Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Flat again (and again)

A day after I flatted and repaired my tube (twice), I bike/bus commuted again, this time without incident, though I was careful not to ride too far. But a week later, with about 75 miles on the patched tube and after riding all the way to work, when I got to my bike for the ride home, my tire was flat again. This shouldn't have been a big problem with an REI bike department about a mile away from my office, so I inflated the tube and rode like heck to get there before I ran out of air again.

The store didn't have the right size tube for my road rocket: 700x25. They recommended a nearby bike shop. I pumped up the tire again and rode a couple miles to find it, but no dice -- their fairly imprecise directions were no help. So I resigned myself to a bus ride downtown, albeit from a little earlier on its route than usual, and parked myself on another bus bench just outside the Southcenter REI. The bus wasn't due for another 20 minutes so I took the rear tire off and slapped a third patch onto the grievously wounded tube. Then when the bus finally arrived, it already had two bikes on its rack, with the next bus not due for another half hour -- I got waved off. The driver shrugged -- there was nothing he could do. I was seriously out of luck and getting frustrated with the limitations of scheduled transit service. My latest patch seemed to be holding, so I started riding my route home, hoping the tube would hold out until the next bus stop. It did, so I took the gamble to the next stop a couple miles farther up the road, the Tukwila Park and Ride. I was actually only about 5 minutes behind the bus that waved me off, with 25 minutes to go until the next one. And my tube was holding at 3/4 pressure. So what the heck, I'm already in about as deep as I can get and with no guarantee that the next bus won't already have another full bike rack, I take a deep breath, mount up, and bike 19 more miles home. Fortunately without further incident.

I ended up riding about 50 miles that day, all the way to work and all the way back, plus all the farting around bike shops at Southcenter, none of which was actually helpful.

At home that weekend, I had an unusual hour to myself, and with my tire flat yet again, I pumped it up and rode it most of the way to the nearest bike shop. The tire went flat about four blocks away from the shop, and no amount of further pumping helped, so I walked it the rest of the way. They changed the tube and I bought a spare for my pack. Here's hoping I don't have to use it anytime soon. I've put about 100 more miles on it since then. If only it were as cheap an easy to change the tire on the old clunker car in my garage.

And, oh yeah, yesterday I got waved off again, at the International District Station in the bus tunnel. Two bikes
already on the rack meant I had to wait for a later bus. Luckily I knew my options, and a different bus with a more problematic -- but still doable -- route came by a couple minutes later, so not much was lost. I've spent way too much time waiting for buses this past month, and not nearly enough time actually riding them.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Earlier this month I bike-commuted the 22+ miles from my home in North Seattle to my office in Tukwila again. About 2/3 of the way there, I flatted. Doggone. I've only flatted once before on my road rocket, and that time was about 20 miles into a different 22+ mile commute, but it happened less than half a mile from the shop where I bought the bike, easy walking distance for them to take care of it for me.

This time I flatted miles from any similar services, near the First Ave S bridge. I had my pump, a patch kit, and tools, of course, but after getting the wheel and tire off, the pump didn't seem to be getting air into the tube. No problem, there was a bus stop nearby and it would surely take me closer to where I wanted to go. Unfortunately, beyond the route number there was no information at the bus stop describing where that bus actually went. Still no problem, as I had a cell phone and schedules for other bus lines with me, from which I got a rider service number to call.

But no good ... this bus didn't go in the right direction at all, and the service rep I spoke with told me my best option was to go 5 miles back to Spokane Street and transfer to a better bus there. OK, I walked my bike across the street to catch the recommended bus, and once there on a bench in the shade, I had another look at my tube. It'd be 20 minutes before the next bus came along, and I had nothing better to do. Being able to sit was a big help, and I quickly figured out that the pump was actually working -- the twin pinch-flat holes in the tube were big enough that as fast as I could pump air in, it came right back out again. I patched the holes and put everything back together, then fully inflated the tire. The bus finally comes by as I'm almost finished, but I think I have everything under control and wave the driver past. Then I figure out that the tube isn't holding pressure, but I have enough to be able to get me half a mile farther along, where there's a bus stop for a different line. After arriving I stop and check the tube, and it has gotten really low -- the patch is leaking. I sit down on another bus bench to take everything apart again -- this bus won't take me anywhere near where I want to go, either. Sure enough, one of the holes has found an outlet along a tube seam. A second patch overlapping the first did the trick, at least for the time being. I never did see the second bus. I hop on the bike and continue riding. For the first couple miles I stop every couple minutes to check the tube, and while it wouldn't hold full pressure, it held steady at about 3/4 pressure -- maybe 60 psi. I stopped checking so often, just one more time with about 3 miles to go and it held, so I biked myself the rest of the way to work. It took more than 3 hours, twice as long as usual. Next time I'm at the bike shop I'll have to get an extra tube for my pack.

The return trip was fine, though I didn't ride all the way home, just 3 miles to the bus stop, then on a King County Metro bus to downtown and then a #5 to Upper Fremont, then biked the rest of the way home without further incident.

At least not that day.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Youthful exuberance

As I begin this, I'm on a Friday evening bus from Tukwila along with several kids whose normal communication seems to be conducted at a full yell. It seems friendly enough, if extremely loud, even when one of them is actually threatening to kill another, which has happened several times, or referring to each other at full volume as "fat f*ck" or various other terms of shared identity that seem to be used by some high schoolers these days, a phenomenon confirmed by a high school teacher I spoke with the next day. Those wacky kids. But of course this quickly cleared out the back of the bus of several adults who did NOT seem to want to be in the middle of THAT. The loud kids got off at a stop in the International District, and it was nice to exist in a state of normal ambient noise for the rest of my ride into downtown, where I transferred to another bus home.