Thursday, August 7, 2014

My Bike Is Possessed

I still blame the chipmunk.

Ever since that speedy little rodent ran out onto the bike path and failed to evade the rear tire of my bike, since his soft little neck got crushed and his nut-gathering days came to an abrupt end, my bike has never been the same.

As the last of the synapses fired from his tiny brain, I feel that a dying curse was conveyed upon my bike because, since that fateful day, I have had the worst luck with my bike.

I have already written about that day where I ran over that chipmunk on my ride to work. But the bad luck on my bike hasn't ended with the eventual, safe return to my home.

Since that day, when I blew two inner tubes, I have lost an additional five tubes. That's seven blown tires in less than two weeks! My last blow-out was on August 1, as I was cycling along the Rideau River, following the path under the Queensway (which, incidentally, was less than a kilometre from where I blew a tube before, on the same path).

Having been taught the proper way to change a tire, by my neighbour, who cycles competitively and is somewhat of an expert, I know to inspect the tire thoroughly, by running my fingers, carefully, around the inside of the tire, to ensure that if an object punctured the tube, it is no longer there. I know to feel the inside of the rim and check the rim tape.

With all of the tire changes I have made, to both the front and rear tires, I have become a quick-change artist, of sorts. And yet, on the very next ride, I have a tire that goes down on me.

The front was the worst: on one change, I had to fix both wheels. I changed the front because it is the easier of the two: no chain or gears, no derailleur. With the front tire changed, I leaned it against the bench at the front of my house, next to the bike frame. I was going to wash my frame before I put my bike back together.

As I was pumping up the fresh tube on the back tire, working on my front steps, I heard a loud SSSSS... and looked to see the grass under the front tire blowing against a powerful and isolated breeze. The tire blew before I even had it back on the bike.

I took the entire wheel to The Cyclery, hoping that they would either identify and fix the problem or help me replace the rim, tube, and tire.

After 20 minutes, I had the same tire and rim, but a new tube. The service person told me I had "more glass than rubber" in the tire. White chalk marks dotted the spots, and there were a lot of them. He told me he was able to get them out, and my tire was otherwise fine, would most likely last until the end of the season, as long as nothing drastic happened to it.

The cost: $5 for a new tube and another $5 for the labour.

I also bought a new tire, just in case the front tire went down again, in case he didn't get all the glass out. Later that day, while shopping at MEC and stocking up on more tubes, I purchased a second tire because I thought, if the front tire was full of glass, the back one was probably the same. And I didn't have the expertise to take them out.

Coincidentally, the very next time I went to get my bike to go on a bike ride, the back tire was flat, so I changed the tube and the tire.

And I headed out on a ride to Chelsea, thinking I would take a round-about route. I carried a compact camera in my back pocket so that I could capture the picturesque spots throughout the journey. (I didn't stop at every picture-worthy spot: it would have taken me all day to get to my destination.)

As I passed under the Queensway, only 26 kilometres into my ride, I blew a tire. The rear wheel, with the new tread (I marked the spot on the map, below).

My bike is possessed. I'm sure of it. I have had my bike for three years. In that time, before the chipmunk incident, I had only had one flat tire. That time, I inadvertently ran over a small piece of metal. I removed the debris, changed the tube, and managed to stay flat-free for more than a year.

Since the "chipmunk ride," as I now call it, I have dealt with seven flats between the two wheels. My latest flat came on a new tire with no indication as to why it went flat. Unless, I messed up with the change, had somehow pinched the tube (I always check, but you never know).

I was super-careful with the last tire change and managed to ride for another 45 or so clicks, without further incident. The only wildlife I saw was a fawn and her mother, and I didn't ride over them: instead, I stopped and took a couple of photos, and waited for them to leave the path and wander back into the woods (see my photo in yesterday's Wordless Wednesday).

I'm hoping that this gentle interaction with wildlife restores the balance of nature, and that the bad karma that came with the death of the chipmunk abates.

One more flat tire this season, and I'm replacing my bike.

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