinch Flat

A pinch flat most commonly occurs when you run over something that causes the tire to deform enough that the inner tube is squashed against the wheel rim.  This puts two small holes in the inner tube, at the pinch points.

I said ‘self inflicted’ because pinch flats are much more likely to occur with under-inflated tires.  Bike tires leak over time.  You will need to add more air from time-to-time to maintain the proper pressure.  Run your tires too soft, and you will be snake bit.

I have been guilty of doing this.  I like to run my tires at between 80psi and 90psi.  Softer tires means a more comfortable ride.  I have let my tires get too soft, with predictable results.

In most cases flats happen because you ran over something sharp.  Roads are littered with sharp objects.

Bits of glass, either from broken bottles or shattered windscreens, are usually visible.  If you see it in time, you can avoid running over glass.  Unless you are riding at night, which is when I picked up this chunk.

Puncture Glass

Small stones are less visible.  It is worth examining your tires after every ride to remove any sharp stones stuck in the tread.  Before they work their way through the tire and into the inner tube.

Puncture Flint 2

Then there are the pointy things which are invisible while you are riding.  So small that a thorough search is often needed before you find the offending object, embedded in your tire.

The majority of my flats are caused by staples or Michelin wire.  Those fine bits of steel wire on the right come from steel-belted radial tires, which were invented by Monsieur Michelin.  Hence the name.

Given that most flat tires are caused by essentially invisible road debris. there is little you can do to avoid them.  Even “puncture proof” tires are not 100% resistant to being pierced by staples, Michelin wire and the like.

So learn how to repair a flat tire, and carry tire levers, a spare tube, and a pump or CO2 inflator on your rides.

And be thankful that we don’t have these in Malaysia.

Puncture Goathead Thorns

Better an Ounce of Luck Than a Pound of Gold

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After more than four years of fall-free cycling, not counting the tumbles I took when I first started using clipless pedals, I have had two crashes in as many months.  The first is described in Oh 🔥💀💣💩⚡!!  I was lucky to come away from that crash with only two injuries of note.  The bruise on my upper thigh turned into a haematoma that needed draining twice before it healed into a lump of scar tissue.  What I thought was a slightly separated shoulder turned out to be a rotator cuff injury.  I had some pain and restricted movement of the left arm, but nothing that required me to stop riding.

“What about the bike” you ask?  My bike had only two injuries of note as well.  A broken right shifter and brake, and a front rim that needed to be trued.  Both of which were expertly repaired by Husher and his crew at Meng Thai Bicycle Centre.

Since that crash I did a lot of rides, including the Shah Alam Enduride 2014, the Klang Premiere Century Ride 2014, and the Kuantan Century Ride 2014.  All without incident.  There was no reason to expect that the climb from Kuala Kubu Bahru to Fraser’s Hill and back would be any different.

The first time I did the Fraser’s Hill ride was in February 2013.  I was looking forward to seeing if my revised hydration regimen would get me to the top in better shape than I was the first time.

All went well on the way up.  I was able to hold a faster average speed, and did get to the clock tower without cramping this time.  My rear tire had a slow leak after our stop for coffee at the stall at the Gap.  The 8 kilometers from the Gap to the clock tower is the steepest part of the climb.  I elected to make a couple of stops to pump more air into the tire, rather than change the tube whilst in a sweaty mess.  I swapped tubes at the top before we made the final short climb to the food court for lunch.  A piece of fine wire that looked like it came from a casing or a car of truck tire was the culprit.

All was going well on the way down.  The food court is at 1,290 meters above sea level. The Gap is at 860 meters above sea level.  The road between the two is 12 kilometers of descending delight.  Lots of sweeping curves, but with a few tight ones as well.  Riders have to stay alert for the tight turns, and areas where the road surface is less than optimal.

Frasers Hill Crash

I made it down to 995 meters.  As I came into a left-hand turn at 50kph my front tire gave out.  Perhaps I had picked up a piece of that fine wire in the front as well.  I’ll never know.

I do know I had that “Oh 🔥💀💣💩⚡ !!” moment before I started preparing as well as I could for the inevitable crash.

There are lots of articles on the web about how to fall off your bike.  These are the things they all tell you.

Wear a helmet.  Excellent advice.  This is what my helmet looked like after the crash.

Helmet

Much better the helmet cracked rather than my head.  All I had was a slight bruise on my right temple.

Wear your cycling gloves.  Gloves will provide some protection for your hands.  I wasn’t wearing gloves.  I didn’t scrape my hands because I did the following three things.

Choose your surface.  I did not want to fall onto the tarmac.  As my bike started sliding I worked to stay upright long enough to get to the side of the road.  I managed to feather my braking so my tires kept rolling rather than sliding out from under me.  I also tried to steer so that I was as parallel as possible to the curb.  The last thing I remember seeing before impact was the concrete curb and open drain that I was flying over.  And that I was going to land on the grassy verge.

Don’t lock your elbows and knees.  I fell on head and right shoulder first.  Grass and mud were jammed into the large ventilation slot on the right side of my helmet, and there was a grass stain on my right shoulder.  The rest of my jersey was unmarked.  Oddly enough my first thought was that I had broken my left arm.  My upper arm hurt the most.  A quick check showed that my left arm was intact.  As were my other limbs and my collar bones.

I didn’t land on my hands.  I had no cuts or scrapes on my elbows or knees.  I had scratches on my calves, which I can only assume came from my lower legs running through a thorny plant.  I assume that I rolled on impact, which dissipated some of the force of the crash.

Tuck your head.  This is to protect your neck.  I must admit this must have been an unconscious reflex.  Or I was lucky not to land on my face.  My neck is intact, but as you can see from the x-ray of the back of my neck, the vertebrae weren’t exactly in a straight line.

JM Neck

Practice falling.  This is the last piece of advice from the web.  I think I have practiced enough.

The outcome of this 50kph shunt was that my upper back was incredibly sore for a week.  I sprained every muscle in my neck and shoulder blades.  I also aggravated the rotator cuff injury.  So I have a limited range of motion in my left shoulder.  I also severely compressed the nerves leading from my neck to my left arm.  That was the cause of the burning pain in my upper arm at the time of the crash.  I have ongoing numbness and tingling in my left hand, weakness in that arm, and pain in the areas illustrated below.

Illustration courtesy of Painotopia.com at http://www.painotopia.com/infraspinatus-muscle.html#pain-zone

Illustration courtesy of Painotopia.com at http://www.painotopia.com/infraspinatus-muscle.html#pain-zone

The short-term outcome of my visit to the orthopedic surgeon is a collection of pills.

Methycobal 500mg

Methycobal.  500mg three times a day, to help with nerve repair.

Myonal 50mg

Myonal.  50mg three times a day to help relax muscles which are spasmodic.

Celebrex 200mg

Celebrex.  200mg twice a day to combat inflammation.

Ultracet 375mg

Ultracet.  375mg three times a day to combat pain.

Motilium 10mg

Motilium.  10mg three times a day to combat nausea caused by the Ultracet.

The longer-term outcome is physiotherapy three times per week.  This includes decompression of the vertebrae in my neck through traction, and treatment of the rotator cuff injury with laser, ultrasound and electrotherapy.

And perhaps most painful of all – no bike riding until the injuries heal.

It could have been much, much worse though.  I could have crashed on the valley side of the road and fallen who knows how far down the side of the hill.  I could have hit a tree, or a guard rail, or a electricity pole.  I could have crashed on the tarmac.  On my face.

I was very, very lucky.  Hence the title of this post.  A Yiddish saying that I now firmly believe in.

After my last crash I resolved to ‘Look Forward’ whenever I am on a bike.  After this crash I added a second mantra . . .

Speed

Postscript

“What about the bike” you ask?  No damage to the bike, apart from some scratches on the left front fork.

How does that Yiddish saying go again?

 

A Sucker for Punishment

I must have been dropped on my head as a baby.  My aborted first ride with the Six Thirty group should have been my cue to stick to gentle solo rides along the Columbia Tap Rail to Trail.  Instead, at the very next opportunity, I planted myself, clad in Cordura and polyester, amongst the others resplendent in their Coolmax and Lycra, outside West End Bicycles.  This time toward the front of the group in the hope that it was not possible to be overtaken by everyone behind me before the first traffic light.

This photograph of some of the group was taken many many rides later, after I had swallowed the red pill and was worthy of wearing the Six Thirty jersey.  Alisa K. is second from the right.  Tom B., who features later in this post, is third from the left.

Most of the group did get past me by the first traffic light.  But not everyone.  Call it competitiveness or plain bull-headedness but I stayed ahead of a few other riders. If I was going to get lost again I was determined to have company.  Apart from the constant struggle to keep the group ahead of me in sight I don’t remember much about the 18 km / 11 mi to the old Houston Scottish Rite Temple on Brompton Street.  I was just glad that it was getting easier to see the flashing rear lights ahead of me as it got darker and darker.  What a relief it was to get to the midpoint of the route and to see the gaggle of faster riders who had stopped to wait for slowpokes like myself to catch up.

Naturally the stronger riders, having had a rest and a chat while waiting, were raring to get going again.  Red tail lights twinkled off into the distance as I leaned over my handlebars, struggling for breath and wondering if the hammering in my ears would ever stop.  Pounding heart or not, I had to start riding again.  I didn’t know the way back to the bike shop.  To get home I had to keep the group in view.  I pushed down on my pedals and bumped and clunked along for a few metres.  I had my first ever flat tire.

A feeling of dread descended upon me.  I was up the proverbial creek without a paddle.  I was in total darkness and had just a small headlight that provided minimal illumination.  I had never changed a flat tire before.  Which was irrelevant because I didn’t have any tools or a spare inner tube.  The prospect of having a flat tire had never occurred to me.  Neither had the notion that I would ever need to call for help to get home.

As I was trying to figure out the name of the street that I was on I heard a voice say “Are you okay?”  Tom B. appeared out of the gloom.  I don’t remember hearing it but he must have been accompanied by the sound of angelic harp music.  Tom changed my inner tube for me and guided me back to the bike shop.  A kindness for which I remain eternally grateful.  He is a very dear friend to this day.

I was at West End Bicycles the very next morning to buy inner tubes and tools both for myself and to replace what Tom had used to get me back on the road.  Before I rode again I practiced taking a wheel off and replacing the inner tube.  And I am happy to say that I have had opportunities since then to make my own contributions to good bicycle karma by helping other new cyclists who unexpectedly find themselves unprepared to fix a flat.