Word on the Streets

Rear Flats ~ Stumped or Stomped?

I got a flat tire on my bicycle this week.

So did Thor.

Despite the obvious differences, the one thing that was different about our flat experiences was that I had to change my own tire.

Does concern about getting a flat tire keep you off your bicycle?  Did you get a flat and not know how to change it, so your bicycle sits in your garage?  Does a fear of what to do if you got a flat REAR tire make you begin to sweat lightly and your heart begin to beat a little faster?  Are you a woman and feel that mechanical thing-a-ma-jigs are not for you?

Well the best way to conquer a fear is be prepared and be able to look fear in the face.  I don't let flat tires ruin my ride, I know how to change them.  I did not used to.  I am a woman.  I am not into thing-a-ma-jigs.  I used to be intimidated with the thought of changing a flat tire.  But I ride a lot, and sooner or later, it was bound to happen.  Especially in the city, you see a lot of debris ~ glass is one of the most frequent obstacles I ride through.  This time my foe was a construction staple - big and bad.  Click, click, click and before I knew it I had wedged it into my wheel and phhhhhhh....my tire went flat.  I could have panicked, thrown up my arms, flagged someone down or walked home ~ but that's not me.  I like to be prepared.

Many times before I ever got my first flat on my bicycle, I practiced changing my tire and tubes at home.  My husband has been a racer and he is always changing wheels, tires, bicycle parts, etc.  Years ago I asked him to show me how to change a tire and tube, and I asked him to show me more than once.  Then I changed a tire and tube, more than once in a no-pressure situation.  With the changing of seasons I always am changing tires to put my bicycle on a trainer, because I have new tires for the year, because I want to switch tires between bicycles, etc.  Everytime I need to change a tire, I do it by myself in the comfort of my own home so I have gotten used to it and know how to trouble shoot.

What I used to find the most intimidating was changing the rear tire  - there is a lot going on back there and it can seem daunting.  Again, my patient husband explained how to do the rear tire change as he showed me, and then I practiced at every opportunity.  Then one day last summer it happened, I got a dreaded flat, and not only a flat, but the much dreaded rear flat.  Same as this week.  Two for two.  What did I do?

I always carry the proper tools with me every time I leave my house on a bicycle:  spare tube, tire levers, bicycle pump.  I know how to use these tools, I flip my bicycle over, I take off my wheel, and I begin.  15-20 minutes later, the tube is changed, tire is back on, and the wheel is back on the bike.  Did my hands get dirty?  Heck yeah, but that is the evidence of an empowered and self sufficient woman!

You can rely on the kindness of strangers, or you can be self sufficient and get on with your ride and enjoy the day.

Do you know how to change a flat and how did you learn?  What have you found to be the best local resources for classes on how to change a flat?

Here is some helpful information on changing your rear tire.  Please add to this list in the comments section:

This video is a bit more geared towards racers, but I agree with much of what they say and find it helpful.  They repeat the practice in a no-stress situation sentiment.


Places such as REI offer classes, there is one this week.  Info here.

Grease Rag Ride & Wrench is a good local resource.  Info here.

Bicycle News Reporting

On my bicycle ride home after watching the documentary movie “Page One: Inside the New York Times,” http://www.magpictures.com/pageone/ I thought about the role media in general and newspapers in specific play in our lives. In the world of bicycle news, too often the focus is on injury and death and not on bicycling as an alternative transportation mode. At any given time, a perusal of google news/bicycle will yield mostly stories involving death, personal injury or crimes where either the perpetrator or victim was riding a bicycle. As irony would have it, the movie spends substantial time on how news aggregators, such as google news, will affect the sale of paper copies of newspapers and thus their future revenue.

The point here is that the movie portrayed newspaper reports as humans who just want to get the story right. So, if you are a bicycle advocate, and if you know a news reporter, invite him or her to coffee or lunch to discuss your bicycle advocacy ideas. We need to get away from the death and destruction stories and get ahead of the push back as bikes become more prevalent. And, if you do not know a reporter, they are easy to find on the web site of any reputable publication or media outlet. Find her or him and ask for a meeting or offer to buy coffee or lunch. Establish a rapport and follow a career. This way, we as bicyclists will be in a better position to protect the gains made, and secure future funding for bicycle infrastructure improvements as this economy restructures and transportation modes evolve.

[The views expressed here are mine alone and do not represent a position of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition.]


Can my 67-year-old Mom bike in Downtown Mpls?

My mom drove up from southern MN for a national handbell conference, and is making a few trips between the downtown hotel and my Uptown home (1.7 miles one way).  Whe she asked if I'd drive her down and drop her off (during rush hour), I pushed back and suggested we ride together on Nice Ride bikes.  (Maybe I pushed back too hard?) She was pretty resistant.

At any rate, when she arrived last night, she was very gracious. (She's a gracious mom, and I tried to help with the offer of two chaperones and a 24-hour ride coupon. The beautiful weather and plenty of time helped, too.)  We grabbed some Nice Rides, hopped on Bryant at Franklin, and tooled through Loring Park and the Loring Greenway to a couple blocks from the hotel.  She registered, and we rode back.

The short answer?  Yes, she can.

She seemed to enjoy the ride -- she rides plenty at home, and goes on an annual group bike vacation with friends -- but said she could never repeat that route on her own.  While pleasant, it is a hard-to-follow route if you don't know your way.  There are lots of turns, no signage, and the Loring Greenway is hard to find, especially on the park end.  And she's never claimed she had a good sense of direction.

My other thought - what's with not having a curb cut on the Nicollet Mall end, forcing bikes to travel half a block on the sidewalk before an escape?

She drove herself to the hotel this morning, and won't be back for a few days.  I hope we can repeat the trip (with a guide) Sunday morning and evening for the last day of the conference, though.

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