I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “150 miles? On Wednesday evening? Starting about 6 p.m.?” You’re thinking, “Aren’t you the guy who just wrote the essay about what someone can learn about climbing from a fat guy? Which, as it turns out, isn’t much?”
You’re thinking, “What gives? How did you ride 150 miles? Aren’t you the fat guy who keeps saying he knows what I’m thinking?”
I am indeed. I’m the guy who last rode 200 miles in a day back in 1983, the guy who completed his last century sometime in the mid-1990s. The guy who now makes sure his 25-mile weekend rides include a stop for French toast, applesauce and the newspaper—plus coffee if it’s cold outside, ice tea if it’s hot and sympathy if my legs hurt.
Yes, I’m the guy who started the ride in question about 6 p.m. on a Wednesday evening in August. But here’s the thing: It wasn’t that kind of 150 ride.
And the only reason I’m writing about it is to keep you from taking your own 150 ride. So pay attention and take a few notes. You’ll learn how to keep rolling under your own power after you’ve suffered the indignity of a flat tire that was so not your fault.
1) If you haven’t had a flat in years, assume you’re going to have a flat today. This is important, because Congress has yet to pass an effective law outlawing flat tires. Or, let’s face it, stupidity.
2) If you have presta valve inner tubes on your bike, make sure you have at least one spare presta valve tube in your bag. Believe me, if the inner tube box says Schrader valve and when you pull the tube out of the box after you get a pinch flat crossing the damn railroad tracks and the tube, sure enough, seems to have a Schrader valve, you have exactly the wrong inner tube for the job. You might as well pull a hamster on an exercise wheel out of your handlebar bag. At least the hamster thinks he’s getting somewhere.
3) Check the inside of the tire for the sharp object that could have caused the flat but didn’t because you got a pinch flat crossing the damn railroad tracks. Whatever you do, do not blame the hamster. For one thing, your tandem partner cannot see the hamster and is already questioning your mental acuity. For another, the hamster knows full well who’s at fault here. It’s the guy who can’t be bothered to fix the squeak in his exercise wheel, that’s who.
4) Don’t sweat the Schrader valve mix-up. It’s the sort of thing any blind illiterate fat guy would do before a ride that involved crossing the damn railroad tracks. Instead, go to Plan B: the patch kit. Tip: Make sure you’re carrying a patch kit manufactured during the 21st century. Otherwise, you’re likely to notice that the tire cement tube has no cement in it, proof positive that cement can evaporate. (I’m looking at you, Hoover Dam.) You’re also likely to peel the shiny backing off seven little round patches that are supposed to have sticky backs but instead are as dry as a Mormon’s discarded Tang container on the moon. You may even waste a few minutes of your life licking those seven little round patches to see if that might work or trying to cover the snakebite holes with electrical tape, which is sticky, after all, to replace those stupid little round patches. Neither strategy works, by the way.
5) After you replace the tube or patch the old one, put a few pumps of air inside the tube, because you did remember to bring the pump, didn’t you, then place the tube inside the tire and the tire on the rim. Inflate fully, reattach the wheel to the bicycle and ride home.˙ Or, if you’ve managed to freaking royally screw up not Step 1, not Step 2, but, incredibly, Steps 1 through 4 in order, plus abuse an italic font and split an infinitive with deliberate disregard for people who believe that’s a bad thing to do but are wrong, wrong, wrong…
6) Beg your neighbor for a sag home in the back of his truck. And if your sorry existence has come down to participation in this, the ultimate ride of shame, I’ve only got one thing left to say.
7) Don’t forget the hamster. He’s the only one still talking to you.