Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Flats Happen!

One of the hardest parts of my job is explaining to customers that their flat tire is not the fault of the store.
Things said like, "I just had this tire fixed last month!" and "My son never rode this and its flat again!" are the type of things you hear while working the front counter at Wheelworks.
Bicycle retail is a teaching job. Teaching customers that there are many different ways to get flats and how to determine how the flat accrued.
The simple method of removing the tube, inflating it, finding the hole and placing it back in the tire, doesn't always prove anything if what they flatted on has been removed. Explaining rim pinch to someone that doesn't even know that there is a tube to pinch can be difficult.
There's tons of stuff on the roads to flat on and doesn't seem to be getting better. Although the "Bottle Bill" has cut back on a lot of glass, there seems to be more metal wire popping tubes in the past 5 years. Super fine wire is tough to detect and if found, hard to remove. You never really know if you have missed something in the casing now.
The job of changing the flat is usually quicker then the education of the customer as to how they flatted. They always ask you the question that you should be able to ask them: How did the tire go flat? My boss Clint looks out the window and says, "The roads are in really poor condition and that's how it must have happened." Anybody that rides a bicycle would agree. (Hes a pro when it comes to dealing with the public!)
Some rim and tire combo's are harder then others to fix. Tires that don't seat can take as long as an hour to get so it doesn't hop on the rim.
Super tight fitting tires can be a big problem and is the reason "seasoned" riders bring there wheels in for us to do it. I have found that holding the last bit of tire bead to go over the rim under hot water works well.
Flats are the one thing that happen to all type riders, Young and old, Fast and slow, Racers,commuters, and moms with with children. They all get flats.
We also have a fair share of stroller's, wheelchairs and garden carts including wheel barrels.
As for me, I have had as many as 10 flats in one day. Yes,10. At that point, its not going for a ride, its going out to work on your bicycle.
To deal with the chance of flats when I go for a ride, I carry at least two spare tubes, a patch kit with 15 patch's, and nylon cloth to boot a slice in the tire casing. Its important to check to see if your pump is still working if you haven't used it for a while. I have had them go bad over time and do need replacing. Good tire levers are important. Cheep ones can snap and leave you walking. (I have used a wheel skewer handle with success)
With a little planning ahead, watching for glass and sharp objects it is possible to avoid any problems. Having a good light on your helmet makes fixing flats in the dark easier. Spare tubes are best when dealing with a flat on the road, leaving patching inertubes for at home by the kitchen sink.

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