Thursday, 9 June 2011

A First Time for Everything.

Since owning my bike I have done about 1,500 miles through the potholes and broken glass on the streets of London and thanks to my “Specialized All Condition Armadillo Elite” tyres, I have yet to have a puncture.

As I was cycling home, I was thinking about an article I had read on “Cycling Info” about a guy who had the same tyre as me and how he had yet to have a puncture in a year (except one when he had a 1 inch nail go straight into the tyre). All in all I was feeling pretty proud of myself that I had (by luck as they came as standard with the bike) got an excellent set of tyres adorning my bike. I kid you not, at the exact moment I was thinking this, there was an almighty bang (OK maybe not military scale big bang but still big enough) and my bike started to act differently.

I had gone over a one inch rusty nail and it had gone straight in – this nail was big enough to take out the tyre of a bus (oh why hadn’t it – or better yet a taxi). So I got off the bike turned it over and at last got to use my trusty saddle bag kit.

I am not one for messing around trying to find a leak and then sticking a patch on it. In my saddle bag I carry

1)      2 tyre levers
2)      A new inner tube
3)      A small gas cylinder with a simple valve
4)      £10
5)      The Garage door opener
6)    Two Alan keys

After flipping the bike over it took about 1 minute to half remove the tyre. I pulled the old inner tube out – releasing the quick release wheel out, I didn’t need to take the wheel off I just lifted it slightly to make a small gap to slip the inner tube out of the frame. Reversed the process to put the new inner tube in, slipped the one half of the tyre back onto the wheel, took out the gas canister which inflated the tyre with great ease and no leakage in about 5 seconds.

I then threw the old inner tube into the bin with the empty gas canister and put the other bits in my now much emptier saddle bag – all in all this process took about 6 minutes, and this for someone who has not fixed a puncture in about 30 years. I was really impressed with how simple the whole process had been – I will list below the products I used at the end of this post.

The only two things that I will do differently next time? Firstly I will not expect other cyclist to stop and offer help (I do this myself when I see someone in difficulty) and secondly I am going to put a couple of thin latex gloves into my saddle pack so I can keep my hands clean and not rely on spitting on a tissue to wipe / half clean my hands.

This was the star of the day (Bontranger Air Rush) - it is really small and light (most of the space is taken by the cartridge, the value is minature) it worked really well it was so easy to use it was ridiculous. Replacement cartridges cost about £5 for two Bontrangers or £12 for 6 innovations ones). 

You need small items that you can cram them all into your saddle pack (I use a 75cc one). If you don't have them all in one place you can be certain you will forget one thing when you actually need them and end up stranded.

I do have a pump at home and I used this to inflate my tires when they lose air – the Co2 cartridge is only there for travel punctures.

This is why everything needs to be compact. Depending on your bike you will be limited to the size of saddle pack you can have. I had to have a medium sized one because any bigger and I wouldn’t be able to attach my rear mud guard to my seat post when I need it. The small one is just pointless unless you want to take a puncture repair kit and Co2 pump. As you can see from above I am able to get everything I need in the mid-sized saddle bag. The tag at the back is handy as I cable tie my rear light to it.

What I most like about this saddle pack is that it has a clip at the top so you can release it very quickly and with no effort from the underside of the saddle and additionally it has a Velcro strap at the front to further stop it from falling off – or being grabbed from you at the traffic lights. I cannot stress enough how size matters (oooer) with all this.

I don’t know there are a hundred and one of these tyre levers on the market, all I can say is that this one worked and didn’t bend. One addition I would have liked to have seen would be a way to use it to pull the offending nail from the tyre (that was quite a pull). I only needed two tyre levers to do the job on my bike. I was carrying 3 before but now I have reduced this to two (more space now in saddle pack). These tyre levers also clip together which keeps them neat and tidy in the pack.

It is cold and raining – you have a puncture – do you really want to spend 10 minutes hunting for a little hole in your inner tube? Or maybe it is a split in the inner tube or a very large hole, no patch is going to fix this and you are stranded! So keep it simple and guarantee you can get moving again by carrying a spare inner tube instead. It is just so much faster to rip out the old one and slip a new one in, they cost about £5 so they aren’t going to break the bank.

As a side point I used to carry a Bontranger inner tube – my new one is a Specialized. The Specialized one appears to take about 20% less space, just thought you might want to know as half of the saddle pack space is taken up by the inner tube.

O.K. the picture was a bit pointless! But it is not such a bad idea to carry a spare bit of cash in the saddle pack. Maybe you have a serious breakdown and need to be collected – at least you can sit in the pub and have a drink whilst you wait. Maybe you get a double puncture and need a second inner tube, the list is endless.

The only difficulty is trying to forget you have the cash there so you don’t spend it before you actually need it.

I just carry a couple of the these – the two most commonly used – one for the seat post and one for my shoe clips (they also fit a few other things). These take no space at all, so it makes sense to have them there just in case.

Other than the above you may also need to carry a spanner(s) to remove you wheel. I have quick release wheels so it is not necessary but add these if you don’t.

P.S. if you see a fellow cyclist in difficulty – stop and help them – we are supposed to be a community.

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