Saturday, May 2

Epic Bike Ride #1

I really didn't learn to (or get much experience) change bike tires until I moved to Colorado. Before moving to the land of goatheads my tubes went flat only after becoming dry-rotted when many years had passed.

I never carried extra tubes with me, even on the longest rides, nor did I carry a pump or patch kit. To me they were just extra weight. Riding in Kentucky I figured if I had a flat miles from nowhere that I'd call someone to come pick me up.

I had one experience that should have been the lesson that changed that attitude, but it really didn't.

I have a red Cannondale mountain bike that I bought used from Dave Rogers close to fifteen years ago now. I rode it as a commuter bike in Dayton and then to beat around Powell County for a few years. But one day after Mandy and I were married I decided that I should at least make an effort to ride it on a singletrack trail since it is a mountain bike.

I lived near a fantastic area with a lot of biking potential, but nothing developed for MTB. But not too far from home, right at an hour away, was Cave Run, which reportedly had some great trails.

I had obtained a trail map of the area a few years before which showed the grades and mileages for the trails at Cave Run so I was somewhat prepared to head over and pick an easy or moderate trail.

I chose the Buckskin Trail which starts near Zilpo and I packed up my bike, a day pack (sans any sort of repair or maintenance gear except a hand pump for once) and I headed out toward Cave Run.

I found the trailhead easy and within a few minutes I was pedaling west along the Buckskin Trail.

The trail was nice, good riding, but I had to walk at a few of the drainage crossings. The scenery was amazing as the trail contoured a few dozen feet above the level of the lake in and out of little hollers. There was very little elevation gain or loss and the trail was in fine condition.

My goal was to ride 3 or 4 miles out and pick up another trail that would take me back up to the paved road I had driven in on which I could then follow back to the trailhead. I was shooting for a ten mile loop, which at the time seemed like a great and terrible distance.

A mile or so into the ride I had to drag the bike over a fallen log and when I picked up the bike by the handle bars the rear wheel swung into the log and smacked the log hard. I didn't think anything about it, but a while later I realized my rear tire was getting soft. I rode for a bit but eventually had to admit defeat. My tire was going flat.

I stopped, telling myself it was good to rest anyway and I pumped the tire back up to firmness. I was still in denial.

I got back on the bike and continued on my loop, oblivious to my folly. I had driven an hour to ride and by golly! I was going to ride.

Every half mile or so I had to stop and pump the tire up, but I was able to keep trucking and finally I reached the trail junction at 3 or 3.5 miles (I forget now).

I was trying to sort out which trail to take after having pumped up the tire for the umpteenth time when I looked down to see that the tire had gone flat again almost immediately.


I tried pumping it up again, but it wouldn't hold any air at all. I popped the bead on the tire and inspected the tube. It had a long split in it which had apparently started out small, but with repeated inflation and the jostling of the trail it had increased in length until it was a gaping hole, bigger than the head of my pump.

I let out an exasperated sigh. I'm still not sure if I was annoyed with the bike, or with myself. I had continued on, ignoring the distinct reality that I had a flat. And I had ridden myself deeper and deeper into folly.

I wasn't yet halfway through my loop, but I contemplated hiking the bike up to the road, stashing it and hiking back to the car then retrieving the bike on my way out. But I really didn't know how far I had to go and I was pretty sure it was considerably closer to just back track, though instead of a mile or two of hiking with the bike I was looking at almost four.

I knew my reverse route was relatively flat and my route onward would involve a climb out of the valley back to the ridge top and the road.

I finally decided to return the way I had come...3-4 long miles back dragging and carrying my mountain bike.

You are probably thinking: "Whatta maroon!"

Well, being from Kentucky and riding all over creation without having to change a tube or tire in so many was something I had never had to prepare for. I had never ridden very far from home, always within five miles, so the prospect of having a flat wasn't something to think very long about.

Buckskin planted a seed in my mind that should have grown into a better prepared cyclist. But even after I bought my Giant and started road riding ever more seriously, riding around Lexington on my lunch breaks at work, riding all over the backroads of Powell, Menifee, Bath, Montgomery and Clark Counties pushing the mileage as far as I could...I still didn't take the threat of having a flat far from my car or home too seriously. I did carry a pump and extra tubes, mostly because my father-in-law suggested it, but not because I really believed I would have a flat.

And until I left Kentucky I never had another one.

But once in Colorado my mindset changed. Goatheads! I pulled seven out of one tire one day. When the tube blew it sounded like multiple bottle rockets going off. Both tires went flat that day. I depleted my patch kit and used a new tube.

I have finally found an acceptable solution: Michelin Krylion Carbon tires.

And now I don't leave home without the means to patch or replace both tubes all on my own. The first few months I rode here I went through so many tubes it was ridiculous. I was sick of changing tubes, but I started to get pretty good at it and was pretty quick too.

Since I bought the Krylions I have gotten out of practice. Not that I'm wishing for more opportunities for practice...

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