A Series of Unfortunate Cycling Events


A lovely ride with a lovely friend. That is how I planned to spend my weekend (okay, not last weekend. Or even 2 weekends ago. Try 3. Yes, I’m behind.). However, fate intervened and made sure that didn’t happen (The lovely friend happened. The lovely riding did not.).

It started innocently enough. Shannon had had a puncture on Tuesday, but no spare tube at home to replace it. So I brought over a spare tube, replaced it for her, and we were on our way.

We make our way to Dupont, then Georgetown (fun fact, Georgetown is not flat). As we’re heading out out of Georgetown, I notice her back tire is making a weird little “pffting” noise, and that her back tire looks a little squishy. But I don’t think too much of it. Maybe these types of things are normal- I don’t follow people’s wheels often enough to know these things. Shannon soon pulls over, proclaiming a puncture, which I’m sure is a surprise to no one reading this story. Feeling a a bit suspicious of the fact that it was her back tire again which had punctured, I dutifully and thoroughly checked the inside, and outside, of the tire for anything which could cause another flat. Seeing nothing, I continued.

We started on our way again. A mere 8 miles down the road, I notice that Shannon’s tire is again making the “pffting” noise and looking a bit squishy. Having been fooled once, I now know that this is NOT a good sign. We pull over. We examine the tire, find the puncture. But, alas, there was no stopping the air. Once it sees that sweet freedom, it will not be denied. At this point, I’m worried there’s something wrong with the tire- two flats in 10 miles, with punctures that seem to be in the same spot, doesn’t seem right. I swear I thoroughly checked the tire before putting the new tube in! But the biggest problem is that we have no air. I used my CO2 cartridge on the first flat and neither of us have a hand pump. So we identify the closest bike shop (4.8 miles away, and thank god for smartphones) and start our walk.

Shannon's happy on the outside

It’s really not too bad. It’s not too hot, it’s nice and shady in MD, Shannon and I have lots of things to talk about- it’s like a nice nature walk with a friend. With a bike. By the side of the road. About half way to the shop is when the bike fairy made his appearance.

Not the bike fairy. Just me.

This bike fairy came up alongside us in his car and asked if he could help us. Now, other bikers had ridden by and asked if we needed help and we’d said no. This is because a) I wasn’t sure what thy could do to help us (since I thought maybe something was wrong with the tire) and b) these cyclists are shouting as they wiz by- they don’t exactly seem in a position to stop. But when the bike fairy said he lived nearby, was a cyclist himself, and had a spare tube to give us, we were convinced. So we went to the bike fairy’s house. He was fabulous- he patched one of our punctured tubes and gave Shannon a new one (that apparently was a fancy racing tube, which he pointed out to us no less than 3 times. Not that that means anything to us.). While we were chatting, it came to our attention that not only did the bike fairy originally hail from Iowa (which is where I’m from), BUT he also has done RAGBRAI for the past few years and is doing it again this year! When my mom found out about the bike fairy, she proclaimed that not only was this man allowed to camp in our back yard when RAGBRAI came through my hometown, but he also earned himself a free St. Mary’s dinner. I’m sure he’ll be happy to hear this.

After we departed from the bike fairy, we made our way to the bike shop. We decided that a stop there would be prudent, just to make extra sure that there’s nothing wrong with the tire and get some more air, just in case we encountered more bad luck. By this time, I feel pretty sure it’s just sheer dumb luck that’s afforded us all those flat tires, so I’m not optimistic that they’ll find anything. And they don’t. So we buy some CO2 cartridges and head home.

Little kid rock band playing outside the Starbucks

About 20 minutes down the road, I hear the unmistakable sound of a tire going flat. But this time it’s me. I shout for Shannon, but she’s too far ahead and soon rounds a bend. I stop and weigh my options: Fix it by myself and catch up- I have a patch kit and the patched tire the bike fairy gave us. But I not have the most important ingredient: air. Shannon has both CO2 cartridges. So I walk and hope it won’t be too long before she notices I’m not behind her.

This was the most depressing part of the day for me. Walking alone, by the side of the road, not knowing when Shannon will realize that I’m not just being slow, I’m actually not coming. It had genuinely been a shit day (except for through times when were actually riding, ha), and I was just ready to be home. Eventually Shannon found me, we changed the tube, and went home without further incident.

But not before stopping for some food

So, what was supposed to have been a nice 3, 4 hour ride turned into a 8 hour slog. But now my transformation into the true cyclist is complete, as I have my first opportunity to fix not one, but two flats by the side of the road. Lessons learned during this misadventure? Have more than one air option. And Shannon should always bring her phone.

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