Foreign Objects of Deflation

This post is dedicated to my nephew Elder, who is at the beginnings of cycling to school and learning what it's like to rely on his trusty steel steed.

Also, special thanks to my cycling buddy Joe S. who supplied the video you'll encounter at the end of this post, if, dear cyclist, you make that far.

If you've missed any of my previous posts, and you've got some time to waste, you can check them out here:

On to the main attraction:

If you cycle to work often, you'll eventually confront a roadside flat. This is no ordinary flat. 

This is the “I’m going to be late to the office!” type flat. A flat with a side of mild panic.

It’s easy to get all worked up.  Yet a calm head must prevail. You’ve got spares and tools, so just get to work on your repair.  The last flat took me (yes I was timing it) about 19 minutes to fix.

The serious cycling commuter does not skimp on protection against punctures.  Each has their own preferred tire strategy.

For me I have chosen Schwalbe Little Big Ben tires.  (Pronounced "schwallbuh")  $40.00 each plus shipping.

Many will go further and pump anti-flat goo into their tubes or perhaps buy tubes that are already pre-'gooed'.

Because I am stubborn, I have forgone goo-y tubes, letting my tires and their extra layers of anti-flat nylon webbing and tough latex handle the issue at hand.

However, given the fact that I am here, writing about getting flats - which means I'm out there getting and fixing flats on the road side, I should probably up my game somewhat regarding flat protection.

Note to self: Get some tire goo. Overall though, the Little Big Ben does very well on its own.

For the amount of street miles I accumulate, I often hear that dreaded sound. Every cyclist knows it well.

A loud yet muffled crunch or pop. An indication that your tire has just been tested against a foreign object of deflation.

The experienced biker will ride on and have a moment of pleading to the Gods of bike tires.

Begging that the sinister piece of junk will not force you to take an unwanted pit stop.  The riding gets a little tentative while you wait to "feel" the outcome. Was my appeal successful?

Any resulting softness or strange handling that results means that your tire is deflating.

But most of the time, the tire (but more importantly me)  dodge the bullet and we are allowed to continue on like nothing ever happened.

Three cheers for my Little Big Ben's.

Sometimes the noise of the pop and deflation are so intertwined, so tied together, that instantly you are aware of your plight.

Pop... ssffffpppfssssssssst..... Shit. Game over.  At least you get to skip the cyclist benediction. It won't do you any good now, flat-boy.

Heavily pitted and scarred, it's obvious my rear tire has had many battles. In fact, on close inspection you'd swear that you're looking at the surface of the moon. 

And I'll tell you, there are some evil pieces of debris out there. They lie in wait for their moment when you're distracted.

A regular commuter has their concentration split between many facets of riding. Traffic mostly. Other cyclists sometimes. Upcoming intersection always. Pedestrians wandering.  Puddles of mystery liquids flowing hither and yither.

Eventually you have a few moments to study the road ahead. In my morning ride, this consists of upcoming potholes, ruts, construction patchwork and other uneven surfaces. Yet these stealthy objects of deflation still go undetected.  Then...

"Pop! . . . Please dear God of bike tires and flats and all things inflatable, please allow me undeterred passage. Plu-eeeaaassseee!"

As an examples of foreign objects of roadside deflation, take a look:

metal shard
A metal shard. Presumably from the new construction of the Blossom Plaza in Chinatown just north of DTLA. I almost cut myself removing it from the tire. You little bastard. I really enjoyed my time on North Broadway repairing this flat.


A glass shard.  There are so many broken glass bits out there, it's the number one type of road debris. Most pieces are sort of rounded in shape, presumably from auto safety glass. 
This one managed to bypass all the protective layers in the tire that lie directly under the tread bottom, and chisel itself right up into the tire sidewall. You little bastard. I had a pleasant excursion repairing this flat at the corner of Cypress and Arvia.

Now as much as I’d like to think that these examples prove my flat-repair manliness, nothing compares to the next example provided my friend Joe.

Although not cycling to work, he was mountain biking on one of our favorite trails and got something stuck in his rear tire. 

That something ended up being the ultimate foreign object of deflation.  Notice that before he removes it, the goo inside his tire enables the tire to retain full air pressure. The power of goo should be lauded.

Watch what happens next:

So there you have it, examples of all types of objects that are determined to puncture your tire.

Remember your last flat?  What got you? Metal, glass or nail?  As a fellow cyclist, I can relate :)  Leave a comment, the password is: life is good


Comments (4) -

Patrick O'Grady

I don't ride to work, because I haven't had a job for ... good Lord, is it 25 years now? Hell yes. Unemployable and proud of it.

But I ride, and here in the Duke City it's almost always puncture vine (the goathead thorn) that sets me afoot. Occasionally a cactus thorn; now and then a stretch of broken glass (New Mexicans recycle their bottles by throwing them at bike lanes in the mistaken belief that they turn into asphalt); rarely a pinch flat.

Rocking Schwalbe Little Big Bens helps, as do goopy tubes. But back in the day, these were not always a solid (har de har har) solution.

When I still raced 'cross I knew a mechanic who would use a horse hypo to pump Slime into tubular tires, which even then were expensive as hell. I was always flatting at this one thorn-heavy Denver-area course and it was breaking my balls along with my bank account. So I had this dude treat my tires.

Next race I'm barreling along in midpack, serene in the belief that I had been rendered thornproof, when a huge goathead lodged in the front tire. "Aroint thee," sez I, flicking it away with one gloved hand.

And that's when the Slime started shooting out, like the money shot in some alien porn flick, jets of green goo smacking me in the gob and glasses. I got Slimed worse than Bill Murray in "Ghostbusters."


Oh, those goadheads!  I've not had a tussle with one of those for quite a while.  But perhaps I've just jinxed myself.

And I remember when green slime was new and gave it a try. The result being goop all over my shop floor, rim, tire... ugh.  Didn't end up on my face though, man that's a funny story - thanks for sharing.

When Stan's emerged, I was hesitant.  But sort of had no choice when the next bike came with tubeless rims.   A better experience, but still some evidence of shenanigans on my shop floor.   At least it works reliably out on the road and trail against goatheads and their ilk.

As for my buddy Joe, he had no chance. I've never seen such an exodus of goo.  Yikes!

Lyz O'Keefe
Lyz O'Keefe 11/14/2016 3:56:21 PM

Sorry to laugh-out-loud Doug but that was hilarious and so well written.  I've been there and I feel your pain.


Thanks Lyz. May the Gods of all things inflatable respond to your plea next time you hear a popping crunching sound under your tire.  

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