Friday Group Ride #414

Friday Group Ride #414

If you’re carrying a patch kit, you’re better prepared than I am, but I am also a little worried about you. It’s clear to me as I stand by, likely in the shade, waiting patiently, that you’ve suffered before. You’ve been bitten once, twice, quite possibly thrice, and now you’re four times (there is no ‘frice’ or ‘quarce’) shy. We’re stuck by the side of the road with traffic heedlessly buzzing past us, and you’ve got out a tiny square of sand paper and comical little tube of glue.

The comedy is likely to continue, right? Next comes the hopelessly ineffective not-floor pump, the one we take turns flailing away at trying to get something approaching a rideable tire pressure. How there isn’t a popular workout routine that incorporates these small instruments of futility, I don’t know. We’d all have ripped forearms.

Oh, let’s just hazard the guess that you’ve got CO2 with you, although I have to say the person who carries a patch kit doesn’t strike me as a believer in compressed gas. And I get that. You like things you can rely on, like sand paper and glue. How many times have we all heard that tragic whoosh as gas floods out of the tiny canister, churlishly refusing to enter the valve it’s latched to? A lot of times, that’s how many. CO2 can be your salvation, but it can also play a one note funeral dirge for your ride.

Every time I get a flat, I think to myself, “We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t make a supple tire that won’t flat under the deleterious influence of thorns, roofing nails, and/or strangely sharp stones.”

I run tubeless on my mountain bike, but that didn’t stop me from flatting on a narrow, roller-coaster downhill trail in Vermont last weekend. I sat there, trailside, watching liquid latex squirt in a fine mist from my tire’s sidewall. I kept waiting for it to seal. I waited until the tire was fully flat. Then I cried softly into one sweaty glove.

Have you ever tried prying a tubeless tire off a carbon with sweaty hands while squatting in sand on the side of a hill in high summer? Let me tell you, it’s divine. It only took about 15 minutes and two forearm cramps to get rolling again. I’d call that success. I did call it success. I said, “Well, that was a success.” My riding companions made sounds that were, at best, non-committal.

This week’s Group Ride asks, how do you fix a flat? What’s your equipment look like? How prepared are you usually? Are you prone to flats, or do you hardly ever feel that tell-tale wobble?


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  1. scottg

    Best way to fix a flat is let Jim do it, he makes a NASCAR
    pit crew look clumsy. I carry a Zefal HPX4, making someone
    use a mini pump is cruel. 2 spare tubes and a VAR tyre lever,
    the one that can operate as bead jack, for those fellow
    riders with really bad tire/rim combos.

  2. Michael

    I carry two tubes – one in my jersey pocket and one in a seat bag. I carry a patch kit just in case, as I have found flats in replacement tubes, and if I am on a long ride, could get two flats. But do I? Once, about 35 years ago, I got two flats in a ride (simultaneously – came around a corner and the road was washed out by a flood, and I flew into the rocks that covered the road). But I am ready! I use a pump. Don’t trust CO2 cartridges, except for my townie, since the worst that can happen there is a couple-mile walk, whereas a recreational ride, whether on road or dirt, is likely to put me tens of miles from the nearest town or help, and well out of mobile-phone range. So, I guess I am the Boy-Scout-Be-Prepared type. I don’t actually patch a tube on the ride, unless I have to. Very rare…

  3. David Arnold

    I was the guy that made the whole group wait 3xs once because I wouldn’t change out a bald or sketchy tire. Since then I run good tires w/o cuts and nick in thread or sidewalls. Conti 4000 or something similar. I take 2 regular inner tubes for road rides on good pavement…1 to 2 Co2 inflaters and a good boot patch. if there is a group someone will carry a small pump in the back pocket could be me if going solo. I plan my rides away from torn up roads with lots of gravel or glass. I rarely flat anymore. Don’t over inflate my tires 100 to 105psi. Try to bunny hop or avoid bad potholes and torn up RR crossings. 1 tire lever. Winter and wet roads are tricky…again try to stay on clean smooth roads or do a circuit near home.

  4. Girl

    Tubeless and crossed fingers. Also mini-pump, CO2 and a spare tube. No flats so far. I find it hard enough to change out a regular tire, so I know it will be really tough to pry off and remount my tubeless tire.

    So, I will hope that a person with tire-changing experience happens upon me to help out. (I know, big loss of feminist points, but when it comes to tire changing, I am a damsel in distress.)

  5. Les.B.

    Nothing, nada, nothing at all.
    That was one time, cruising solo on Mulholland Hwy, when at 30 miles out I discovered that I had left my under-seat bag at home.
    30 miles out with no remedy for a flat, should it occur.
    I prayed to the deities, turned around and cruised the asphalt the 30 miles back to the car — very carefully.
    So carrying no means of flat repair worked just fine, if you don’t count the sweat.

  6. Jack

    With a previously ridden and glued tubular tire and a CO2 cartridge I’m rolling again in no time. And since I have very few flats, I’m OK with the cost of sew-ups given the quality of the ride they provide.

  7. Aar

    1 tube, 1 CO2, 1 glueless patch kit, 1 tire lever, mobile phone and wonderful spouse. Never used the tire lever. Never needed patches. Occasionally swap a pocket pump for the CO2. I’ve been very lucky lately but my last flat was both tubes simultaneously in the early AM in January. That was a mobile phone/wonderful spouse recovery – didn’t even want to try patch kit with numb fingers and a bike light held in my mouth and no way to inflate the second tire. If a flat is due to snake bite (very low likelihood of sharp object embedded in tire), I can be riding again in less than 90 seconds. Currently trying out Tubolito tubes on one bike. The size of that tube would allow me to carry a second tube but not a second CO2 – buying an even smaller seat bag instead of swapping to a pocket pump. So far the Tubolitos are very good except that blue Loctite is necessary to make my Lezyne pump head play well with valve cores that do not fit tightly into thermoplastic valve stems. They retain air better than butyl, ride quality is indiscernible from butyl to me, they’re easier to install, save weight and space. Only drawbacks are price, no US supplier and wonky valves.

  8. Steven Down

    2 tubes 2 CO2 2 levers 1 pump. Mini for road. Proper for MTB – I have serviced my old Blackburn pump many more times than my King headset. There may be some preglued patches in my Camelbak but I’m not definite.i

    I keep thinking I should try tubeless, but it’s on a long list of new things I “should” try…

  9. David B.

    On the “Mixed Terrain” bike, two tubes, tiny patch kit and a full sized frame pump. my frames all have the pump holding bump to carry the pump below the top tube so it’s not too clumsy looking. I have a bunch of favorite rides where the cell phone doesn’t work, there is either no car access or you see one car an hour, and I’m frequently alone. If I want to avoid a 15 mile walk I’ve got to be able to fix things. What happens more often than fixing my own tires is finding someone walking a flatted bike needing my frame pump. That thing is my most effective Karma building exercise.

  10. Seano

    On the mtb – tubeless carrying tube, tire boot, CO2 and lever… zero flats for so long that the tube under my seat disintegrated along one of the fold creases.

    Road bike – CO2, tube, levers & patch kit. Got tricky last week and decided to go lighter and less rolling resistance tires (why?)… flatted 4 days in a row (front and back wheels, different spots ea time). Back to my trusty ol’ Gatorskin 28s and once again no flats.

  11. Jeff

    Two tubes, patch kit, mini-pump. Result of a sketchy hitchhike as a teenager.

    I’ve always been embarrassed at my over-preparedness, but after reading all the other comments, no more!

  12. David Noble

    Road rides, 1 tube, 2 tire levers, 1 mini pump on the frame. And always a charged phone with uber and lyft apps installed.
    The taxi apps are very useful. Twice I’ve used them to transport injured friends back to ride start and late not going to get home in time friends back to ride start. I use the taxi apps for friends almost as much as for myself. Faster than waiting for someone from home to fetch me.

  13. John

    Started carrying on my randonneuring rides 3 tubes, 4 co2, used spare tire, 2 levers, glueless patch kit, boot material and mini pump. Used to change out for lighter kit but now just leave on the bike all time. I have had 3 flats and a torn tire on a single ride.

  14. Ric Kellen

    One tube, tire levers and co2 on all my bikes. I also live in an area with lots of riders out at all times (or so it seems). If push comes to shove, I would count on the kindness of strangers. I do ride with a guy who carries nothing and says if and when he flats he considers the ride done and calls Uber.

  15. Robert

    I always ride with 2 tubes, tire levers and a hand pump. I like to be self sufficient so I can complete my rides. I’ve been thinking about going tubeless but reading about people describing their messy situations with sealant has really canceled out that thought.

  16. Pat O'Brien

    Quick Stik, Park Tool Patches, spare tube and Topeak Morph pump. Oh yea, Schwalbe Marathon and Smart Sam plus tires. I don’t fix many flats. None in the last year, mountain or road. And, I live in goat head country.

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