Monday, January 9, 2012

7 Punctures

The excitement of the Speed got to me. I shouldn't have been following so close behind Paul, but it was too much fun not to. Plus, we had gotten held back at a traffic light and was rushing to catch up with the rest of the group. We had maintained speed with the roadies for quite while and I'm guessing we could've caught up if it wasn't for the next thing that happened.

I was no more than 1 Catrike length away behind him when I saw something that looked like a pine cone. I was too close to veer off and avoid hitting it. I ended up running over something on the road dense enough that it popped the trike up at least 2". It was only a few seconds after the thought came to mind to expect a puncture that I looked down and saw the flattened front left Kojak tire. Ouch. That thing was super flat.

Prior to this incident, I had never pulled off a Kojak tire off a rim before. It was not nearly as easy as it was to take off a Big Apple or Marathon (Racer) tire from my KMX rims. A bit excited, I pulled out my Quik Stik.

This would be the first time it gets used on the road. The Kojak was so tight on there that this tool didn't do much good. Giving up probably faster than I should have (more on that later), I grabbed hold of Paul's (or rather Pedro's) tire lever and tried to yank the thing off. With a bit of struggle, Paul helped me get the thing off as we exposed the tube to inspect for punctures. When got home I managed to break a tire lever while switching out the butchered tube for a new one.

Although I had my fancy mini spray bottle with water/soap for locating the puncture(s), it was feeling air coming out of the tire that helped us locate the first puncture. After the patch, I pump the tire and there's still a leak. Poor patch job on my part?


Another puncture. I patched that only to find yet a 3rd puncture and then a 4th. They came in pairs and by the time I found the third pair of punctures, I inaccurately assumed I had found them all. Not the case. There was a 7th hole in the tire!

By now, at least 25 minutes had passed and both the Sag and Paul were probably a bit frustrated that it's been taking so long. Once the tube got back into the tire, we pumped it up. That's when we got into more trouble.

Why wasn't air getting into the tube???
1. Bad pump?
2. Bad connection?
3. More holes I didn't patch?
4. Failed patches?

It could've been anything. After tested the first 2 ideas, one of the guys gave me a hand and used his CO2 cartridge pump. It literally only took seconds before the tire was fully aired up. So we thought....

By the time I put all my tools away, I looked over and saw the tire as flat as when we started 30 minutes ago (if not, 40). It was time to get the Sag vehicle.

The two of them left with an estimated return time of 45 minutes. 30 minutes to ride 10 miles and then a 15 minute car ride to come get me. Not being the type to sit around and do nothing, I gave the repair a try once more.

This time I learned how to properly use the Quik Stik, but not w/o some frustration. Just as I was about to give up, I learned that the tool has to be used at an angle to be effective. It worked great once I figured out the technique (after 10 minutes of frustration wishing Paul had left me the Pedro levers).

Everyone seems to repair tubes differently, so it's nice to learn how others are doing it so I can combine it with my own methods to figure out what works for me. Paul had showed me his way and I took up after his recommendation and did it as such. The tube was out in a jiffy.

After pumping the tube once more, I heard a loud hissing sound. New unfound hole or poor patch job? The latter. Either I suck or those glueless patches are no good (something Paul already mentioned to me before, but I stubbornly resisted and used them anyway until I ran out and used the standard glue patch). The two sticky patches had failed for one reason or another and I pulled them off to expose the huge gaping holes in the one tube I had.

Paul said to use the glue liberally. Put tons on it at least as big as the patch. Makes sense, but either I'm cheap or don't like the mess and had never used enough. Remembering his hint, I globbed on enough of an area to cover the 1" square, but not so thick that it takes forever to dry. The ebay patch went on (a single one covered two of the punch flat holes) and worked wonderfully after I held it in place for 5 minutes.

"How long should I hold this patch on?" I had asked Paul prior to him leaving to get the car.
"Don't know, I've never had to patch."

How lucky! Maybe I have my own share of luck but expressed in different ways. If the world really is a big balance, then I'm taking the hit for the awesome luck I had at ALC where I traveled 545 miles w/o a single flat. Here I am on my last ride prior to this where I had 3 flats on two different tires w/in 10 miles!

I continued holding the patch for probably a couple of minutes before I felt the urgency to pump that sucker back up. I let the tube sit on my seat for awhile so I could confirm there weren't any more leaks. 20 seconds and a few gentle squeezes later, I was on my way to putting it back into the tire.

One thing about putting the tube back into the tire is that it has to be done gently or else pinch flats can occur down the road. Wobbling the tire back and forth perpendicular to the direction of the rim is helpful, but doesn't ensure the tube is properly sitting in the rim. You gotta do it carefully. I wedged it in, experienced a hard time putting the tire back on (annoying, but manageable), and pumped it back up. Air was finally going in! I hit 100psi before I gave Paul a call to see if I should sit tight or continue on my ride.

He sent one of the other TRL's (training ride leaders) over to fetch me. Took about 30-40 minutes after my patch job for Bob and Mark to show up with a van (still barely big enough to hold the Catrike Speed).

Perhaps this incident serves me right for using the air horn on Bob earlier in the day! He had been honking Paul jokingly and I had responded with a loud bazooka-like sound that was close to knocking Bob off his bike.

LESSONS LEARNED? Most of this stuff I should know, but tend to ignore out of either stupidity or stubbornness on my part.

1. Don't follow so close. Keeping a good amount of distance allows me to see stuff on the road ahead of time enough to avoid any trash, gunk or other enemies of tubes.

2. Never use sticker patches ever again - ever!

3. Use plenty of glue, covering an area bigger than the patch.

4. Remove the tube by using the Quik Stik at an angle, not perpendicular to the circumference of the rim.

5. Be gentle when removing the tube.

6. Be equally gentle when inserting it back into the tire.

7. Pinch flats come from under inflated tires. Inflate that sucker to 100psi - not 90psi.

8. Inspect and repair the tube with it sitting on the seat - not on the floor where it can gather up more gunk that can repuncture the tire.

9. Unlike the Shraeder valves I'm used to, Presta valves have a little thing on top that screws up and down to limit the air coming in/out of it (in addition to the cap).


  1. 7 punctures...yikes. You have patience. I know the frustration of repairing a flat. So I don't repair punctures anymore, I just throw on a new tube and in a few minutes I'm off again. I carry three replacement tubes in the pocket of the the Catrike seat. The cost of a new tube is well worth avoiding the frustration of a failed repair.

  2. That's a smart idea. I totally agree. I was too eager to ride the Catrike that I took it out on that ride before getting a chance to purchase any spares. I'm definitely carrying spares on my next 20+ mile ride.