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 flats, 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 fact—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 a toe-clip strap 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 then—sssssss. Oooooh nooooo, 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 pump…sssssss.
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 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.