You know that saying “X is like riding a bicycle, you never forget how…” I use this phrase a lot. “Driving a trolley bus is like riding a bicycle – A 20-ton electrically powered bicycle” is a typical thing you might hear me say. (And, yes, driving trolleys after a long absence is kind of like riding a bicycle, but that’s another post) The other day I found out that changing tires on your bike is NOT like riding a bicycle – sometimes you DO forget how or are not as careful as you once were. I probably should have consulted the late Sheldon Brown on this subject but then I wouldn’t have this mildly interesting story to write about, now would I?
I have a set of Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires that were languishing on my “rain” bike, a Trek Hybrid, that I don’t ride very often. The Supremes are lighter, have better flat protection, and have a more comfortable ride than the Marathons on my primary commuter bike, a year-old Surly Cross-Check. Since the better tires were on the bike I rode the least, I decided to swap them. I started by pulling the front tires off both bikes, swapped and remounted them with appropriate tubes, and inflated them to their appropriate pressure. As I was working on the same set of steps for the rear tires, I heard a loud BOOM!!! Startled, I looked over and saw that tube inside the Marathon tire had exploded with enough force to partially pull the tire off the rim. Oops. At least the tube self-destructed before I took the bike out for a ride.
Since 2000 I have only purchased flat-resistant tires and can only remember having to change one flat since then. Frankly, flat resistant tires have helped to erode my tire changing skills since I haven’t been forced to fix flats and mount tires. This puts them into the same category as spell-checkers and calculators – I can no longer spell or multiply numbers in my head as well as I could when I was young. Sigh, “progress”. In the process of mounting the Marathons on my Trek, I must have pinched the tube between the tire and the rim and damaged the tube – a notoriously thin and cheap Cheng Shin tube that came with the Trek. All of this leads to a confirmation of my long-held belief in focusing on quality when making purchasing decisions, especially when safety is at stake. Ironically, part of this project involved replacing the tubes on my Cross-Check with a set of higher quality Schwalbe tubes. For the uninitiated, Schwalbe is a German company that is particularly fussy about the specs for the tires and tubes that they manufacture. While the blowout was most likely caused by improper mounting, I’m convinced the stronger and thicker Schwalbe tube would have survived my botched mounting job. At $7-$11.50 per tube, the cost isn’t extravagant for a margin of additional safety. Time to head back to the bike shop and buy another set of Schwalbe tubes for my “rain” bike – Question is, did I mount the tires on the Cross-Check properly? Guess I’ll find out.