Rookie Commuter: Finding, whining, then fixing… a flat tire

In my experience, a bike sitting unridden will develop more issues than one exercised daily.  After digging my bike out of storage and cursing my way up the thin staircase out of the basement, I noticed the front tire was flat.  It wasn’t flat when I last checked, but I couldn’t be too upset– we all have parts to tune-up after a winter of snacking, napping, and general inactivity.  

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I can’t bike my bike to the bike shop because my bike can’t be biked without first being made bikeable…in a bike shop.

Because my bicycle knowledge is equivalent to a muskrat, I needed a professional, in a bike shop.  But I couldn’t bike there, because of the whole flat tire situation.  So I folded my future transportation device into my current one, and drove around looking for someone to appease my helplessness.

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One transportation device in another transportation device. Like stuffing in a turkey, or a Matryoshka doll.

A smarter person would have looked up bike shops online before setting out.  I, however, am a moron.  Thankfully, I live in Boulder, where there are more bike shops than Republicans, so I just drove until I saw one.  A bike shop, not a Republican.

I brought my problems to Full Cycle on the east end of Pearl Street.  Initially I had walked in, whining about my lack of funds to pay for a tune-up, and how I wasn’t sure what to get, but the service mechanic explained he would assess my bike before charging me anything.  His name was Joe Kuhfahl, and he was a champion. 

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It thought it was getting a full makeover, but I could only afford to do its nails.

Joe walked me through what a basic tune-up would provide me for the 85 dollar price tag it cost.  This was after he told me my front tube had a hole in it, already setting me back 15 bucks for the replacement.  If I had more money I would have opted for the basic tune-up option, where they clean your bike from top to bottom– or maybe from front to back, I’m not positive on the direction of their cleaning– and re-lube all parts needing lube, as well as a host of other things that “essentially get your bike looking and riding like new.”

After whimpering about my financial situation, Joe assured me just fixing my front tube would make my bike road-able, while not aesthetically pleasing.  Probably a positive, since I can’t be riding a bike better looking than me.

Turns out, putting air in a tube is more complicated than just, well, putting air in a tube.  Joe told me about PSI, or Pounds per Square Inch.  Where I have previously pumped my tires up to the max PSI (which is written on the side of every tire), Joe explained that is not ideal– the lack of give causing every rock and small rodent ridden over to jostle the bike and the rider.  Joe suggested 10-15 PSI underneath the maximum.  Where my tire’s max was 80, Joe set mine to 70.  Joe also explained because hotter air expands, in summer, filling tires inside where it is cool, if overfilled, could cause problems when brought outside.

I also asked Joe why my seat hurt me so much, namely putting my more essential areas to sleep on longer times in the saddle.  Joe looked at it and said because my seat was angled down so far, gravity was sliding me forward, putting unneeded stress on my wrists and nether regions.  He patiently taught me how to adjust it, as I failed to grasp the concept of lefty loosey, righty tighty.  I suppose there’s a reason I’m an ice cream scooper.

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Mr. Joe Kuhfaul making my seat less of a torture device.

The next day, I took my bike for it’s maiden voyage, and the bike felt great.  Me?  I felt like an asthmatic on Everest.

Becca Heaton

Becca Heaton is the program coordinator and editor for BikeLife Cities' city magazines and website. An avid cyclist, Becca is "embarrassed" to share that she has 5 different bikes... and she rides them all!

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