Flatting in Illinois

My last blog entry reminded me of something that happened to me in graduate school. My first four years on my bike, I hadn’t a single flat. That summer day I was riding to Florida Ave. for pickup soccer and I was late. In the apartment, I grabbed my bike, slung my cleats across my shoulder and started cycling. I lived at the opposite end of Champaign-Urbana at the time.

Because of where I was coming from and the time, I decided to cut through on the university bike paths. I almost never do this because the condition of the bike paths are poorly maintained.

At one point there were what must have been two hundred junior high school girls practicing cheers in various groups. I guess it was a summer camp or something. Oh well, no matter. I’ll just stick to the path and barrel by them.

That’s when Murphy reared his ugly ass.

[My Illinois flat story after the jump.]

My bike hit a crack in the path really hard and this was quickly followed by a loud pop and a fizz. Oh geez. I’ve got a flat!

I pulled over to the side, flipped the bike over, and started to remove the quick-release. Now since the tube popping had made a lot of noise, these girls must have noticed it and I could overhear some of them talking to each other about what I was doing. Let’s just say when you’re late for soccer, standing near a couple hundred girls, trying to fix a flat, the whole experience can feel like eternity.

I got the wheel off, the tube out, checked for whether it was a pinch or rock (it was a pinch), and put the new tube in. I keep a spare tube in my seatbag in a plastic bag full of baby powder and, in my rush, the baby powder spilled all over me.

After I installed it, I took out my Topeak Road Morph bike pump.

That’s about when it hit me that the previous week an ex-student of mine had visited my office and asked in passing about the pump. After I had shown him how it worked, I had forgotten to strap it back in. On my commute home that night, it popped out and I had run over the thing and broke the valve. The thing couldn’t pump.

The reality of the situation dawned on me: half a bicycle, a wheel, a new tube, baby powder all over me, probably a few dozen junior high school girl eyes on me right at that moment, and no way I’m going to make soccer. Oh, I so wish I wasn’t here right now. I had no choice—I grabbed my wheel, lifted the bicycle to my shoulder and started off in the direction of the nearest gas station.

At that point, a collective “Awwwww”…enough of these girls had witnessed the whole ordeal and my apparent failure that I could hear their whispers from fifty yards away.

I was so embarrassed!

I turned around, flashed at them the biggest shit-eating grin I could muster, and bowed to them.

All two hundred or so girls laughed, clapped, and cheered me on as I walked away.

That was one of my better cycling performances.

4 thoughts on “Flatting in Illinois

  1. I remember those girls. I think they hung out somewhere between WIMPY and the stadium. You could hear their cheers from about a mile away. The collective cheer seem to come from nowhere, unless of course you jog or bike through their presence.

  2. This time it happened near LAR (Lincoln/Allen halls). There were a whole lot of them though. Come to think of it, it may have been the largest ovation I ever got in my life.

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