OK, it’s confession time. After more decades of biking than I care to admit to, I was defeated on a recent tour on Vancouver Island by a simple flat tire. Not only that, but I caused the flat. Not only that, but I caused the flat when I ineffectually tried to pump the tire up. My Partner-in-Ignorance, aka Maggie, has been steadfastly refusing to waste any weekend time on bike maintenance workshops. In a show of solidarity with her, I haven’t been to any either – despite the fact that we are making longer and longer bike trips. I just haven’t biked anywhere at all without my BCAA card in my jersey pocket (because these days, they will actually come out and change a flat bike tire for you – albeit not very well, as I discovered when I called them out to fix a flat recently).
Recently Maggie and I cycled from Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island to the lovely city of Victoria, via the Lockside Trail. We spent the night at a wonderful B&B called Cottage Pirouette, near Victoria. Next morning we woke up bright and early, eager to set off on the Galloping Goose Trail to Sooke – but found that one of Maggie’s tires was slightly soft. In front of Lorraine, our friendly host, I hesitated to call the BCAA out to deal with a soft tire. I thought that might be a little embarrassing. So I tried to pump the darn thing up. I fearlessly faced up to the tire, bravely wielding the tiny yellow pump we’d brought along (neatly packed in with a bunch of other things we had no idea how to use, such as tube repair kits and multi-purpose bike tools).
Bike pumps are MUCH more complicated than they used to be …
The first thing I discovered is that in the sizable amount of time that has elapsed since I was nine years old, bike pumps have got much more complicated. For instance, they have different widths, depending on what size valve you have. Who knew? Also, there’s a little lever thingy that sticks out of the pump at the place where you clamp it on the valve. This lever thingy has two positions – one is the right position, and one is very definitely the wrong position. You’d think they’d be labelled – but no.
Suffice it to say that I must have successfully found the wrong position for the lever thingy, because after a few minutes of what I thought was quite impressive pumping, the wheel had gone from slightly soft to completely flat. Lorraine scrounged out another pump for me, politely pretending that there was a problem with the pump, not with me. I tried again. By now I was bright red from exertion and mortification. I discovered that no matter what pump I used, that tube was never going up again. It had gone to meet its maker, apparently pushed by me. Don’t ask me how, but somehow I had pumped it so enthusiastically that I broke it.
Next stop was of course the NBS (Nearest Bike Shop). Lorraine kindly loaded the bike into the family car, and drove us to Marty’s Mountain Cycle, where a friendly guy named – of course – Marty, quickly fixed the tube for me. He didn’t laugh at me at all – not to my face, anyway.
As I morosely watched, I resolved to drag Maggie off to a bike maintenance workshop. If I have to suffer, so can she, darnit – that’s what marriage is all about. We found a course called Bicycle Maintenance – Basics (we both agreed we weren’t ready for any of the advanced courses) at Britannia Community Services Centre.
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