Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tire Pops

Many weeks ago, on a Saturday in early May, Josh and I woke up and rode our bikes to the polo grounds for our weekly Touchstone soccer game. We rode down Connecticut, across Calvert, by our Frisbee field, and into Rock Creek Park. Josh, riding in front came to a little bridge over the creek, and he came to it way too quickly. Before I knew what had happened, I heard a profane word or two come out of his mouth and watched him dismount his bike. He had popped his front tube. When Josh gets in a sticky situation like this, his first instinct is to get angry. He can not think rationally and just curses the situation. I, trying to think rationally and formulate a plan, get frustrated by his anger and then get angry myself. Luckily, this only lasts two or three minutes and then we can work together. So, in the middle of D.C.’s woods, Josh says, “I’ll lock my bike here and we can grab a cab.” Really? We’re going to hail a cab at 9:30 on a Saturday morning on the side of Rock Creek Parkway? I don’t think so. I counter with, “No cab can pick us up here. You lock your bike here and then ride mine to the Polo Grounds. And I’ll run alongside you.” But really? I can run 4 miles with a backpack on in under 40 minutes and then play an hour of soccer? Again, no. Josh’s anger had quelled but it was still simmering so with each failed idea, he got a little frustrated. But then, a lightbulb went off in his head. I would ride my bike home as fast as I could, drop it off, and grab Alberta (my Yaris). Meanwhile, he would walk back up to Woodley Park where I could up him and his bike. So that we did. I should note that by the time I got to him, his back tire had deflated as well. We got to the field at about 9:56 and I dropped him off. I drove around for about ten minutes before finding a parking space, confirming my belief in the convenience of bike commuting. We played the game with no subs and ended up winning 3-0. So it wasn’t such a bad morning after all.

Josh waited until two Thursdays later to turn our little apartment into his bike repair shop and replaced both tubes just in time for Bike to Work Day the next morning. He did this fairly smoothly, with a little help from myself, but noticed that his back wheel was not spinning smoothly. It looked like this:

After riding to work the next day, while having the free breakfast provided to anyone that showed up with a bike and a helmet (what a great place to work!), Josh showed the awkward spinning to a knowledgeable co-worker and was told that his wheel simply needed to be trued. It was safe to ride on it this way for a little while but not for too long. So the next morning, we rode our bikes to another soccer game (a double-header, actually) at Wilson High School in Tenleytown. It was a beautiful morning leading into a painfully hot afternoon. After the game, ready to ride home, Josh realized his front tire was flat again so I rode home alone and he took the metro with Brendon, probably preferring to be lazy anyway. Not confident in his ability to replace his tube again, having obviously screwed something up last time, he let his bike sit unused for almost a month. This made our commutes to Frisbee and soccer games a much bigger hassle but, finally, my nagging proved useful and he took the Scattante to Silver Cycles in Silver Spring this past Saturday. Fifty dollars and 30 minutes later, his wheel was trued, his tube pumped, and his apparently defective tire replaced. Finally, he can ride with me again.

Bicycle maintenance does cost you something and it can be a hassle but it is worth the effort. A newly functioning bike has proven to rejuvenate even the pessimistic riders, like Josh who I caught researching Florida bike jerseys and comfy padded shorts when we got home. Knowing that the second tube popped because of an existing flaw in his tire, not a flaw in his maintenance will hopefully promote the tiny apartment bike repair shop as a viable option in the future.

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