Monday, February 9, 2009

Life in the flat lane

On my last ride last week, I was zooming down the last big hill before home when I spied a couple of kids walking by the side of the road, with one pushing his bike. After a second glance I realized that the bike had a flat.
My first reaction was "we're in town, they're walking, they're together... no need to stop and help."

After coasting through the intersection I decided to not be an ass and to try and help. Maybe they might end up thinking that guys in stretchy pants are all jerks and that bikes are cool and that flats are easy to fix.

(There was more to this interior struggle-- I was feeling a little off (I would be in the evil clutches of disease the next day), I had a mountain of work back at the office and a deep-seated conflicted feeling that I needed to stop wasting time out on the bike but that if I didn't get some exercise I would die of stress-induced cardiac arrest.)

Anyway, I make my way back and ride up to the two. The tire is rolling off the rim-- flat flat flat.

I open with the classic ice-breaker: "Got a flat, huh?"

"Yeah. I skid for too long and popped the tire."

Say what? I think. Then I see it: The gaping maw of a huge hole burned right through the carcass of the tire. All the tread has been burned down, the cords are showing around the hole and the hole itself is a nightmarish wound seeping white liquid sealant. It's like when Ash flipped in Alien and started spurting white hydro fluid everywhere. Bleah.

I have no tire boot and no way to effectively clean the area of sealant so that I can get a patch to stick. The hole is so big that I don't think a patch would stick very long anyway-- my little finger can easily go through it.

"Wow. You really did a number on that. I'm sorry, but there's no way I can fix that for you."

The kid mumbles something about borrowing a tire from his dad's bike and I laugh "Yeah-- but no more skidding!"

As I ride the last few minutes home, I wonder: What price fail-proof technology against a careless user?

I wonder what this sort of thing does to cycling in general. The kid destroyed a tire and tube. How will he get it fixed? Who will fix it? Will "dad" buy a tire and new tube at a department store and then spend 30 minutes fighting with it, and then trying to get the bike to work properly afterward? Will the kid get the impression that bikes are fragile pieces of junk and secretly can't wait to get his driver's license and start borrowing dad's car instead of a tire off his bike?

Am I over-thinking all this?

I dunno. I've just seen too many kids' bikes fall by the wayside because they fall out of tune and don't work very well anymore. The bike becomes not as much fun to ride and thus get put out to pasture, destined to rust behind the back yard shed.

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