BT 2010: It Ain’t the Tire, It’s the Tube

Albuquerque, NM:

Early…some 50,000,000 trip itineraries ago, I planned on doing the Great Divide up from basically my house in Albuquerque to Montana. Given the 2,000 miles of washboard road and such, I bought my bike/gear with rough road in mind.

Also in mind was my strong disinclination to EVER change a tire.

For a variety of reasons, including very poor fine motor skills, increasingly poor eyesight and a childhood spent handing my Dad tools while he “worked” on the car while cursing a deep blue streak and yelling at me things like “7/16ths &%*#$%^&, not 1/2 *&%#$@$%*”, I have avoided “repair” like it was the ebola virus.

With this in mind, as well as the travails of the Great Divide Route, I bought a pair of the newish Schwalbe “Extreme” tires (26″ x 2.0″). Having been on a road bike almost exclusively for years, suddenly having 2.0″ tires was an eyeopener. Damn these tires are big. I feel like the star of a Monster Truck Show with these tires. ANY surface is my domain. Glass is not a hindrance, but a chance to have something crunchy below my “feet”. I am indestructible, most surely.

And things have been fine with the “Extremes” for three or so months. I’ve learned to like off-road opportunities, and even though I’m no longer doing the Great Divide, it’s great to have road/trail options. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised with the lack of rolling resistance, and seem to be able to do 12-13 mph even fully loaded, which is fine by me. It’s a tour, not a race.

And I have also been filled to the bike helmet top with hubris concerning the impregnability of these Schwalbes. Until yesterday.

So I’m bopping around town, heading for a pre-trip calorie-fest at the Indian Buffet. You know, you’re typical 10,000 calorie ingestion of Tandoori Chicken and those little meatballs in tomato sauce that you know are arterial cloggers but think “hey, I’m riding a bike for 1,500 miles, so who cares?”, when I’m at redlight and hear what sounds like the hydraulics of one of our many “low riders” here in New Mexico.

But the only car in front of me is some sort of yuppie SUV, not much of a candidate for hydraulics. Then I head off as the light changes and immediately have that dreaded squish of rear tire wonkiness. A flat. A flat in my indestructible tire of ultimate protection. A security breach in my Star Wars Defense System of Impregnability.

And just like my Dad years ago, I immediately go into a stream of cursing wider than the Mississippi. Popping the tire, I quickly see that the valve stem has simply removed itself from the tire. Chains! Weak link! Trite, yet true expressions!

So after convincing myself I wouldn’t even need extra tubes, etc. for my trip, I sheepishly find my way to the LBS (local bike shop) and plop down some bucks for replacement tubes. After an hour spent trying to figure out how such huge tires fit on such skinny rims (remember, I’m a “roadie” guy), I master the dreaded repair, my stream of cursing dammed by a little success and a little IPA to smooth the repairing edges.

So my bike and I aren’t immortal after all. Hmmm…something to consider this day before heading out for a month of so. I guess I could either stock up on a Panic Room-level of crisis-prevention (extra spokes, a spare rim, etc.) or simply embrace the whole temporal thing.

Being both slightly Buddhist and heavily frugal, I go with the second option. I’m not even carrying an extra tire, Schwalbe or otherwise. It will just be one extra tube for me. Maybe I can use that one tube as a spare spoke, hub, braking system, dérailleur, rack, etc. in the month ahead.


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