The (get) off button

Shut ’er down.

I suffered my first flat of 2022 the other day. My first in nearly a year, actually.

When you rock stout tires and sealant-laced inner tubes the flats are few and far between, even here in The Duck! City, where spiky objects abound. Broken glass, goatheads, and cacti, oh my.

But as in real life, something will get you eventually. In this case, it was a cactus thorn that looked like the business end of a veterinary hypodermic. I picked it up while careening around the Elena Gallegos Open Space on a Steelman Eurocross, and the tire didn’t go completely unrideable until I was an easy jog from the ranger shack, where I swapped tubes from the comfort of a chair on their patio out back.

This is entirely different from flatting in the arse-end of nowhere with the sleet coming in sideways and a couple teeth-chattering companions hopping around, hands stuffed in their armpits, waiting on you. A certain urgency is implied. Speed, not diligence, is at a premium. It’s a variation on the old whorehouse refrain: Get it out, get it in, get it up, and get going.

Since it was just me, I took my time: shifted into big and little; released the straddle cable; pulled the wheel; ran a tire iron around one bead; and pulled out the flat tube. Then I felt carefully along the inside of the tire, looking for the culprit. Ever just stuffed a fresh tube in there, aired it up, and rolled away only to find the tire flat once more about 50 meters down the trail? Yeah, me too. I learned the hard way to round up the usual suspects first.

In this case the thorn had slipped between two centerline chevrons like a shiv between ribs, driving a good quarter inch deep into the tube, whose sealant had lost its grip.  I couldn’t get hold of the fat end of the thorn with my fingers, so I used the tire iron to scrape off the pointy end. Insert new tube, pump it up good and fat, and off we go.

What a luxury to be able to perform this simple chore while sitting down, in a chair, instead of flailing away with the minipump in a crouch like a compulsive masturbator. This startles passing motorists, assuming their eyes aren’t glued to their smartphones, which is a bet you don’t want to place in this high-desert casino.

You’re not even safe off road, based on the auto-body fragments Herself and I found littering a neighborhood trail during a run last week. An errant Honda Civic street racer will give you a puncture you can’t fix on the fly.

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15 Responses to “The (get) off button”

  1. mike w. Says:


  2. peterwpolack Says:

    You can make getting a flat actually sound interesting.

  3. khal spencer Says:

    Finally have a slow leak in a tubeless tire. Get to see who out-waits whom.

  4. Pat O’Brien Says:

    A little Leatherman Squirt in the seat bag will pull those embedded thorns out of the tire intact. Don’t weigh or cost much, and is handy for other things in the ride. That and a Park MT-1 will fix almost anything. Sitting on a gravel shoulder trying to fix a flat truly stinks to high heaven.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      New Mexico is the only state in which I’ve double-flatted simultaneously. And I’ve done it twice. If I’m feeling particularly paranoid I fetch three tubes along, and sometimes a patch kit. Plus I always wear shoes I can walk in.

      I’ma check out that Squirt, though. This last thorn was a doozy.

  5. NJgreyhead Says:

    Loved “The Duck! City.” That’s a keeper.

    Smart man, carrying 2 spare tubes.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Not all that smart. Once, when I flatted on a mountain-bike ride up near Weirdcliffe, I found both of my spare tubes were flat (I’d stuffed first one, then the other back into the saddlebag after punctures and forgotten to replace them with tubes that, y’know, held, like, air, an’ stuff).

      I had to stash the bike in the trailside brush and jog home in my Sidi MTB shoes. The last mile involved 430 feet of vertical gain. It was what we call a “learning experience.”

  6. Herb from Michigan Says:

    Only on THIS blog can a flat tire repair include brothels and wanking off in a ditch. No wonder I tune in so often. I remember on an 80 mile tour a big dude riding with us had 3 flats on his sew ups and our little peloton of 4 were out of spares. The guy came unhinged and tried to throw his all Campy bike up into a tree of all things. It hung up on a branch for about three seconds and then came down on top of him. Lucky for him the big ring didn’t embed into his skull.

  7. Dave Watts Says:

    Of the tens of thousands of flat tire repairs I have done in my life (for pay), I wonder what was being composed in the minds of my customers following their flat(s). I’ll bet it wasn’t anything as interesting as your’s was, POG — intended as an entertaining blog entry. I’m guessing it was more like “!#d %a&m ##is @&c*i#! %#k*.”

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I’d rather be outside flatting a tire than inside flattening my EKG.

      I got lucky another time, down off the Pan American near Tramway and I-25. I had just picked up what looked like a self-tapping stove bolt (!) in the rear tire of my Co-Motion Divide Rohloff. I mean, this thing was huge. Drove all the way through tire and tube, right to the rim strip. And of course it had to be the rear wheel. Rohloff hub. Gates belt drive. I’m all like, “@#$%&*???!!!!”

      Happily, there was a bus bench with shelter a short walk away. I used the shelter as a bike stand while I pulled the wheel and effected repairs. I hadn’t fixed a rear flat on that beast for a good long while so I’m muttering to myself throughout the process. “Shift to 14, unscrew the cable box — damn, that sucker’s on there, do I got a nickel I can use as a screwdriver? — open the QR, drop the wheel. … gaw dam cog sug muh fug sum bidge. …”

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