15 October 2007

Updates and Flat Tires

Now it's getting ridiculous. Every time I ride, I puncture. And I'm pissed off about it. For instance, yesterday afternoon I set out to ride to Lebanon and back for a scenic autumn half-century, as well as to test my endurance compared to half-centuries earlier in the season.

Everything was going well. The ride out was slow due to a killer headwind, but I was enjoying myself and at the 20-mile mark, I really felt strong. Looped through Lebanon and headed towards home, savoring the tailwind and resulting speed.

Risser's Diner Sunday Special: "Beef Heart on Filling."

The most un-creative name for a taco stand EVER: "Taco Maker." Lebanon, PA.

On the ride back, I hit Stouchsburg and BLAM. Flatted. Without panicking, I pulled onto a grassy knoll, popped the rear wheel off, removed the tire and tube. Found the puncture. Patched it. Re-assembled everything.

Missed a puncture. Took everything off and started over.

This time, I punctured the tube while putting everything back together (there's no elegant way to put that last 8 inches of tire back on the rim -- you have to force it with all your might). Meanwhile, the sun was going down and the temperature was dropping. Went through this procedure again. No punctures, but the Presta valve must've been damaged along the way and the tube wouldn't inflate. No matter how hard I pumped, no air.

So I had to call for a ride. Nothing can be more humiliating than standing along the road waiting for your wife to drive out and rescue you -- whilst dressed in lycra and standing next to a disabled bike, rednecks and hillbillies slowing to gawk as if you're a crash-landed gay alien.

Anyway, I've been puncturing on almost every ride for the last few weeks. Most of the time, it happens at the very end of the ride. Two rides ago, I only noticed the flat an hour after I was done.

What the hell is happening?

I think they're mostly pinch flats caused by dime-sized jagged pebbles -- the gravel pebbles used in road macadam. And they're invisible/camoflaged against the road so I don't see them until it's too late.

Most of the time, they ricochet away from the bike at an alarming speed. The sound is usually a POP! or PING! then the sound of a tree leaves snapping as they're pegged by the flying projectile.

But lately, I think these pebbles pinch the tube just enough to cause a pin-prick sized hole. But what the hell kind of tubes are these? I think I need something heartier. So my mission this week is to find GOOD TUBES and to take one along with me from now on.

Meanwhile, I've been feeling really great riding. The computer is helping me to improve my overall speed and endurance, simply by giving me instant status reports. It's a real motivator and worth the $60 price tag.

And I've found an amazing new area to ride. The Texter Mountain roads beyond the Wernersville State mental hospital. Rolling climbs and fast descents -- NO CARS. And challenging enough without breaking my legs. However, Huntzinger Road... This will be another long term mission. I don't know the grade, but it's the steepest hill I can find around here and I can only get three or four pedal strokes up the bottom section of it before I have to stop. Put it this way, it makes Gaul Rd seem like a speed bump.

But I thought of a great riding slogan for Huntzinger.

"Insanely steep."

Get it? Mental hospital? Ah nevermind.

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