Mystery Flat #2

I began my day with a flat. The Mule was in the shed when I spotted the squishy rear tire. Being an adaptable sort of guy, I quickly sized up the situation: fix the flat or take Little Nellie to work. Little Nellie won.

I haven’t ridden Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist, with its little wheels because I have been protecting my back. Little wheels and a stiff frame mean my back takes a beating on this bike. Little wheels also mean that it is quite a lot of fun to ride. Fun won over back concerns.

Except for a short ride on The Mule yesterday, I have been riding Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, exclusively for the last two weeks.  My arms, butt, and legs were not ready for riding Little Nellie so the ride in took about 10 minutes longer than expected.

During the day, Carl, the mechanic at my local bike shop, called. He said that the problem with the steering on Big Nellie was a cracked headset. This made me mad. I almost called the manufacturer. You’d think a headset would last longer than a mere 36,000 miles.

We discussed whether I wanted to spend a ton of money on a “better” headset. I thought about it and told him to put a headset of the same quality as the one on the bike. If it fails in 36,000 miles, I’ll consider an upgrade.

The ride home was a muggy slog. I beat a line of nasty thunderstorms home by about 45 minutes. All the way I was wishing that I had put Speedplay Frogs on Little Nellie. That will have to wait until they come in the mail.

Once home, I wiped off The Mule’s rear tire and took it off. I pulled the tube from the wheel and inflated it until it was supesized. No leak anywhere. This same thing happened to the rear wheel on Big Nellie a few weeks ago. Not finding anything sticking through the tire itself, I put everything back together and pumped up the tire. Maybe the valve is bad. I’ll know in the morning.


Bike Shop Monday

Big Nellie is cursed. About every other summer, Big Nellie ends up at the bike shop for repairs for weeks. During the last few rides, the steering on Big Nellie has been erratic. I can’t quite explain it but it is definitely not right. Sometimes it feels as if the front wheel is going to disconnect from the bike. Other times it seems like the front wheel is riding in a rut in the road. So I took the bike to my local bike shop. There was a long line for repairs, this being a holiday and good weather.

As happened yesterday, the mechanic could find nothing obviously wrong. So he took the bike for a test ride. I thought I would have to give him some tips because riding a long wheel base recumbent is entirely different from riding a regular bike. This mechanic however worked for several years in a bike shop in Portland Maine where he frequently worked on Tour Easy recumbents. I couldn’t believe my luck.

After his test ride he still wasn’t sure what I was finding wrong with the steering so we decided to do some exploratory surgery. (Frankly, I am scared to ride the thing at this point.)  It could be a problem with the headset, the bearings or the fork inside the tubing of the bike. Hopefully, he won’t find something fatal like a crack in the head tube. Fingers crossed.

I went home and decided to go for a ride on The Mule. The Mule has conventional pedals and straps and after five miles I missed the Speedplay Frogs on Big Nellie. So I decided to ride to REI and get anothe pair. It was in the 90s and my ride took me across Alexandria, a hilly ride. I used the new bicycle lane on King Street. It’s painted a bright green and looks pretty spiffy.

King Street Bike Lane

REI was pretty busy. I tried some Keen cycling sandals while waiting for a sales person. They looked really wide but felt horrible on my feet. Luckily a sales person appeared because I was in buy mode and lord knows what I would have found to haul home if I waited any longer. The clerk went looking for the Frogs and came back empty handed.


I rode home but stopped at The Dairy Godmother in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria. I consumed a root beer float. They didn’t have any more vanilla ice cream so they made my float with caramel heath bar ice cream. I am pretty sure this concoction is on the short list to be classified as a controled substance by the Food and Drug Administration.

Chocolate Chip Cookie and Rootbeer Float

When I got home, I ordered some Frogs online. (For some reason, REY doesn’t include them in its online catalogue. Their loss.)

Tomorrow it’s back to work. By bike, of course.