Today was the morning that I was going to change the flat tire on my bike. I cleared some space in the garage and started getting nervous. “You can Google it, Bruce.” Except I didn’t want to. I had vague memories about how to do the deed. Years ago, I’d even done it successfully, but maybe not on the more difficult rear wheel.
I turned ta-pocketa upside down. Check. I moved the gear shifter so that the chain was on the smallest sprocket. (See! I can remember things.) I squeezed the gear shift lever and pressed the little button, moving the brake pads away from the rear wheel. I put on gloves, to cope with the chain grease. Oh, what a good boy am I! And then …
I loosened the bolt (?) that holds the wheel on the bike. I grabbed the chain and yanked this way and that, lifting the little gears to various elevations. (That’s what I’m supposed to do, isn’t it?) Nothing. Just a bunch of black goop on orange gloves. I stared at the contraption … and couldn’t remember what to do. I’d done well so far but my mind created a dead end. “See what a bad cyclist you are? Good luck on crossing the country. You can’t even get out of your driveway.” (Good grief. Will someone please tell that voice to shut up?)
Trusting that no neighbours were training binoculars on me, I jerked the wheel some more. The chain teeth became a series of devilish smiles, and the goop continueth. And then finally, the darn thing came apart. What exactly did I do to create that result? I don’t know but at least now I had the wheel on my lap.
Okay … grab the tire levers so you can pry the tire away from the rim, exposing the damaged inner tube, which you can then skillfully pluck out of its prison. I pried. The lever flew through the air, with the tire still firmly in place. I repried and the lever reflew.
I gouged. I grunted. And approximately ten minutes later the tire lever was zipping off the tire like a knife through butter. Was I approaching the world’s slow record for changing a flat? No, there had to be other all-thumbsers on the roads of the world.
So the offending inner tube now lay on the grass. From a place deeply dark in my biking soul, I remembered that good cyclists pump a little air into the new tube, to make it easier to push under the tire and against the rim. Open little nozzle on the inner tube valve. Pick the right hole on my bicycle pump for said nozzle. Pump. I said “Pump!” Nothing. No air entereth the tube. Remove pump head from tube. Try again … and again … and once more. Pick up old and useless inner tube. Pump. Air enters. So what am I doing wrong?! I have no idea. Back to the new tube. Pump. Nyet. Head down between my legs. Buddhist insights about how all of this isn’t important? Nowhere to be seen.
Rest for five minutes. Try again. Air enters tube. Can’t figure out why now and why not then. Oh well.
I get the new inner tube pushed under the tire and use a lever to reseat the tire on the rim, being careful not to pinch the inner tube. Gosh, what a pro! And it worked. Soon I was pumping happily until the tire reached 110 psi.
Then it was at least twenty minutes of greasy fiddling to get the wheel reattached to the bike. (Please, no cyclists are allowed to read this part.) And then … Ta da! My bike was ready to fly.
I danced inside to put on my quirky blue jersey, heart rate monitor, sexy spandex shorts, groovy red socks, headband, helmet, yellow cycling gloves and shoes with metal pieces on the bottom (for attaching to the pedals). Glowing with success, I returned to the garage, looking like the epitome of Joe Fitness, not to mention Joe Mechanic. I squeezed the front tire lovingly … hard as a rock. Then the back … … flat! I stared once again.
So repeat the whole darn thing, with a new inner tube. I probably cut my time in half, but I was low in the soul.
In the end, I had done it. The tire remained hard. I flew slowly over the landscape and returned to my home 75 minutes later breathing hard. Just like my tire still was. Perhaps I am a good boy after all.