The Race of Truth

We’ve all felt it; going over a bump or through a corner and feeling that unmistakable bit of slop in the handling that sends your heart straight to your feet. Hoping you’re wrong, you bounce the tire as you roll along, confirming you’ve got a puncture.

But it’s not really flat – not yet, at least. Just softening. The question is, do you stop or do you try to keep going and hope its a slow enough leak to finish the ride? Barring that, can you at least get to a comfortable spot to change the tire, such as the little café near the turnaround point. Everyone who has ever changed a tire knows that changing a tire with a coffee at hand is a civilized way to go about such things.

Or, hypothetically, you realize that you’ve forgotten to bring the little tool that removes your valve extender and valve core, making it impossible to change your tire. Which means you are now committed to a race against your slow leak to get home.

Forget the contre la montre; the real race of truth is the race against the escape of air in your tire as you speed home at full gas in an attempt to avoid a long wobbly walk of shame in cycling shoes.

Spoiler alert: I made it home. Hypothetically.

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70 Replies to “The Race of Truth”

  1. I once spent many kms trying to figure out why my rim was making a noise every time I stood up out of the saddle. Finally, my rear wheel got squirrely and I knew. I also knew I did not have another 2.5 kms left in that tube before my normal cafe stop.

  2. Had a puncture on my Sunday morning ride which was the first puncture I’ve had for roughly two years. No chance of getting home on it & had to repair. I blame myself.

    Spent Saturday cleaning the #1 & switching the Campy Zonda wheels from my #9 bike to #1. Removed & polished the cassette, lubed the chain, cleaned the Zondas before replacing tube & tyres. Everything was perfect apart from the fact I committed a blatant violation of Rule #40 in my haste to put everything together.

    Did I spend 10 minutes fixing my forgiveable yet not excusable error? Nope, I told myself it was alright as the wheel decal is over the stem hole so technically itwas bending a rule rather than breaking it.

    Fast forward 16 hours or so to the Sunday ride & my rear tyre is flatter than a very flat thing. I also forgot my levers & spare inner tube to also violate Rule #83.

    Luckily I was bailed out by my riding buddies & we were on our merry way again (not before I momentarily lost a quick release spring upon reassembly) whilst the post ride beers were expectedly & deservedly on me.

    I spent rest of the day meditating on the fact that ten minutes on Saturday would’ve saved twenty on Sunday.

    Lessons to be learnt.

  3. I had the slowest of slow leaks on my commuter last year. It would take a few days to get flat. I was such an assfaced bastard about it that I went a few months before I pulled and patched the tube. My wife flatted on the same bike two weeks ago. I just swapped it out for an extra wheel I had in the shed.

    Goddamn, now that I write this out I realize I need to get it together! What is becoming of me?

  4. Due to the current puncture situation on my #1 I dare not comment on this subject.

    A couple of weeks ago I contemplated riding my commuter on the back rim to the railway station rather than stop and sort out the puncture. Common sense prevailed and fortunately there was a (distinctly non local and very chain-y) BS in the vicinity to pick up some spare tubes.

  5. Hypothetically speaking I would say the race is truly on, not against the clock but you vs. the air slowly leaking. Full on gas, in hopes of not looking totally insane or like a NYC bike messenger whipping through traffic until you find a safe and fitting area to change said tire/tube or await assistance.  To go too long in the race you bet more than just dignity- rim, bike, skin; all calculations that must be made at high speeds while thinking ahead several turns trying to judge how much air will still be in said tire when you hit the turns at such and such speed(s) and can you pull it off safely?

    Add a few hills and it might pay in spades to use the time wisely and ride to a good area to pull off and change the tire under a nice shade tree rather than bombing down at break-neck speed on a mushy tire.

  6. I made it home. Hypothetically.

    Does that mean the flatted FMB is only hypothetically flatted for the purposes of the article? Or will your next piece be about the joys of learning to repair your own tubulars? I’ll look forward to it as I’ve got a few in the garage that need repairing.

    That is all that I’m willing to say on the subject of puntures.

  7. @frank

    if only you hadn’t wasted your can o’ magic foam on some jackass’s cut-up clincher rig recently…

  8. “slow enough leak to finish the ride,” “little café near the turnaround point.” What are these luxuries you speak of? Must be some kind of Seattle thing . . .

    Hopefully this article will not jinx me on tonight’s ride. I rarely flat but it’s never of the “maybe I can make it home” type and there are no cafes to be found. They’re quick and if I’m lucky a gas station may be in the vicinity. . . . I also usually flat in the winter when there’s more crap on the roads. Nothing like changing a tube in 30 degree weather.

  9. @Stephen

    I once spent many kms trying to figure out why my rim was making a noise every time I stood up out of the saddle. Finally, my rear wheel got squirrely and I knew. I also knew I did not have another 2.5 kms left in that tube before my normal cafe stop.

    I ride tubs, and the good news there is you can actually ride home on a totally flat tire, although it doesn’t do a lot for the handling quality of the bike, à la Van Summeren.

    I did hit a computer’s hard drive with both wheels and cut through both the front and rear tire and I was  very happy to be on tubs that day as I just rode home gingerly.

  10. Had to drop a buddy of mine on an out and back a couple summers ago, climbing out of some Indian ruins, to make it back to the car in time to outrun a flattening front tire. Felt bad but would have felt worse having to duck walk in.

    Don’t remember if I bought beers out of remorse or not.

  11. Hopefully you have not torned that FMB, with plenty of treadlife left, off that rim. Give that tub 50ml of orangeseal and get that FMB back on the road. I recently got a tread slash on Vitt tub and the tire made one rotation of air loss, then orangeseal choked out a 4mm hole. Rode 60k home and kissed my tub. I have used all the different white latex sealants and orange is the new white. FYI: I tape an extra presta valve to the valve tool.

  12. Few things will have me say adult words in my outside voice like a good tub going soft. Too bad there’s not a pill for that.

  13. I hesitate to make a comment one way other the other for fear that my luck will change.  I may have already said too much…

  14. I too ride tubs… what to do when they wear down? Run it until the canvas shows, handling starts to get dangerous and a high risk of puncture or tear it off and throw a new one on?

    I’m at that point now and by not making the decision (budgetatus vs conserative logic) I am making the decsion to run the gauntlet…

    I wish I knew the answer.

    In my younger more foolish days I ran clinchers and have ridden home a couple of times with a flat no problem….well, no major problem. Just make sure you take the tube out, don’t go any faster than your grandmother can walk and forget about cornering!

  15. Couple years ago around this time I punctured a nice, low mileage tubular that sealant “almost” fixed. Just a persistent slow leak, and the plug of latex would occasionally give out, usually resealing itself enough to keep riding. Being cheap and lazy I resolved to finish out the season before replacing it. Careful monitoring of pressure and a few ccs of sealant now and then got maybe another 1,000 Km out of it, until rapid deflation on a twisty descent. The tubular didn’t quite roll off, just squished to one side so the edge of the rim made contact with the pavement. Luckily it was the rear. The sound of a carbon rim riding directly on asphalt is pretty much the sound of money being sucked into the void.

  16. @frank

    Every time I have an incident, I am pushed closer to tubs. In fact, N+1 will be achieved this fall and it will likely be an 11 spd cassette, meaning not compatible with my current rig, and I may upgrade to the proper, pure set of wheels.

  17. I ride clinchers with friends who ride tubs. Nothing more irritating when they put in the sealant, pump up, we get going only for the sealant to give way again repeated three times in one ride…

  18. @Jay

    I hesitate to make a comment one way other the other for fear that my luck will change.  I may have already said too much…

    Shhhhh! They will hear you!

  19. @mauibike

    Hopefully you have not torned that FMB, with plenty of treadlife left, off that rim. Give that tub 50ml of orangeseal and get that FMB back on the road. I recently got a tread slash on Vitt tub and the tire made one rotation of air loss, then orangeseal choked out a 4mm hole. Rode 60k home and kissed my tub. I have used all the different white latex sealants and orange is the new white. FYI: I tape an extra presta valve to the valve tool.

    I’m intrigued! Are you putting that in post-puncture or are you putting it in the tire prophylactically?

  20. @wiscot

    “slow enough leak to finish the ride,” “little café near the turnaround point.” What are these luxuries you speak of? Must be some kind of Seattle thing . . .

    Hopefully this article will not jinx me on tonight’s ride. I rarely flat but it’s never of the “maybe I can make it home” type and there are no cafes to be found. They’re quick and if I’m lucky a gas station may be in the vicinity. . . . I also usually flat in the winter when there’s more crap on the roads. Nothing like changing a tube in 30 degree weather.

    I’ve had some very interesting experiences using CO2 at or near freezing in the rain…chuck frozen to core, unscrew…core stuck inside chuck…tire remarkably flat after very fast release of air through chuckless tire.

    I use pumps now, unless I’m racing.

  21. @Owen

    Had to drop a buddy of mine on an out and back a couple summers ago, climbing out of some Indian ruins, to make it back to the car in time to outrun a flattening front tire. Felt bad but would have felt worse having to duck walk in.

    Don’t remember if I bought beers out of remorse or not.

    Which indian ruins? Sounds amazing!

    @Ccos

    Few things will have me say adult words in my outside voice like a good tub going soft. Too bad there’s not a pill for that.

    Especially a gorgeous FMB. Its this college neightborhood that happens to have one of my favorite climbs, but the kids can’t seem to keep from throwing heaps of glass out on the road.

  22. @Puffy

    I too ride tubs… what to do when they wear down? Run it until the canvas shows, handling starts to get dangerous and a high risk of puncture or tear it off and throw a new one on?

    I’m at that point now and by not making the decision (budgetatus vs conserative logic) I am making the decsion to run the gauntlet…

    I wish I knew the answer.

    In my younger more foolish days I ran clinchers and have ridden home a couple of times with a flat no problem….well, no major problem. Just make sure you take the tube out, don’t go any faster than your grandmother can walk and forget about cornering!

    I find myself changing them before I start getting flats. Usually about once a year…but it is not cheap.

    @Stephen

    @frank

    Every time I have an incident, I am pushed closer to tubs. In fact, N+1 will be achieved this fall and it will likely be an 11 spd cassette, meaning not compatible with my current rig, and I may upgrade to the proper, pure set of wheels.

    I feel like a drug dealer, pushing people to tubs. I’ll never go back; absolutely love them. Even if the ride quality were the same, the joy and connection of gluing on a tub and cornering hard and feeling it grip the road is worth it to me.

  23. @frank

    I rode home with the co2 chuck still attached to the (broken) valve stem once. Probably about 25kms. It was in Waucousta and there was a fair bit of snow on the ground . . . Fat fingers once frozen really didn’t want to work.

    We had some wicked storms roll through here on Sunday night – hail, 80mph gusts, torrential rain, the whole shebang. Result? Tons of twig, branch and leaf debris to contend with last night. Luckily, no punctures resulted!

  24. @frank

    I had the orangeseal in tub before flat. I am sure you can resurrect the FMB with the orange. It would kill me to put that FMB in the trash.

  25. Jesus H, there needs to be a rule about even mentioning the P or F word. That is like Hamlet to a thespian ( not being a thesp precludes me from the jinx)  If you say the word you’ll get one, sure as G wears white jawbones!

  26. @mauibike

    Does the orange seal last indefinitely in a tubular? I’ve only ever used Pitstop after the event and I’ve found that while it’s saved the day and got me home (including 135 km of the London Cogal), once it’s in the end is nigh for the tubular in that it’ll eventually harden at best leaving a solid lump at the bottom of the tube or glues the insides of the tire together if it’s left long enough to deflate. Because of that I’ll carry it as an emergency measure if I’m going to be along way from home with little chance of being picked up if I’ve already used my spare tubular.

    Otherwise, I’ll use the spare to get home and then send the flatted one off to get repaired. I should really learn to repair them myself.

  27. I once rode over a screw that some plonker left in the middle of the road. Luckily the screw did not damage to my rim as it shredded my tire, tube and the tip of the screw punctured the rim tape and went in the spoke channel in my rim. Stupidly I repaired the tire on the spot. Two days later I had another flat. Repaired it. Another week later, another flat. This went on for about 2 months with flats every week. Until I finally figured out the when the screw punctured my rim tape, it exposed an inflated tube to the sharp edge of the spoke channel…with enough time and enough pressure and friction I eventually would flat. Many stops, repairs and much cursing was involved. Needless to say, I’m pretty meticulous about checking and rechecking every flat repair I do each time now. Didn’t flat for over a year after rotating my rim tape.

  28. @frank

    I feel like a drug dealer, pushing people to tubs. I’ll never go back; absolutely love them. Even if the ride quality were the same, the joy and connection of gluing on a tub and cornering hard and feeling it grip the road is worth it to me.

    When I started racing, it had to be on tubs… racing on clinchers seemed like an abomination even back then. The rot has slowly moved on from there into the ‘occasional ride’ bikes. I used to gleefully sneek a training ride in on the race wheels and now I am on the precipice of replacing my last set of clinchers (training wheels) with Tubs. If money were no object I would have already I think.

  29. I love me my FMB paris-roubaix for road racing, for sure. Best feeling ride evar. Had one simply explode one race mid pack with no obvious inciting object. Another developed a slow leak which some sealant I got many more races out of. Might still be riding it, actually.

  30. @Phillip Mercer

    I ride clinchers with friends who ride tubs. Nothing more irritating when they put in the sealant, pump up, we get going only for the sealant to give way again repeated three times in one ride…

    Unneccessarily delaying the bunch is a concern I have always had on any wheel/tyre. It’s why I use CO2 on bunch rides… hang the expense, it’s about respecting others and getting moving again ASAP. I’ve just put tubs on my latest vintage build which I plan to ride on bunch rides. I will be carrying a new, spare tub, no latex simply because of the problem you mention. It seems to me these days the concept of respecting others, putting others first is lost on most but I won’t get on that soap box here. I would not hessitate to tell the bunch to ride off without me if I were to be in the situation you mention above.

  31. @chris

    Have not been on Orange long enough for a report. It just filled the biggest hole with the least amount of air loss, I have ever seen. The other latex stuff only worked about half the time and the other half the time it was spraying all over me.

  32. @mauibike

    @chris

    Have not been on Orange long enough for a report. It just filled the biggest hole with the least amount of air loss, I have ever seen. The other latex stuff only worked about half the time and the other half the time it was spraying all over me.

    Yep, mauibike and I agree on this. The orange really works well (it has nano particles in it, so it must be bitchin’.). Does anyone need a large volume of cafe latex? It seals like ass. I’ve put the orange in, after the fact, on two slow leaks on two wheels. Both are still going strong even though the sealant has dried up in the innertube. And one resealed on the road in seconds when the sealant was not dried out. It’s the same stuff I use for tubeless.

    So my on-the-road repair kit is an old visine bottle that holds about 80ml of sealant and a syringe. The syringe holds one of those core removing tools. Best of all, you can have a syringe on your bike so everyone knows you are a cyclist/doper.

    Speaking of dopers, not TD, but didn’t that red bearded Italian Paolini of Katusha get booted out of the Tour for cocaine? That was pretty hush hush. Who does cocaine anymore? That does not get him fired? It was during the friggin’ race?

  33. @Puffy

    I too ride tubs… what to do when they wear down? Run it until the canvas shows, handling starts to get dangerous and a high risk of puncture or tear it off and throw a new one on?

    I’m at that point now and by not making the decision (budgetatus vs conserative logic) I am making the decsion to run the gauntlet…

    I wish I knew the answer.

    In my younger more foolish days I ran clinchers and have ridden home a couple of times with a flat no problem….well, no major problem. Just make sure you take the tube out, don’t go any faster than your grandmother can walk and forget about cornering!

    What is the reasoning behind taking the punctured tube out of a clincher tire for a delicate ride home? I done the ride, but never considered taking the tube out. Thanks!

  34. @frank

    Wupatki and Sunset Crater national monuments, they run together outside of Flagstaff AZ. Great ride to go out and loop them. During summer a popular thing is to go during a full moon and ride them without lights. I’ve never done that so I can’t comment on the relative safety.

  35. @Puffy

    @Phillip Mercer

    I ride clinchers with friends who ride tubs. Nothing more irritating when they put in the sealant, pump up, we get going only for the sealant to give way again repeated three times in one ride…

    Unneccessarily delaying the bunch is a concern I have always had on any wheel/tyre. It’s why I use CO2 on bunch rides… hang the expense, it’s about respecting others and getting moving again ASAP. I’ve just put tubs on my latest vintage build which I plan to ride on bunch rides. I will be carrying a new, spare tub, no latex simply because of the problem you mention. It seems to me these days the concept of respecting others, putting others first is lost on most but I won’t get on that soap box here. I would not hessitate to tell the bunch to ride off without me if I were to be in the situation you mention above.

    waiting is voluntary on bunch rides, they’re for riding not standing around while people sort their shit.

  36. @Ron

    What is the reasoning behind taking the punctured tube out of a clincher tire for a delicate ride home? I done the ride, but never considered taking the tube out. Thanks!

    The first two times I had a flat close to home (and had already used my spare) I found the tube to move around and bunch up a bit (creating a lupy spot) when it is totally flat. The handling was better without the tube in. It’s still very hairy especially if the clincher is a loose fit to the rim.

  37. @piwakawaka

    waiting is voluntary on bunch rides, they’re for riding not standing around while people sort their shit.

    True, it is. However around here we tend to stick together and look after each other. That’s why I aim to make any stop as short as possible! Anyone causing delays unnessesarily is told about it in short order.

  38. @LIIIXI

    Record carbon.

    @Owen

    @frank

    Wupatki and Sunset Crater national monuments, they run together outside of Flagstaff AZ. Great ride to go out and loop them. During summer a popular thing is to go during a full moon and ride them without lights. I’ve never done that so I can’t comment on the relative safety.

    Sounds incredible. That’s one reason I have now to go visit AZ.

    @Gianni

    @mauibike

    @chris

    Have not been on Orange long enough for a report. It just filled the biggest hole with the least amount of air loss, I have ever seen. The other latex stuff only worked about half the time and the other half the time it was spraying all over me.

    Yep, mauibike and I agree on this. The orange really works well (it has nano particles in it, so it must be bitchin’.). Does anyone need a large volume of cafe latex? It seals like ass. I’ve put the orange in, after the fact, on two slow leaks on two wheels. Both are still going strong even though the sealant has dried up in the innertube. And one resealed on the road in seconds when the sealant was not dried out. It’s the same stuff I use for tubeless.

    So my on-the-road repair kit is an old visine bottle that holds about 80ml of sealant and a syringe. The syringe holds one of those core removing tools. Best of all, you can have a syringe on your bike so everyone knows you are a cyclist/doper.

    Speaking of dopers, not TD, but didn’t that red bearded Italian Paolini of Katusha get booted out of the Tour for cocaine? That was pretty hush hush. Who does cocaine anymore? That does not get him fired? It was during the friggin’ race?

    GENIUS. And supervised by a cat named Magnus gives it all the credibility it needs.

  39. @Owen

    @frank

    Wupatki and Sunset Crater national monuments, they run together outside of Flagstaff AZ. Great ride to go out and loop them. During summer a popular thing is to go during a full moon and ride them without lights. I’ve never done that so I can’t comment on the relative safety.

    Ah, a great ride.  I need to make a journey up there to ride in the cool pines and get some climbing in.  I can actually ride tubs in Flagstaff this time of year.  In the desert, our summer storms wash billions of thorny bits (from cactus, palo verdes, etc)into the roads, making tubs a big risk.

  40. @MangoDave

    @Owen

    @frank

    Wupatki and Sunset Crater national monuments, they run together outside of Flagstaff AZ. Great ride to go out and loop them. During summer a popular thing is to go during a full moon and ride them without lights. I’ve never done that so I can’t comment on the relative safety.

    Ah, a great ride.  I need to make a journey up there to ride in the cool pines and get some climbing in.  I can actually ride tubs in Flagstaff this time of year.  In the desert, our summer storms wash billions of thorny bits (from cactus, palo verdes, etc)into the roads, making tubs a big risk.

    Yeah I picked up my habit of front and back Gatorskins in grad school at ASU, then kept it in Flagstaff. Glad I still have the habit, because eastern Washington is lousy with tackweed.

  41. Exceedingly scenic area to ride, although unlike WA there aren’t a ton of paved back roads so road riding is limited to a handful of roads, most of them highways. Flagstaff is a town of 70,000 people or so with 8 breweries, so one’s recovery options are staggering.

  42. @piwakawaka

    That might be how it is here, but it might surprise you to know that many bunch rides around the world (and even NZ) have a policy of waiting for people to effect repairs, so standing around in those cases can indeed be a valid concern.

  43. @Oli

    @piwakawaka

    That might be how it is here, but it might surprise you to know that many bunch rides around the world (and even NZ) have a policy of waiting for people to effect repairs, so standing around in those cases can indeed be a valid concern.

    maybe they just don’t wait for me!

  44. Another good pocket-sized sealant container is a Kodak lens cleaner bottle. Kodak doesn’t make it any longer, but the Tiffen version appears to be identical (fluid and bottle). The little flip up spout is square, and about the same diameter as a valve stem. A 3cm length of 1/4” vinyl tubing press fits over both to squirt the sealant in. This method even works with non removable cores.

    The bottle only holds about 40 ml, but I’ve found that half that will usually do the trick. The hole in the spout is quite narrow, so I enlarged it with a drill bit to avoid clogging. I’ve been using the same one for three or four years and it hasn’t leaked.

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