Saturday, September 10, 2011

Flat tire at 40 and all's well.

Sometimes I get so lucky it makes me nervous. Like today.

The plan was to ride three 20-mile loops to get in 60 miles, and do it in 6 hours. I didn't make it, but I feel great about it, because I'm still on track to go 67 next Tuesday or Wednesday, which was the original plan. Here's how it went.

The ride started out better than normal, with my legs feeling strong, my energy high, the temperature cool and no wind. I left at 6am, when it was just beginning to get light. It was too dark for me to read my odometer, but I know the route pretty well, now, and when I got to the spot that I recognize as 3 miles out, I glanced at my watch and saw I was 2 minutes ahead of schedule. At the Zion Lutheran Church, where I turn around, and where my odometer always reads 5.9 miles, I looked at my watch I and saw again I was ahead of schedule. (I didn't look at my odometer.) But then a few miles later, where it should have read 8.9 miles, it only read 8.4. Yikes! Where'd that half-mile go? I kept pedalling, but I was in a quandary. This was a major tactical challenge.

I've been working my way up towards 80 in 8 via measured increments -- adding 6 or 7 miles per ride, two rides per week, and holding always to the 10 mph minimum average. But if I couldn't rely on my odometer, how could I possibly gauge my progress? In fact, how could I be sure that I would be riding 80 miles on the big day? My head was full of confusion. And what had happened to my odometer, anyway?

Then I remembered that I had pumped up my tires, yesterday. The first time in a few weeks. That might explain the odometer: pumped up tires = greater circumference = fewer revolutions per mile = lower registered miles on odometer. Okay, so that was the why. But now what do I do about it?

Well, my watch was still working, and I knew I had to be back home well before 8:00, or I'd be riding slower than last Tuesday. After all, the odometer might be reading differently, but the loop was still the same loop. So I just kept up a "cruise" pace, and, since I continued to feel strong, that wasn't too hard.

I got home at 7:49, which meant that I was beating 10mph; took an 11-minute pit stop, and was on my way by 10:00. And by then I had figured out what to do. I would add an extemporanous loop the the loop (a "loop de loop") by going around the outside of a shopping center that I usually ride through. That should add about a mile. If I did that and got back by 12:00, that would mean I was maintaining 10mph even according to the new "calibration" of the odometer. I felt very satisfied with this solution, especially since I was still feeling strong. I dutifully swigged my "Perpetuem" fuel, my Gator Ade, and my ice water, and although it was getting a lot hotter, I was comfortable. Only ... somehow I didn't seem to be going as fast as I thought I ought to be. Yes, the breeze was rising, but it seemed somehow that there was something else slowing me down...

Anyway, I got back home at 9:54, with the odometer reading 20.1 miles. The loop had obviously added .9 miles. Great. Now if I could do this again, I would only be .6 miles short of 60 miles for the day as measured by the new calibration of the odometer. I grabbed a cheese sandwich from the kitchen, slathered on some sunscreen, re-set the odometer and my wristwatch, and was on my way at 10am sharp.

Once out on the street, I noticed there was something queasy about the steering. I kept going -- carefully -- trying to keep up speed while analyzing this new phenomenon. A mile later, the "thump, thump, thump" of my rear wheel go through to me. Flat! (That also explained the queasy steering.) I pulled over and called Anne, who came and got me.

So why do I feel lucky? I was close to home. Anne was there in minutes. And in those few minutes while I waited for her, I realized (a) I had never ridden stronger; (b) I had done it on a tire that was going increasingly flat, so I would clearly have ridden even stronger with a good tire; the 42 (or so) miles I had put in were enough to count for a good training session (what if it had happened 5 miles into the first loop?). So I had passed muster to stay on schedule for my next ride, and could reasonably expect myself to ride 67 miles on Tuesday.

And on top of that, Bike n' Hike in Hillsboro fixed the flat while Anne and I went out for lunch.

Analysis: I think my perceived strength gain was due to two things. First, I have been stretching very assiduously, thoughtfully, frequently (but always gently) for the past three days. As the days passed I could sense that my movements were more fluid, and there was less resistance from opposing muscles, as I moved around the house, up and down stairs, etc. Second, I think I have to give credit to Hammer Gel and Hammer Perpetuem. While chatting with John at Bike 'n Hike I saw his display of Hammer products (which I hadn't seen before, nor had his store shown up when I had searched the Hammer website for outlets) and I asked him if he had a personal opinion about them. He said he had never been a fan of such products, but on a recent exceptionally grueling long-distance ride he had used Perpetuem and had survived so well that he has to give Perpetuem credit. He shook his head. "I don't know what else could have done it," he said (or words to that effect).

So I still have to puzzle out what to do about the odometer, but in the meantime, I can take pleasure in figuring out th loop de loop, hammer, and stretch.


  1. If you want your odometer to read dead nuts on like top NASA engineers have calibrated it, do this:

    1. Find yourself a tall attractive female assistant that has a pencil.
    2. Pump up your tires (like you do before EVERY ride).
    3. Sit on your bike.
    4. Line up the wheel so that the valve stem is at the bottom.
    5. Have your assistant mark on the floor a line that lines up with the valve stem.
    6. Sitting on your bike, roll one complete wheel revolution so that the valve stem is now at the bottom again.
    7. Assistant makes another mark lining up with the valve stem.
    8. Measure the centimeters between the two marks.
    9. Enter this value into your cycle computer for the wheel setting value.
    10. Should be dead nuts on for distance.

    If you measure inches, go here to convert to centimeters:


  2. Dead nuts, eh? I could have told you something about dead nuts, after yesterday's ride. But seriously, I've got a tall attractive female here whom I will try to get together with as per your instructions.

  3. Oh, you are experiencing the numb nuts syndrome. Know it well. This is the fix, but you have to open your wallet. Search the web for the best price.