It was a tough month in my garage. You would think someone with two bicycles would always be able to get around, right? Even if one (like my mountain bike with its bent rim) was temporarily out of commission? What are the chances that BOTH bikes would go down at once? I don’t have the answer to that, but that’s exactly what happened!
I hopped on Madeleine one day and found it was super hard to pedal. I thought it was the wind, but when I had gone two blocks pedaling my heart out, I stopped to feel the tires. Sure enough, the rear tire was super low. I pedaled back, pumped it up and went on my way. However, I had this nagging feeling that the tube had a leak and that I’d have to replace it soon. Sure enough, two days later, the tire was almost flat.
Now there’s absolutely no way for me to write about what happened without admitting to you all that even after two years of bicycle commuting, I really have no idea how to take care of my bikes. I’ve never changed a flat before, or done anything beyond lubing the chain. My friend and my brother always took care of all my bicycle maintenance needs.
Trying to be an independent bicycle commuter, I finally realized that it was time to try it on my own. So I went to the store and bought the first tubes I saw. I figured anything 26″ around would work for my 26″ wheels. Well, that’s about all I knew about my bike and here comes the embarrassing part: I didn’t know that wheels came in a large variation of widths. I figured they were pretty standard. So when I got home with my 26″x1.35″ tube, I realized that they would not fit. (Thankfully, I was clued into this before I opened the tube and wasn’t able to return it.)
So guess what? All the information you need to know is stamped on the tires! Duh! I knew the PSI recommendation was there, just like on car tires, but I didn’t know that the tire will tell you exactly what size it is! So I went back to the store and the only 26″x2.125″ tubes they had came with a presta valve. Embarrassing confession #2: I had no idea what a presta valve was and bought it without thinking twice. Only to find that my pump does not work with presta valves! Grrr!
Anyway, I got online and had to search high and low to find a good video on You Tube about changing a rear tire. (You wouldn’t believe how many feature front tire changes with quick release wheels, even though 60% of flats occur on the rear wheel. Plus, I do not have quick release wheels. Of course.) And then…I made my way into the garage, toolbox in hand, gulped a bit and got down to it.
I cannot tell you how proud I was of myself for just getting the darn tire off in the first place! I had a little trouble getting the tube in just right and getting the tire itself back into the rim. Whew, that’s tough! Thankfully, my friend was nearby and was able to help me lift the bike to get the wheel back in place. I wouldn’t have been able to do that on my own.
Now, you can turn the bike upside-down, of course, but I’ve read that this can cause misalignment/damage to the handlebars. However, the next day, when I realized I’d forgotten to put the washer of the presta valve on the OUTSIDE of the rim, I knew I had to take the wheel off again and my only option was to turn the bike upside-down. Also not easy, being as heavy as Madeleine is (no offense, girl!), and being as I had to remove the mirror, first. But…again, I did it, and a lot faster the second time around!
So now I can change a tire all by myself! I’m quite proud and wish I had taken pictures! The only downside is that I wish I had taken more time to ask questions and figure out this valve stuff. I wanted it yesterday, since I use Madeleine all the time, and I was limited by what my store offered, but I should’ve gone to the other end of town to see if the other shop had anything else. So now I know the difference between schrader and presta valves, which is great, but I’m not so sure I made the best decision here. I had to buy a $20 pump with both schrader and presta fittings so I can pump up Madeleine who is now a “tire hybrid” – one schrader, one presta. The point is, though, that it would’ve been easier and cheaper to just keep looking for a tube with a scrader valve! Darnit. Live and learn. Or bike and learn.
And just when I thought all was well…I took Madeleine out for our first ride after fixing her tire and felt that familiar drag in the rear wheel. I gave it a spin and sure enough – it was bent! I couldn’t believe it. Two bent rear rims in two months. What are the odds?
I sucked it up and took the wheels to the local bike shop and was told that it would probably not be worth it to try to fix the rims – that they would always drag a little, and with all the riding I do, I don’t need anything that will slow me down! So I ordered two new wheels ($90, including labor, not so bad). There’s only one problem – you can’t get yellow rims without paying a small fortune. So Madeleine is going to have one plain rim and one yellow one. I’m ridiculously disappointed by this. I absolutely LOVE her yellow rims. I’m hoping it’s possible to find a way to paint them, but I’m not sure I’ll realistically have the time or motivation to do it before the school year starts up. And once work starts, I doubt I’ll want to mess with it until summer!
So, Bicycle Gods: I’ve had enough! Go pick on someone else for a while!
How are your summer bicycle adventures going?