Back in the saddle

For most of the past 3 weeks, my bike has been down for maintenance so I have been having to walk to work. The problem was caused by a hub-related failure of the rear wheel, which necessitated getting a new wheel.  The parts I needed arrived towards the end of last week, but then I was away for the weekend and only got round to fixing it yesterday.

This morning I was enjoying cycling in to work again when I noticed that my rear tyre was looking suspiciously flat.  Since I had only pumped it up yesterday, in the process of changing the wheel, I knew that something was amiss.  I was able to reach the office safely enough on the tyre as it was and resolved to fix it after I’d finished work this afternoon, and before going home.

When I got down to it, I took out the inner tube (which I’ve patched a few times but has held up well for several years) and gave it a quick examination but there were no signs of fresh punctures.  It hadn’t completely deflated, so evidently the puncture was quite a slow one.  Since I had a spare tube with me, I decided to put that on the bike and save further examination of the old tube for later (or possibly just give it an honourable retirement).

As I was about to put the new tube onto the wheel, I realised that I had forgotten to put rim tape on it and hence the tube problem was probably caused by one or more of the spoke ends making a tiny hole in the tube.   My old wheel, from which I could salvage the rim tape, was at home but fortunately I had some PTFE tape to hand which would work fine for a temporary substitute (and in fact may be just as good long-term as a proper rim tape).

The next problem came when I tried to pump up the tyre and discovered that my pump has sustained some damage and no longer works.  I hadn’t noticed this as for the past few years I’ve been fortunate enough to only need to inflate my tyres when I’ve been at home and able to use my track pump.  The last time I had a tyre go flat while I was on the road, the tube exploded and took a fair chunk of the outer tyre (which was very old and turned out to be somewhat rotten) with it – so I had to push the bike home and didn’t even bother to try to fix it at the roadside.  Therefore, although I’ve been dutifully carrying my small pump with me as part of the basic tool kit I always carry on my bike it’s not actually been working, presumably, for some time.

The upshot of this is that I had to leave my bike at the office and walk home this evening.  Tomorrow, I’ll have to carry my track pump in (it should fit in a rucksack if I let it stick out at the top), pump up my tyre and ride home later.  Needless to say, I have now ordered a new pump to go in my travelling tool kit.

There are two main lessons I’ve learned from today’s exciting adventures.  The first is specifically bike related, which is to remember the rim tape when changing a wheel.  The other lesson is doubtless equally applicable to many other contexts, namely that it’s a good idea to periodically check any tools or supplies that you are relying on for emergency purposes to ensure that they will actually work when they are needed.

Incidentally, in case you’re a long-term reader of this blog (or have browsed through the archives of bike-related posts) and are wondering why I didn’t just use my spare bike while the other one was down for maintenance (which is, after all, the main reason I keep two bikes), it is that I have been unable to get hold of the freewheel tool I need to replace the broken spoke on the back wheel of that bike and therefore it is still out of action.  The problem is that it’s quite an old French bike and uses parts that are no longer standard.  I may have to resort to getting a new wheel for it (fortunately 27″ x 1 1/4″ wheels, while no longer in common use, are still available).