You got another what?

I managed to get 8 1/2 miles on The Mule with no problems. As I was accelerating through a suburban intersection I heard a clang sound on the ground. I thought that my pump had fallen off my bike for some reason so I pulled over and checked. The pump was still on my frame. I started down a long hill when my back tire started feeling squishy. I pulled over again knowing full well that I now had my second flat in two months.

I had gone over a year without a flat so I suppose I was over due for this, my second flat in two months. It took me over 15 minutes to find the source of the flat. I found a tear in the tire’s casing that was so smooth I didn’t feel it or see it when I searched. I only found it after I found the hole in the tube and matched the tube to the tire. I couldn’t find any debris in the tire at all. I must have hit a sharp piece of metal that did it’s thing and left the scene of the crime.

I covered the hole on the inside of the tire with a $1 bill and put a new tube in. As I started back up I could feel a lump in the rear wheel with each revolution. I stopped and took the wheel off to make sure the tire was properly seated under the rim of the wheel.

Back on the road I decided that rather than ride my planned 40 miles, I would head back home. I took the long way making sure to check to see how far gas prices had fallen in the last 24 hours. To my surprise the same gas station was now charging 38 cents more, $2.15. Stranger still, the gas station next store was charging $1.99.

I rode to Mount Vernon, still deserted, of course, then back toward home taking several loops around neighborhood streets to pad my mileage.

After 25 miles I called it quits. I then changed the rear tire again, tossing out the damaged one and replacing it with an old one I had in my basement. As I was checking to make sure the tire was properly seated I spotted a fracture in the rim of the wheel. No bueno. This sort of thing is a ticking time bomb that can destroy a ride and leave you stranded.

Off I went to Conte’s Bike Shop in Old Town Alexandria. As luck would have it they had a wheel that would fit my needs. (It was not a wheel they normally carry. They had it on hand because they goofed on a previous order.)

I was pretty wary about going to the shop but they were all business as far as hygiene was concerned. No one stood close to me, except for the handing over of the wheels. The mechanic wore surgical gloves and used a Clorox wipe on the credit card scanner. Then he let me select a couple of wipes for my use.

As I left I checked out the people sitting outside a restaurant celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Nobody seemed like they were having much fun. Customers were in groups of two or three and separated by a few feet from other groups. Lethal viruses are a buzzkill, dude.

So tomorrow I will remount the tire and fiddle with the rear brakes to make sure everything works properly. Tonight I am going to order some new tires. These last ones were a rip off. They only lasted about 6,000 miles.

Flat Free, Almost

The Mule and I are shocked. Stunned. Today, after well over 5,000 miles we had a flat tire. I use Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. They are advertised as “flatless.” I have to say that 5,000 miles, much of it carrying a load, is crazy good.

I only know how many miles because I thought it would be unwise to keep riding the tires I had on last year. They took me several thousand flat free miles too. The only problem I had was a slow leak on my last day in Florida. I put the bike on Amtrak and pumped the tire up when I got to DC and rode it home.

The culprit of this year’s flat was a nasty piece of green glass, quite thick and jagged. Today was recycling day so I am guessing that I was the victim of a dead Rolling Rock or gin bottle.

I am pretty sure I heard the glass contact the tire. I even scraped off my front tire while riding just to be careful but forgot to stop and clean off the rear tire. That green monster ate through the casing for several miles before I noticed the bike start swaying as I rode.

I walked the last two miles home not wanting to change the tire on the wet side of the road. It was given a proper burial. Come spring time I will buy a new pair of Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires for my next adventure.

TGIF – BOOM! or The Tao of Bike Commuting

Every bike ride this month was on Deets, my Surly Cross Check. It has been a terrific machine. Then today happened.

I was riding to work this morning. The Mount Vernon Trail was flooded near Dyke Marsh so I took my feet off the pedals and glided through the waters like a little kid. Wheee!

I rode down Union Street and saw more flooding at the intersection with King Street. Wheee!

isn’t it great how bike commuting can make you a carefree kid again. 

Just past the Washington Marina at Daingerfield Island:


My back tire blew out. This is, I think, my first flat tire of 2016. When I took the wheel off I could see that I was not going anywhere on my back tire.My exploding tube had blasted the rubber from the tire off the wire bead that holds the tire to the rim.  I could have put in a new tube but the odds of having another blow out were very high.

So I started walking. I got to National Airport and walked to the bike parking area. As it turns out the area is open-air which is not good on a rainy day. Worse still, one of the bikes (the yellow one)  locked there had had its rear wheel removed. There was no way I was going to leave Deets there.

It was too early to put my bike on Metro (they allow bikes at 10 am, after the morning rush). So I resigned myself to walking to Rosslyn, 5 miles away. After a mile, I came upon the parking lot at Gravelly Point . There were several taxi cabs parked there including a minivan.


The driver agreed to take me. As I was putting my bike in the taxi I discovered that I did not have my wallet with me. I had test driven Mrs. Rootchopper’s car last night and left my wallet in my pants that were hanging on my bedpost at home. I could borrow the cab fare from a co-worker but the rest of the day would be a total hassle without my wallet. So I had the cabbie drive me home. This cost me $36. Oof.

People who know me well will be surprised to learn that at no point during all this did I lose my temper. I just laughed it off. I guess meditation is worth something after all.

Some people I know believe that the universe has a plan for each of us. We may think we are in control but it is an illusion. We control nothing. So you just go with the flow that the universe has created for you.

Or you can look at things another way. A former colleague of mine says: Life is a shit sandwich and everyday we take a bite.

Today I took two bites. 

Afterword: I went to District Taco for lunch today.  I always order a veggie burrito bowl and eat inside the restaurant. It normally takes 5 minutes to get your food. Today, I waited 25 minutes for my order  Finally, I gave up and tracked down the manager. My food was ready. It was packaged to-go. They had tried to find me in the scrum of take-out customers and gave up.

As shit sandwiches go, it tasted pretty good, despite the wait.

Big Nellie Returns, Not

A few weeks ago during a bike ride, I went to open my water bottle valve with my teeth as I have done hundreds of times before. This time, a veneer crown popped off one of my teeth. Yesterday, after two weeks and over $800, the dentist installed a new crown and my tooth looks fabulous. Frankly, I don’t give a damn about its appearance, I’ll settle for structural integrity.

After visiting with my dentist, I drove out to Bikes at Vienna to pick up Big Nellie. The gears work. The brakes work. The new Panaracer Pasella tire with Tourguard feels like buttah. On the way home, I dropped the car off for an oil change and rode Big Nellie the last mile and a half. Sweet.

When I spotted our silver Accord in my driveway, my brain said, “Lily’s home.” And I immediately realized how life has suddenly changed. Lily, my daughter, is now a freshman in college, far away in Indianapolis (a city with some pretty awesome new bike infrastructure, by the way.) Not having her around brings a mixture of feelings. There is a sense of loss and a sense of excitement. I miss her but I know she’s going to have a great experience in college. Go get ‘em, Lily!

I was all psyched to ride Big Nellie to work this morning when I discovered that her new rear tire was flat. Yeesh! Rather than mess with a tire change first thing in the morning, I hopped on The Mule and headed for work. It was muggy and foggy and just kind of gross out. I passed the Hoppy Runner and Nancy “Two Sheds” Duley. Nancy was riding with a headlight on, which I find depressing; summer is almost over.

The ride home was typical for DC in late summer: an erratic tailwind combined with muggy conditions. The ride was made significantly easier than the ride in, because I wasn’t carrying my anvil of a laptop in my panniers.

Once home, I took the wheel off Big Nellie and examined the tube and tire. I couldn’t see anything wrong with the tire but the tube was losing air pretty fast. It turns out the valve stem was broken. Stuff happens. While I was working on the bike, I toed in the brake pads on the rear wheel.

Big Nellie is rested and ready. Tomorrow we ride to Friday Coffee Club at sunrise.