Flat Out Fun

Jan 14, 2013 View Comments by

Flat out FunI haven’t had to change a tire in a year and a half, so I obviously forgot that sometimes it doesn’t go smoothly, like today, when all I had to do was change two tires before we could ride.

I’m staying at my friend Chris’s house in Maui, HI. He has a passion for off-roading and hit a quick unlucky streak with getting flats on both of his bikes within the last few days.  The first flat was fixed quick and easy, and I was on to the next bike, but after two trips down the mountain to the dealer for parts and pinching a tube with the tire iron, we eventually finished the job. Not, however, with enough daylight left for a ride. This got me thinking about the various flats I have fixed in the past and the problems that came with them.

The problem with my flat in Ethiopia circa 2011 was not fighting with the rim lock like it was today. The problem was the chaos of so many people swarming around me, hands grabbing at everything. The flat started at the customs office on the southern side of Ethiopia. I was riding Africa with my best friend Nick and we had been inside the building getting our entry visas stamped, which is a story all by itself. When we came out of the building my front tire was flat. This made no sense as the tire was fine before we went inside. I also make no sense by deciding to pump the tire back up and hope for the best, driving deeper into town looking for fuel. Five minutes later the tire was flat again. I saw some rocks nearby that would work nicely and carried them over to my bike to prop under the skid plate. Between the kickstand and the wedged rocks, I could lean my bike over enough to get the front wheel off the ground. This method also worked for the rear wheel and saved me from carrying a “Trail Stand” (www.endurostar.com).  Before I even got the front wheel propped off of the ground, I was swarmed by a crowd of people. Apparently these people didn’t see a lot of foreigners changing tires in the middle of town.

Once the front wheel was off and I had the tube in my hands, I saw the problem. The patch that I put on before had failed. It hadn’t peeled off, but it had just cracked in the middle. I had never seen that before. It was just bad rubber, a bad patch. I couldn’t re-patch the tube. I had to replace it. I had a spare tube in a canvas case strapped to the bike. To get it out, I would have had to remove the side fuel tanks, which was not hard, but I preferred not to wrench more than I had to with everyone so close to me. It was hard enough to keep an eye on everything as it was. I asked the crowd if anyone had a spare tube. Within minutes someone showed up with a brand new front tube. This was the first convenient part about being swarmed by a mob while doing bike repairs. It just proved that if you look hard enough there is usually a good part to every situation.

The negotiation process wasn’t easy, but eventually we came up with a price we both could live with. I slapped the tube and tire on the rim, pumped it up and was good to go, but now the price had changed. Aren’t there always unforeseen problems when it comes to flat tires? My mood was such that I wasn’t willing to negotiate anymore, so I started reversing the process to give the tube back. I was just going to take the extra time and use my own tube. Well, apparently the threat of not selling the tube at all was enough to make the original price we decided on okay again. With the tube paid for and all my tools packed up, I was finally done. That was the fifth flat tire I’d had on that trip—I hoped the next flat would be on Nick’s bike. 😉


Tags: , , Categories: Luke Swab

About the author

Commercial fisherman to pay the bills. Adventure Rider for the smile on my face. Documenting it all as proof that anyone can live this dream.