Before the CicLAvia "To the Sea," I discovered two flats.
Before tonight's Toluca Lake ride with Councilman Tom LaBonge, I gasped at a cracked-out, pancake flat in the rear despite having gotten a tune-up a mere two weeks ago, from which the front tire was still rock hard.
What keeps poking its way into my tires, piercing their inner tubes?
What is gnawing its way through the bushes and the gate and the lock and tarp and the rubber?
What weather is aging and cracking them, when it's summer, nearly all year long?
How did I go my entire life without changing one single tube, and now I've had at least four flats in less than a year?
Maybe because I never really went anywhere when I was a kid. The road in my little permitted perimeter was safe. The garage was clean. The tires were protected, sheltered, pristine - as was I.
But, am I riding my bike that much now? Not really. Weeks go by with it chained to the fence, untouched.
And usually that's when I get a flat, my bicycle revolt against disuse.
If you don't floss, your inflamed gums bleed at the slightest touch.
If you hide from the sun, your delicate skin burns at your first exposure.
If you don't ride your bike, the tires go flat.
Then again, if you do ride your bike, the tires go flat.
The tires just go flat.
But I'd rather they go flat out on the road, than only when coming out of storage.
So instead of canceling my ride tonight, despite the late hour of discovery, despite needing a new tire altogether, its threads exposed through a crack in the side, I hustled to a Burbank bike shop to get a new tube installed, and hurried my way over to Toluca Lake to try it out. As often as those tubes go kaput, I was going to try to ride it out for a couple of hours, just so I could see something new in LA, from atop two wheels instead of four, out in the open air.
We rode through lovely residential streets, past Bob Hope's house. We crossed Riverside and Lankershim and Cahuenga and Moorpark, sometimes with the traffic light, sometimes guided by the flashing lights of our police car escort. Very close to the lake itself, we rode alongside the golf course, under the highway overpasses and beneath the glowing neon of Paty's and Bob's and The Federal Bar (bringing us notably beyond Toluca Lake, into North Hollywood and Burbank).
I kept checking my rear tire for pressure. It seemed to buckle under my weight, give between my squeezing fingers a bit too much. Although it lasted for the two hours of our leisurely, paved ride, I've got to get a new one before I ride again.
But do I get one now? Or lock it back up and wait until the next ride? If I replace the tire now, who knows what'll happen to it until the next time? Who knows when the next time will even be?
The Air in My Tires
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