Saturday, August 26, 2006

I See Broken Glass

Time for an update on my bicycle commuting adventure. I'll admit that I haven't been as steadfast in my dedication to saving the planet by reducing the demand for fossil fuels. This winter, there were some cold, blustery rainy mornings when I just didn't have the gumption to pedal 14km to work through horizontal sheet rain, and so I drove the car instead. Even though I've wussed out more than a few times, I still manage to ride to work about four days out of five,

One of my frustrations on the bicycle is my propensity for getting flat tyres, or "punctures" as they call them here. I would get a flat tyre about once every couple of weeks. I carry extra inner tubes in my backpack and a hand pump and tools to change tubes, but it still takes at least 20 minutes to change a tube and re-inflate the tyre. Plus my hands get filthy with road grime and bike chain oil. I would have to inflate the punctured inner tube to try to locate the leak so that I could use the relative position from the valve stem to find the glass shard still lodged in the tyre. If I didn't locate the glass shard, then I would risk puncturing the new tube as soon as I re-inflated. I learned this the hard way. Aargh!

I was willing to live with this minor incovenience as long as the frquency of punctures was only once every two or three weeks. I found myself becoming quite paranoid about riding over broken glass. I never used to notice how much broken glass there is on the road before. Believe me, it's everywhere! I guess you don't see it unless it affects your life. Remember that goofy line from the movie, "The Sixth Sense" when Haley Joel Osment whispers to his therapist played by Bruce Willis, "I see dead people." Well I see broken glass, for which I've developed an acute sixth sense. If I passed over a particularly bad patch, I would stop my bike ride and carefully inspect each tyre to try pick out the embeded shards before they could do their dirty deed, those bastards.

I finally had to take drastic measures when I got four punctures in three days, two one Friday evening coming home, front and back tyres. Sheesh. One of my colleagues at work told me that they make tyres using Kevlar reinforcing which is the same material they use in bullet-proof vests. Ha! Just what the doctor ordered. I went to the Bike Barn to see if they had stocked these alleged tyres with the space age technology. Indeed they did; Vittoria Kevlar reinforced tyres using belts of dense nylon thread count, 120 threads per inch or about three or four times more dense than my regular tyres. The salesperson assured me that these would be much better at resisting punctures. At $80 per tyre I hope he's right. Steel belted radial car tyres don't even cost that much, but then they're not bullet-proof either.

I've had the new tyres now for two weeks, and I'm happy to report that I have not yet had another puncture. I'm not nearly as paranoid about broken glass anymore, although the rain still annoys me.



Boone said...

Christ, I could use those tires if you ever get tired of them. :)

Internet Street Philosopher said...

Best of luck as you avoid the glass on your bike...

Courtney said...

Hello there. My name is Courtney and I have spoken with Megan a bit on the Expat site. My husband Dan and I are moving to NZ in about 2 weeks after being granted work permits. We don't know where we'll end up yet...but this is a hello from a Bellinghamster and WWU grad.

I know what you mean about being paranoid about broken glass. Dan and I took a tandem bicycle ride down to San Francisco for our honeymoon last year and, as the one in the back seat, I looked out obsessively for glass a lot of the time. Getting flat after flat is very discouraging, but I'm glad to see that you found the Kevlar tires.