16 March 2016

Do You Fix It, Or Keep On Riding?

If you've commuted by bike for any amount of time, you've no doubt had at least one flat.

It's one thing for your tire to get punctured and go flat immediately.  Then all you can do is to fix it and, if you're running late, call into the office (or wherever you work). Or, if you're in a place that has mass transit, you can use that.

On the other hand, a gradual leak presents another situation.  How far do you have to go to get to work?  How much time do you have?  You have to answer those questions in deciding whether to fix your flat or to continue riding.

This morning, about halfway to work, I noticed that my steering was a bit balkier.  Then, when I hit a bump, I noticed that the tire was soft, though not completely flat.  At that point, I was on Randall's Island--no subway nearby, and the one bus line that goes through the island doesn't allow bikes on board. 

From Tales and Fables

So, my choices were:

  • Fix the flat.
  • Lock the bike up and take the bus to the subway.
  • Keep on riding with crossed fingers.

I had ridden about twenty minutes and would need about another fifteen to get to work. My first class would start in about forty-five minutes.  I probably could have fixed the flat, but I really didn't want to be pressed for time.  If I were to lock the bike on the island, it would probably be bit safer there than in most other parts of the city.  But getting back could be a hassle.  And, really, I didn't know how much longer I could ride on my deflating front tire.

Still, I chose the last option.  Even though I could feel, with every turn, the bike losing whatever handling abilities it had, I figured that I had a chance of getting to work before my inner tube completely lost air.  Also, I reckoned that if I couldn't make it the rest of the way to work, I'd at least be able to cross the bridge into the Bronx, where I could catch the subway (which I'd have to take for only two stops).

I managed to pedal to work.  For the last couple of blocks, my tire and tube felt like a half-melted marshmallow between my rim and the street.  But at least I still had some time to spare when I got to my job.

Now I'm about to go home--but I have to fix the flat first.  Oh well. 

When you realize you are riding on a slow leak, how do you decide whether to fix it, keep on riding or bail out?


  1. I commuted to a job for seven years and only now realise that I never once had a flat on the way there to make me late. I had several on the way home... Seven miles of nasty glass strewn roads, how was I that lucky?

  2. Just realised that is 3,360 miles per year, about half our annual van mileage including a 3,000 trip to the Mediterranean, the bike was more fun...

  3. The one time i had to bail and lock up due to a flat was that one time i'd left home without my pump- but, oddly enough, i did have along the lock that i almost never carried (i had indoor parking privileges at that job.)

    Over the 26 years of my last job i only flatted a handful of times- usually on the way home. During those years, i had no alternative but fix a flat as there was no public transit available and i never carried a lock -there was no neighbourhood on the route i felt i could leave my bike and expect to find it there on my return.

  4. Coline and Mike--When I reflect, I realize I haven't had many flats while commuting, and this is the first I've had in a few years. It may be a matter of luck; also, I tend to commute on heavier tires (with puncture protection) than I use on my other rides.

  5. I dread that wallowing feeling you get when you know you've hit a sharp object and air is leaking out. Just the other day I had to run 6 blocks to the store to grab a bunch of parsley. Unfortunately, on the way home I hit a goathead square on my front tire. I managed to pedal until the last block before I dismounted and walked the rest of the way.

  6. MT--I know that feeling, and you've described it well.

    All of that trouble for parsley? Is all fair in love and food?