Julie: Kristen, being the most awesome friend ever, provided me with some essential riding gear – a spare tube, a tube patch kit, a pair of tire levers, an adapter for my car air pump at home, and a saddle bag to carry it all in! No, seriously, it’s a “saddle” bag – a small zippered bag that attaches to the underside of the bike’s saddle. (I did not get Julie the granola bar to provide energy and/or a boot but did suggest she put one in! I also recommended make up remover wipes, because they’re the best at greasy stuff for post-fixing cleanup.) Kristen also gave me a compact air pump which attaches to the bike’s frame. Thus armed, I am prepared – theoretically, anyway – to patch a flat tire. Kristen then gave me a crash course in fixing a flat. (Luckily, no crashing or actual flats were involved as part of this lesson! Even the dog wanted to learn!)
First things first…if you find the concept of a flat tire scary enough to prevent you from taking up bike riding, let me put your mind at ease. It’s important to understand that the usual flat tire while riding a bike is like having a flat in your car. You’ll hear funny sounds, pedaling becomes more difficult and turning will be less smooth than you’re used to.
Next, let me tell you that fixing a flat is not the easiest task in the world if you’ve never done it before. If you have the opportunity, like I did, to learn face-to-face from an experienced rider, TAKE IT! I can’t imagine trying to learn this, or being remotely successful at it, from a YouTube video. Even removing the tires from the bike isn’t as simple a task as it sounds, especially with the rear tire because you have to dance around the chain and gears. Kristen demonstrated how to loosen the tire from the rim, feel for the object that caused the puncture, remove the deflated tube, use the patch kit, and put the whole thing back together. Then, it was my turn to try. I quickly discovered that it wasn’t as easy as Kristen had made it look. Her experience enabled her to go through the process relatively quickly and with a modicum of effort. I struggled, even with Kristen’s voice-of-experience tips, but I got it done. Now, if I get a flat tire when I’m riding by myself, I will know what to do, I have the proper equipment to do it, and I can at least give it the old college try. If that fails, though, I have a backup plan. The Better World Club, the company I use for roadside assistance for my car, also offers bicycle roadside assistance. If I can’t fix my flat tire, they’ll send an agent with an appropriate vehicle to give me and my bike a lift home!
Julie, there’s a car service that will rescue you on your bike?! That’s amazing! I had no idea! I’m glad to know you have this as a backup option. I’m also glad you now know how to fix a flat because it will probably be a lot faster than waiting for a rescue ride!