Double Snakebites & A Thorn

Well after a quiet start to these first few weeks of 2010, I made up for lost flats last night. Got three — count ’em: three! — on the ride home from work. Silly me: Earlier in the day I’d actually dared to consider that I might get through the first month of the new year without one. Jinx!

But before anyone gets all preachy about a flat’s occurrence being in direct proportion to the cheapness of the tire involved,  understand that I finally took that sage advice and instead of my usual $14.99 brand I have been rolling on a pair of $40-each Continental Gatorskins since the latter third of December.

I’m no stranger to flats. Over the course of the 6,741 miles I rode in 2009 I had to fix 31 of the suckers — and a lot of them had to do with the crappy tires I used.

But with last night’s first two flats even the touted Gatorskins were helpless to prevent them. Witness my assailant, newly developed on Centinela just west of Sepulveda thanks to last week’s rains (click for the bigger picture):


Sure, you’d think something this gargantuan as this freaking crater of doom could be avoided by a cyclist even half as alert as I usually am, but the problem began with a broken patch of roadway just out of frame to the left that I’d dodged to the right.  Coming past that hazard I came left to get out of the debris-filled gutter and with no room for oversteering I ended up zigging a little too far back into the lane and the next thing before me was this monstrous black hole looming. At about 15 mph all I could do was roll through it. And pray.

Dropping in the trench was no problem. But coming out the other end over what amounted to a sheer continental shelf? Problematic. It was like trying to climb over a sword’s edge. I felt and heard the clang as the  front tire compressed and the pothole’s edge came into contact with the wheel’s rim. Then came the inevitable POP!-sssshhhhhhhhhhh.

Little did I realize that when my rear tire followed the front over the sharp edge of asphalt it couldn’t help but do the same thing. And since it popped only a micro-second apart from the front I didn’t know I’d double-flatted until I came to rim-riding stop about 100 yards down the street.

Wow! My first-ever double flat. Never in my long history as bicycler had I experienced such a predicament. Had it happened in front of a bar I might’ve gone inside to celebrate the milestone, but instead in that desolate and dark no-man’s land I just grumbled, turned the bike wheels-up and got busy swapping out the popped tubes with the two spares I’m never without.

Thirty minutes later 8Ball was mobility-enabled again, and after returning to the scene of the crime to snap the above shot of the culprit, I got the hell on my way.

Not more than three miles later, on the Ballona Creek Bikeway approaching Overland Avenue, I feel my rear tire going flat, and as I slowed cursing, my first thought is that the existing patch on the replacement tube, which had been salvaged from a previous flat, had failed. So I pulled over, and called Susan to alert her as to why I would be home much later than I’d hoped.

She graciously asked if I wanted her to come pick me and the bike up, but I was game to do one more flat fix, and while on the phone with my hand spinning over the rear wheel, I chanced upon a protrusion from the allegedly bullet-proof tread of the Gatorskin. Telling her I’d take her up on her kind offer if I had a fourth flat, I soon extracted the organic little demon pictured below, partially pissed that the 1/8th-inch bastard had breached the tire’s touted defense system… and partially relieved  that it wasn’t the previous patch that had failed (click  for the bigger picture):


In short order I’d applied a glueless patch to the puncture, and after immortalizing the pointy thing that caused it got on with the rest of the ride home — flat free.

UPDATE (10:38 a.m.): As expected, I found the rear tire flat this morning. Glueless patches should never be considered anything more than a temporary fix. Even if the tire was still full this morning I would have deflated it and replaced it with a far more durable glued patch.