Thursday mornings in Naples, there's usually a decent-size group that rides up to Florida Gulf Coast University and back -- a 50-mile ride that often takes under two hours. I've joined them about a dozen times so far, and it's always a great workout.
But this past Thursday, it was F-d up.
Yeah, I don't like to use the F word. It is one of the most vulgar four-letter words there is. But it fit.
The group was a little smaller than normal, with just eight of us. We took the bike lane on Vanderbilt Beach Road up to the bike lane on Livingston, where we started north. We had just crossed into Lee County when I hit a piece of discarded lumber lying in the bike lane. I could hear the tire go immediately, and knew that I had gotten a pinch ...
Okay, I'm going to say the F word now. Flat. I had a pinch-Flat on my front tire.
I waved everyone on and got the bike up on the sidewalk. One of the riders came back to make sure that I had everything that I needed; I did, and told him that I would catch them on the way back. Then, I fixed the flat, taking an extra minute to make sure that nothing was still stuck in the tire. There wasn't -- you could tell from the snake-bite holes on the old tube that it was a pinch-flat.
Wow. The more you say that F word, the easier it gets. I'm going to turn into a real pothole mouth if I'm not careful.
I was about done when three of the guys came back for me. It was really nice of them, and as we headed off on the route again I told them that I appreciated it. One of them said that the Naples group often has a reputation for aggressive riding -- I think the phrase was, "We eat our dead" -- but the reality was that they all looked out for one another.
We continued on, holding a pretty stead 25 mph pace. I was feeling tired from riding long Monday and fast on Tuesday, and was thinking maybe I should shorten the ride when -- BAM! -- I hit something else in the bike lane. Less than a minute later, I could hear my rear tire whistling and feel it getting soft.
I hate when my rides screw up, but I hate it even more when my ride screw-ups in turn screw up someone else's ride. I told everyone to go on -- they were only five miles from the turnaround anyway, and I would see them on the return. They asked if I had a spare tube, and I lied and said yes.
I knew that I didn't have a spare tube, but was certain that I had a patch kit. I always carry a patch kit, right?
Yeah. No F-ing patch kit.
It was only about three miles to the Estero Trek store by Coconut Point, so I tried using my last cartridge to fill the tube enough to ride there. That got me about a mile. Then, I remembered something that I have heard about from other randonneurs -- stuff leaves and grass into your tire. I've always wanted to try this, so gave it a go.
Okay, I'm pretty sure that those randonneurs were using high-spoke count wheels and at least 25c tires. Zipp 101s with 23c Continental Grand Prix 4000s, however, do not hold pine straw well. I stuffed them as well as I could, but within half a mile the straw was mashed into pine flour. Maybe it would have worked better with grass or leaves, but I'm a little dubious about this as a future emergency fix option.
Ah, well. I've walked two miles with a bike before. I started trudging.
Less than half a mile later, the Naples guys came by. They quickly changed my tire for me (getting a good laugh when I pulled all of the pine dust out) and we finished the ride. Another rider had a flat less than half a mile from the end, but I think he did that on purpose to keep me from feeling like a total dork.
The F word is probably inevitable when riding around here, when you need to stay in debris-filled bike lanes or get squashed ... well, flat. But you can survive it if you have another word that begins with F.