Sunday, July 24, 2011

I changed a flat tire (on my bike)

Never Done: I changed a flat tire (on my bike)

I am a person who believes that as much as possible we should know how to do things for ourselves. It gives us a lot of choice and power -- we can still ask for help, but we can also do it on our own if we want to or need to. After a million years of riding a bike -- including once 5 days around Novia Scotia and another time across Ireland, I have never actually gotten a flat on the road -- until a couple weeks ago when I couldn't avoid a pothole, about 3 seconds from my apartment, in Windsor Terrace.

Did I go right home and learn how to change the tube? No. I brought the bike home, and parked it in the hallway, and took out a different bike. Because I have become a person with multiple bikes and multiple pairs of running shoes, all hanging out in the hallway. The bike that got the flat was one of the two bikes that aren't mine, and it's not the one I'm riding in the triathlon. It's the one that I was hoping to ride, but is too small for me. But also, I didn't know how to fix the flat.

Which sort of embarrassed me. I took a car maintenance class while I was in college, and I later became a carpenter, in part because I thought it was important, as a feminist act, to know how to master the physical world. I've wired rooms for electricity, I've figured out how to change the labels in the Food Coop pricing scale, and after riding a bike since I was 4, I have never learned how to fix a flat. It was time.

And it's part of our triathlon training. So I brought the bike with the flat over to Prospect Park, with a new tube and some tire tools, and watched as my coach deflated his own tire, dissembled it, and put it back together, and then tried to do it on my own. But right from the start, something was different about mine. It was hard, and stuck, and crumbling. In other words, it was old, and had dried-up, crumbling rim tape to which the tire had become pretty strongly bonded. I was tempted to give right up, and in fact my coach suggested I don't even bother trying to learn on that tire, but one of my teammates came over and gently encouraged -- and taught -- me, so I stuck it out.

I pried the stuck tire off the wheel. I got the busted tube out of the tire. I checked the tire for cracks or glass or nails. I put a new tube into the tire. I inflated the tube with a CO2 cartridge. I put the tire and tube back into the wheel. I mounted the wheel back on the bike. Sounds easy, right? But oh, there are so many little things to remember. And to go wrong. But with José's help, I stuck with it. And I realized what I've realized so many times before -- I can do pretty much anything I am physically strong or agile enough to do. It just takes Patience, Practice, and Persistence.

1 comment:

  1. It is so rewarding for me every time I change a flat - I seem to get them in clusters...a year or so with nothing, and all of a sudden, 3 flats in 2 weeks. It took me a while to get the hang of it, but now I am a veritable pro - and even faster now than I used to be, since I switched to a new kind of bicycle quick release on my bike.