Horny Gord at my bike shop recommended a pair of light and sturdy Continental Touring Plus tires. “They’re a little stiff,” he smirked. “Let me know if you have trouble getting them on.” I snorted. I’ve changed a million flatsâ€”and in the process, punctured a million tubes and sworn a million very bad words. I’m no mechanic, but my dignity would not permit me to let Horny Gord change my tires.
When I got home I turned the bike upside down, slid out the wheel, and popped in tire lever #1. Easy so far. Tire lever #2 sprang out and hit me in the face, but after fighting with it for awhile, I managed to pry the old tire off the rim. Then things got tricky. The new tire had a tight wire bead and every time I almost got it on, it would stretch tight and pop out the other side. I sweated (between hot flashes) as I tried to wedge it onto the rim. I cursed my ineptitude and typical female lack of training in simple mechanical tasks. I whined. My hands grew grimy and my sight grew dim. I was thinking I had to stop for the night. But then I had an idea: consult the Oracle.
How did we ever do anything before YouTube? Oh right, we called our moms (for baking advice) or our dads (for help fixing tires). I have asked the shop mechanics how they change tight tires so effortlessly, but they just shrug and say ‘practice.’ I didn’t believe them, figuring there had to be some kind of secret trick they weren’t telling me about. And in factâ€”there is.
In about a minute I googled up a nice bearded british gent who patiently explained the trick to me: a gentle circular massage of the the tire to create slack in the bead. He had another cool tip, too: fasten toe-clip straps onto either side of the wheel to keep the tire in place while you finesse that tricky final section. He reassured me: if you han’t go’ a toe strap, a zip tie or a bi’ o’ string’ll do.
So I attacked the tire again, with zip ties and vigor. And believe it: the trick worked. With a bit of coaxing the tire stretched and popped into the rim. I did a little victory dance, then started pumping up the tire. But thenâ€¦sssssssâ€¦ ooooooh no, that sound. Employing my new technique I removed the tire from rim to find a pinch flat. I had punctured the tube while inflating it. Arrrgh! I patched the hole with glue, stuffed the tube into the tire, and carefully coaxed the tire back onto the rim. Pump pump pump pumpâ€¦sssssssâ€¦.
Stream of expletives.
Removed tire and tube AGAIN. Examined second pinch-flat. Berated self, family, educational system, crappy tools, and patriarchal colonialist conspiracy.
And then, I took a moment to notice that I was hungry, tired, and exasperated. I took a breather and looked out the window for a few minutes. Drank a glass of water, and heated up some soup for dinner. Smart me.
When I returned to the task I was re-focused. I patched the tube (again), and then I watched the video (again). This time I paid special attention to nice british guy’s advice about carefully squeezing the tire all around, to prevent pinch flats. And then, I eased the tube into the tire, massaged the tire into the rim, squeezed it all around, took a deep breath, and pump pump pump. The tire grew fat and turgid. Success.
I am feeling rather proud of the progress of my process. I did not let myself get super-obsessive about the task, thus making myself frantic and exhausted. But at the same time, I persevered, and didn’t give up. I learned how to do something useful, and I practiced the technique enough times to get it down.
These are the times when I recognize that in some fundamental ways, I am getting just a little smarter.
To watch a nice bearded british gent install a Schwalbe Marathon click here.