Rear Wheel Flats

Considering the title of this blog, it’s high time I tackled the cyclist’s blight – the flat tyre.

Over the years I have suffered my fair share of punctures.  They usually happen in the middle of nowhere, in wet weather, and I have forgotten to bring my puncture repair kit.  Once I even had the temerity to call a friend and ask him to pick me, and my bicycle, up. He duly turned up in his sports car and gave me a lift back to civilisation – which in this case was my local bike shop.

The last time I suffered a flat tyre was a bitterly cold day, and, as usual, I had cheerfully cycled off into the countryside without my puncture repair kit.  I was, by my estimation 9 miles from the nearest bike shop, and had no choice but to cycle all the way with a flat rear tyre.  It was on that long haul that I first pondered the mystery of why it always seems to be the back tyre that punctures, and not the front one.  To readers who prefer the comforts of four wheels, or public transport, to the rigours of cycling, a word of explanation.  Fixing a puncture on the rear wheel means taking the wheel off the bicycle so that the tyre can be removed (not always a straightforward task, ), and the inner tube repaired or replaced.  With the exception of fixed wheel bicycles that only have one gear, taking off the rear wheel means extricating the wheel from the gear mechanism and chain.  Once the puncture has been repaired the wheel has to be reunited with the chain and gear cogs.  For someone like me, who has two left hands and four thumbs, this is not as straightforward as it may appear.

The reason for the back tyre puncturing more readily than the front one seemed obvious, once the guy in the bike shop had explained it to me.  There’s considerably more weight on the back tyre since the cyclist is essentially sitting on top of it, thereby putting much more pressure on it than the front tyre.

That got me to thinking about the pressure we are under, and the effects that can have on us.  I know that within moments of suffering a flat tyre I will be swearing out loud.  This irritability only increases as I try to prise the tyre from the wheel rim.  Invariably, my fingers hurt, the tyre will not budge, and the tyre levers – bits of plastic or metal designed to help you lever the tyre away from the wheel itself – come loose from under the rim of the tyre and propel themselves into the undergrowth.  Then I am scrambling around on all fours looking for this vital piece of bike repair kit.

The satisfaction of fixing a puncture and getting bake on the bike never compensates for the aggravation I feel having to fix the puncture.

As if this wasn’t enough, because I am grinding my teeth and cursing, there are times when I do not concentrate properly while fixing the puincture, and I will fail to check the inside of the offending tyre for stray thorns, tiny shards of glass that will mean another puncture within seconds of setting off again.  And so the sorry ritual starts all over once more – except this time I’m really feeling mad!

The scenario I have described mirrors other times when things are not going my way, or I simply do not have the capacity to cope with the usual slings and arrows of daily life.  The fact of the matter is that things don’t always go according to plan.  Sometimes it is my fault (although not always).

It is this lack of capacity to deal with normal life that is hardest for me, and those around me, to cope with.  All of this irritability is excacerbated if I have not slept well, and if I haven’t slept well for a couple of nights in succesion, then I really can charge about like a bear with a sore head – and for no apparent reason. I just see red.

I have been aware of these mood swings for a long time – a matter of years, in fact.  It had never occured to me that this churning malestrom of emotion elbowing its way across my mind, and out of my mouth, was anything other than rational behaviour in the circumstances; be it a flat tyre, stuff not being where I thought it was in the kitchen, that sort of really important stuff.   I am begining to recognise that when I am in a foul mood my sense of perspective runs for cover.

Some things are worth getting angry about – but not the location of a saucepan, or serving spoon.  And certainly not the innocent thorn or shard of glass that forces me off my bike and onto the side of the road, without the courtesy of a warning.

The fact of the matter is that my own weight on the bicycle contributes to the frequency of my rear wheel flats, just as much as the coutryside debris that has every right to be there in the first place.

Sitting here tapping out my thoughts on my life in the saddle it is easy to pause and reflect, recognise where I am going wrong; identify where I need to change. But real life is lived in the saddle, and that’s where I need to retain my sense of perspective.

Remembering to pack my puncture repair kit every time I set off on a ride would be a good place to start.

Recently, and for the first time in a long time, I have been reading ancient philosophy, .  Here are some words of wisdom from an ancient Master – if only I would just pay attention and take these sentiments to heart.

All Things Pass

All things pass

A sunrise does not last all morning

All things pass

A cloudburst does not last all day

All things pass

Nor a sunset all night

All things pass

What always changes?

Earth…sky…thunder…

mountain…water…

wind…fire…lake…

-These change

And if these do not last

Do man’s visions last?

Do man’s illusions?

Take things as they come

All things pass

Lao-Tzu (6th century B.C.E).

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