On Flat Tires

They are, by definition, deflating. But what can flat tires teach us about bike commuting, urban living and our own selves?

[this sounds sort of like a subheading to an article in Bicycling, right?]

Nothing. They can't teach us anything about those things. Not every problem or scenario is existentially important. It's just air and some ripped rubber. Maybe some glass or a sharp rock. Really not a big deal. These things happen and it's good to know how to fix a flat tire and there are many bike shops that offer classes on how to do that. You should take one. Or you could ask a friend who knows how to fix flat tires to teach you. You could even google it, but I find that hands-on experience tends to be more instructive than online videos. Anyway, learn.

Here are some generic and obvious tips about encountering flat tires in the wild:

  • Sneak up them. Perhaps from behind a kind of blind or camouflage shade. Be very quiet as you approach the flat tire because you do not want to scare it off. It's more afraid of you than you are of it.
  • Once your corner the flat tire, be gentle. Flat tires are timid and delicate. A flat tire might emit a small hiss when it is first met, but soon it will relent. 
  • Remember: flat tires are instinctual. They might lash out when startled. You can try to tame a flat, but it might not take. Feed it some air, but be aware that its drinking from your pump does not mean it will no longer buck.
  • Use tools. They are humanity's advantage over nature. 
  • Seek a safe space to be alone with your flat tire. This morning, for example, I came about the flat tire near to a bike shop. There by, I corralled it and I was able to gain assistance when my stupid locking tire skewer stupidly wouldn't stupid unlock. [NOTE: remind me to remind myself to reconsider the whole locking tire skewer thing. Sure, I don't like my wheels to be stolen, but I also don't like to be unable to remove them either.] Anyway, if you can plan your bike commute that your chancing upon flat tires also allows you to chance upon local bike shops that have early opening hours, I highly recommend it. [I also had to buy a new tube because my stupid spare tube had a stupid gash in it. This was a proto-flat tire, which is even rarer in nature. But then again, I'm sort of an expert flat tire hunter, so it's unsurprising that I was "lucky" enough to see it. 
  • If you defeat the flat tire (which is an if), do not gloat. Do not make of the ripped tube a trophy on your wall nor stuff it and place it atop your mantle. Be respectful. While there are always more flat tires to be discovered (unlike Bitcoins!), you must remember that each one is unique and precious. Cherish your memories, but keep no souvenir. It is tacky. 
  • Move on. When it's all done, get back on the bike and move on. Do not tarry. 
  • Consider joining Better World Club. They even do Roadside Bike Assistance. Car stuff too, if you're into that. I don't know if they have pogo memberships as well. I mean, what would that even entail? Just some dude named Mack showing up with a new spring? And he'd all be like "yup, I see your problem. It's the spring." And you'd be all like "Yeah, I know." And then he'd swap out the spring and he'd be all "Hop along now" and you'd chuckle but you'd know full well that's what he says to every stranded pogoist but you'd still laugh anyway because Mack bailed you out and he seemed like a nice guy and then you'd wonder what kind of training and certifications you need to become a Pogo Roadside Assistance specialist in the first place. But like I said, I think it's just for cars and bikes now. 
So, yeah, flat tires. They happen. It's ok. 


  1. As for the locking skewers, have you considered locking QR skewers? I have the Zefal ones, and no one has stolen my wheels or seat, yet: http://www.zefal.com/en/locks/81-lock-n-roll.html On Guard also makes some

  2. I like your viewpoint. Had not considered the flat as prey. I myself view them as gifts from a comedian god playing practical jokes.

  3. Now I realize that those might be the skewers you already have. When I first got my Sefal ones, I brought my bike back into the shop a week later because I could not, for the life of me, unlock them at all even when I turned the bike upside down, and the guys in the shop showed me how to do it. I am now a pro, but I found that even most people who work at bike shops don't know how to work them because they just aren't that common. If you're at the Brooks Dashing Bicycle Show on Saturday, I could see if the same thing works for yours as work for mine...

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