Monday, October 25, 2010

No, I Will NOT Change My Own Damn Bike Tire!

I'm sitting here in my house, looking at my bike in the Arizona room. Once again, it has a flat tire.

How can this POSSIBLY be? I've ridden less than 100 miles in the past month, yet this is the fifth flat tire I've had in that same time period. I have Gatorskin tires, which cost $80 for the pair and are supposed to be some of the toughest road bike tires that are still light enough to not hamper performance too much. So why is it that every flat I get turns out to be the work of some hair-thin piece of plant or tree that you can barely even see without a magnifier?

Of course, I will not change my own flats. Not ever. One thing I have always hated about bikes is that if you want to be a real cyclist, you have to know your machine, not only know what its parts are called but also know how to adjust them, when necessary. (And it seems to be necessary an awful lot.) I have A) zero mechanical aptitude, B) zero interest in anything mechanical, and C) a profound reluctance to do anything that involves getting grease or road dirt on my clothes, hands, or anywhere else. I never even pretended to have an interest in doing any of this stuff with my old hybrid bike, but my road bike is such a better class of bike that I felt that learning how to take care of it was something I needed to do to prove myself worthy of the bike. Or to show my devotion to it, or something like that.

So I took a couple of classes (TriSports, BICAS), and was given hands-on tutoring by a couple of people (alas, opportunities for learning how to change my bike's flats have always been abundant), and watched instructional videos on YouTube, and read books and articles galore, and hoped that this whole process would awaken my inner bike mechanic. If nothing else, changing a flat tire is hardly rocket science. I can recite the steps backwards and forwards, and yet... the thought of touching those filthy, greasy, grimy tires, and having to do actual manual labor to get my tire back on the wheel afterwards, makes my skin crawl. (In fairness to myself, I don't believe that anyone who has changed a flat on my bike has ever failed to mention how difficult it is relative to other bikes, due to some complication with the rims. Also, no one has ever succeeded in getting the tire back on without tire levers. So it isn't just me.) Instead, the more I learn about the mechanics of a bike, the more I hate that same subject. I don't know an Allen wrench from pliers or a derailleur from a crankshaft, and don't want to. (Although I DO know how to spell derailleur. I am the Grammar Police, after all.) I have no idea how shifting works, beyond knowing that a push of a lever makes it harder or easier to pedal. I am amazed that real bike people think in terms of millimeters and think that those millimeters make a difference.

I'm lucky enough to live with Tim, who thinks he's getting the better end of it in a deal in which I do all the housework, cleaning, et cetera, and he fixes stuff when it breaks and does any manual labor that requires that someone breaks a sweat. Fixing flats falls squarely in Tim's realm of responsibilities, and all I have to do is look mournful, point sadly at my bike, and pay for the tubes (which I really should start buying in packs of 100 for the sake of economy), and soon I will have a rideable bike again. But this bike has been so bad lately that I am afraid Tim will want to renegotiate our deal. For example, it has been sitting on two flats for the past two weeks while I rested before and after the Mount Lemmon Marathon. Yesterday we finally decided it was time to ride again, so he changed both tires and we had a beautiful sunset/night ride all over Tucson and up and down "A" Mountain. The bike was fine when I put her to bed last night, and then I came home this afternoon and found her like this. Right now I actually want to throw the bike (or at least the wheels) over the backyard fence and let someone take it away rather than have to deal with flat tires one more time.

One more thing, I actually believe that if I fail to do an Ironman in my lifetime, it will not be due to injury, or to fear of doing the training. It will be due to the fact that you have to change your own flats in an Ironman.

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