The four flats I encountered across this morning’s commute come nowhere near matching my record of eight flats achieved in the miles on Riverside Drive between North Hollywood and Sherman Oaks one afternoon ride home in 2003. That outrageous number of punctures was the result of some cheap and deteriorated rim tape that allowed the front tire’s innertube to creep into the rim’s spoke wells — those holes’ rough edges of which play quick and complete hell on tender highly-pressurized rubber.
I learned that later with a visit to my local bike shop, but in the midst of it, I just stubbornly persevered as best I could. With the first two flats I swapped out popped tubes for fresh ones, then I flatted and patched and flatted and patched and flatted and patched and flatted and patched and flatted and patched my way across Studio City, sometimes getting not more than a block further — at most a mile — before deflation would happen again. When I finally exhausted my patch supply and flatted for the eighth and last time on Riverside Drive near Fulton, don’t think it didn’t cross my mind to just ditch the thing.Â But instead pushing the bike beside me I stumbled dumbfounded and dazed that last couple miles.
It was enough to drive a clueless cyclist crazy and after the third “pssssssh!” it most certainly did. Time and again I’d be meticulous and increasing desperate in searching for the cause. But seeing nothing like a glass shard or bit of metal that could be doing such destruction I was only left to wonder what I had done to deserve whatever tube-chewing demon had taken up residence in my front wheel.
Slipped rim tape was the cause of two of my four flats today. But the first was a straight-up blowout brought about by me nailing a nicely deep pothole dead-on about a mile from home. I was paying less attention to the street than I should have due to a stray pitbull making his way along the sidewalk, but after coming to a stop he sidled past wanting nothing to do with me so I got down to the business of swapping in a new tube and was back on the road inside of 10 minutes.
The second flat was a stealthy deflation that I didn’t discover until I pushed off to cross Venice Boulevard at Cadillac and felt the sluggishness. Pulling into the shade I removed the tube and spent waaaay too much time unsuccessfully looking for the microscopic holes. Then I checked the rim tape pretty thoroughly and found that some slippage had occured, exposing several spoke wells. So I peeled it off and reapplied it, hoping it would stick. Not wanting to use my final spare tube I pulled out the one punctured by the pothole and had no trouble locating and patching those holes.
The third flat was all me. It happened when I was impatiently seating the tire back onto the rim and opted to use a lever to speed up the process. Only when I tried inflating it did I discover I pinched a fresh hole in the tube so out it came and on a new patch (my last) went and after another 200 pumps of the inflator to get the tire up to a rideable PSI I was on the road again.
For about a mile.
My last flat was totally rim tape/spoke well induced. Trust me I know how those feel. And sure as shit, the tape had shifted probably while reinflating the tube and dang if that tube with my last two patches didn’t seek to fill that void just enough so that the first jolt created enough movement to slit it ever so microscopically.
Because I’m such a boy scout I had a spare spool of rim tape in my seat pack all along. But because I’m so old I’d forgotten about it and only accidentally stumbled upon it looking to see if I had a spare patch kit in there (I did not). So off came the tired old rim tape and on went the new, and over it my last spare innertube and a little bit more of my sanity and from there I prayed that it would all hold and that Palms Cycles down the road on Motor Avenue just up from Venice Boulevard was open so I could replenish my depleted supply of tubes and tape (it was).
The rest of the ride was uneventful save for another abandoned dog that passed me on the Ballona Creek Bikeway, entirely uninterested in my efforts to befriend it.
And the handlebar cam rolled throughout the entire deflating ordeal. And I mean entire: