Sunday, October 23, 2016

Wilbo Gets a Flat in His Front Tire, Which Leads to His Lesson in Bicycle Mechanics at City Hub Cyclery.

As I pedal past CityHub Cyclery, my friend the mechanic checks my tires. Once, he spotted a low rear tire and he waved me over. He checked for punctures; then, he properly inflated the rear tire. Like a doctor, he ordered me to keep an eye upon it. He checks everybody's tires. You'll see him out front helping local kids with their bikes when he's worked through the day's repairs.

So as I pedaled to Burger King near Muskegon's City Hall, I noted my soft front tire with some pleasure. Maybe I had a slow leak to report? I parked, locked up. I scanned tread for a cause. I found a metal bit and pried it out with my key. A spurt of air drained the tire, confirming my find. And then, clever me had to walk my Schwinn Admiral with the floppy front tire one mile to CityHub. I got impatient. I rolled the mostly downhill route with a flop, flop, flop.

The mechanic was happy to see my flat and I. CityHub fixes flats all the time for around fifteen dollars. He wanted me to fix my own flat, though. He had his hands full assembling a Felt mountain bike, so he coached me at the counter. I had already broken the tire off the rim by riding on it. Removing the tire from the bike took no time thanks to the quick release hub. I thought a patch might work best.

"I could sell you a kit". He looked at my tire and read the label. "Patches don't work so well. A new tube is only seven bucks".

"Sold", I said relieved. Seven dollars seemed a deal.

"Take your tire out into the sun and scan for more metal fragments. These can worm into the tread and pop your new tube".

Good advice because I found three metal shavings and pried them out. When I got back to the counter, he had already inflated the tube.

"All clean? Good. Insert the tube inside the tire".

It took just a second. I fumbled trying to put the tire on the rim. He let me for a minute. He took the tire in his two hands.

"First, run the right bead over the right rim. Then work the left bead over the left rim". His thumbs quickly made it so. "Then eyeball the rim slowly, checking to see that the bead is properly seated inside the rim. Check both sides". He handed me back my completed tire.

"You could have made me struggle more".

"No worries mate. Your tire was no trouble at all. Now put it on the fork. Engage the locking hub. Reconnect the brake cable".

"Easy enough".

"And stop cycling in the gutter, dude. That's where the rain pushes all the sharp stuff".

"Point taken", I said. "I think I owe you another eight bucks".

"Hit the road already". He grinned. He had more Felts to assemble.

And I did, taking a quick spin over to the benches of Heritage Landing, overlooking the blue expanse of Lake Muskegon. I soaked in the beauty of an Autumn afternoon before reporting to work. I had time. I didn't have to walk.

Le Centaure magazine (Paris), Sept. 1868
Young velocipedist on Michaux velocipede

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