Deflationary Spirals

Further to yesterday’s post, it looks like the ER missed a fracture after all. Fortunately it sounds like some quality sling time should take care of it. But the offroad division of Team Tan Tenovo will have to wait just a little bit longer to fight another day:

Meanwhile, someone’s got to do some riding around here, so on Sunday I headed out on the Normcore Bike:

You may recall I recently fitted in with some [ugh] supple tires, though I declared I’d renounce them immediately just as soon as I got a flat. Well, the rear tire must have been losing air even as I was typing that, because the next time I visited the bike it was flatter than a sprinter’s stage at the Tour de France. True to my word, I worked swiftly to divest the bike of its dainty slippers, but when I investigated the cause of the flat I found this:

A slit near the valve stem along the rim bed? Well, I couldn’t blame the tire for that. However, I couldn’t blame the rim bed either, and in fact I’d just recently replaced the rim strip because the originals were in pretty rough shape:

I decided the only plausible theory was that the tube had been compromised before I’d changed the rim strip but had waited until now to give way. Still, I decided to change the tires anyway, since I’d found the fancy Continentals that had originally come on the Vengeance Bike and that I’d subsequently misplaced. These tires had carried me across Switzerland, and I had considerably more confidence in them. So first I installed the rear, and then as I was installing the front the rear inner tube suddenly and loudly deflated itself as though it had been shot by a sniper. Here’s what I found:

This pair of suspiciously round holes was also along the rim bed, but nowhere near where the previous tube had failed. Moreover, I examined the entire rim bed thoroughly, and there was nothing anywhere that could have caused something like this. So I concluded that either my rear wheel was cursed, or that the valve stem had worked its way into the tube while it had been stuffed into my saddle bag. Of course I always cap the valve stem to prevent such a thing from happening, but I suppose the cap itself could have burrowed into the tube–or else I had in fact been the victim of a sniper, though that wouldn’t explain the absence of entrance wounds in the tire or rim:

Back in my Peak Fred days I had a pair of tubular wheels, and every so often I’d send a punctured tire to Tire Alert for repair. I’m pleased to see they still exist, though to be perfectly honest I’m quite taken aback by the prices–that’s not a criticism by any means, they gotta do what they gotta do to be sustainable, but still, whoa. Anyway, it occurs to me that with tubeless taking over they may want to expand into other areas, so perhaps they can offer inner tube forensics and prepare detailed reports for people like me on how exactly their inner tubes failed–sort of like that company that will analyze your motor oil. (As someone who OWNS A CAR I occasionally read automotive forums, and when I’m not laughing at the people who get their motor oil analyzed I seriously consider getting my own motor oil analyzed.)

Anyway, I found a third tube (no way I was going to repair either of those other ones, since I still hadn’t ruled out a curse, and everybody knows you should never repair a cursed tube), installed it, and when I found the next day that it still hadn’t exploded I figured it was finally safe to go for a ride.

As I mentioned, these tires originally came with the Vengeance Bike:

Though I eventually changed them because they took up every last millimeter of the bike’s very limited clearance:

Even a light drizzle was enough to get them grinding with road grit. Besides the bike’s overall age, its absurd gearing, and its infamous brakes, this lack of clearance was yet another reason I suspected bringing this bike to Switzerland was a huge mistake, and the fact that I did anyway is a testament to how much I enjoyed riding it. Fortunately it only rained one day while I was in Switzerland, and also fortunately when you’re riding in a group in the rain it’s usually loud enough to ignore the grinding.

Alas, as much as I like the Normcore Bike, the Vengeance Bike’s tires only made me miss that bike more, and I felt like some lovelorn soul trying to make the woman he met on a dating app get the same hairstyle as his ex-wife. I then found myself wondering if changing the saddle, bars, and brake levers would further close the gap between the two bikes, but ultimately admitted to myself that this was like trying to convince the woman you met on a dating app to copy your ex-wife’s entire wardrobe and perhaps consider plastic surgery. Best let the Normcore Bike be the Normcore Bike, especially since it’s still quite capable and fun to ride, even if it doesn’t have whatever it is that aging lump of plastic had.

Plus, sooner or later the Milwaukee will finally return from paint, and when it does I can focus on making that my “nice” road bike:

Though Milwaukee is made by Waterford, so maybe mine will become a collector’s item:

Obviously there are still people making great steel frames overseas, but it still feels like another step towards cycling’s inevitable crabonification.

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