Rookie Commuter: Pump it Up

In my last column, I mentioned flat tires– the fact that they happen, and the fact that unless you’re prepared, they will reduce you to a blubbering heap on the side of the road. Perhaps I didn’t mention that last part, but regardless, it’s true.

Every rider should always have a tire change kit with them. Unless you’re a world class cyclist with a team car close by– decked out with not only spare tires, but spare wheels, spare bikes, and, in case you get tired, a spare rider to pedal your bike for you– you’ll need to handle disasters yourself.  Disasters on a bike usually manifest as flat tires. After all, you’re riding around on pockets of air, and, I can assure you, there are pointy things all over the place.

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It doesn’t have to look pretty, as long as it holds your tire changing essentials. In fact, I prefer to have it look nice and ratty– less likely to be stolen.

My tire kit is strapped underneath my seat. In it are a couple of tire levers and a spare tube. You don’t need much, other than the knowledge of how to use these items. But that’s another column. When it comes to actually changing the flat tire, that’s a skill I haven’t yet learned, and probably won’t before I need it. Nonetheless, I will at least have the necessary tools on hand. Like a cell phone, to order a pizza for delivery, while I wait for someone who knows how to change a flat tire to ride by.

None of these items will do you any good if you don’t have a way to inflate the tire, which is where we can dive back into my personal experience. I have had the same pump on my bike for years. And I haven’t used it in almost that long. Yet, somehow, it has still taken a beating. I suppose riding in the rain, shoving it into various baggage, and using it to fend off over-zealous seagulls will do that.

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My old man pump. Unlike my new bad boy, this one is wedged into the frame, using the pump mechanism to hold it in place.

So when I tried to put some air in my tire after coming out of the post office, and was unable to get my pump to fit around the valve of my tube; I realized I would, yet again, need to shell out money I hoped to spend on chicken for dinner.

There are two main kinds of valves on bike tires, Presta and Schrader. Most road-style bikes like mine operate with a Presta valve. The valve has a piece that unscrews to allow a pump to press down on the valve and push air into the tire. My pump, however, was just pressing down on the valve, letting out air, without sealing around it to push air in. Somewhat counterproductive.  

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The old and the new. My lock got bigger, my pump got smaller.

Stopping by Bicycle Village, the same place where I got my lock, I picked out a small pump that pressed right onto the valve.  Some pumps have a lever on the back to secure a tight fit around the valve, but I always have difficulty remembering which way it’s supposed to be when putting it on versus pumping. So I needed a more moron-proof mechanism.

Unlike locks, most bike pumps can be mounted onto the holes that secure water-bottle holders.  Also unlike locks, these mounted pumps stay securely in place. This means riding with a pannier or man purse isn’t necessary, but I would suggest taking one with you, so you can take your pump off your bike when locking it up. Because a pump is an easy and expensive piece of equipment to steal.

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Mounted through the same bolts as the water-bottle holder, it sits, securely assuring me that if the road becomes impure, it shall be the cure.

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