As in life some people change tires because they are preventive types who follow regular maintenance schedules or because they note tread wear and decide to bite the bullet and to buy new tires and tubes, but not so in my case. I was eking the last millimeter of wear possible from my tires — false economy at best. I did notice that the tire was a little spongier than usual before I cycled last Saturday; nevertheless  I pumped up the tubes to eighty PSI and mounted up.  Joyfully I shoved off, but alas, halfway down the trail, I heard  “Pfft”  and steering turned sluggish and ultimately lumpy. On the rim I was — thanks to a sharp, penetrating stone, I think. A senior should be much more aware of tread wear in life.

I had a little repair kit containing useless dried up rubber cement. A man should always check his rubber cement before taking risks. My wife was at home and lying in the sun.  It had been years since I’d had a flat and needed her to rescue me, yet she was not mollified.  After a frustrating search for me requiring the aid of a clerk at Seven Eleven, she finally found me sitting on a rock playing with my repair kit.  See how our little negligent indulgences  impinge on the lives of others?

I’m blessed with good woman, though.  The next day, when I was taking a break from cutting grass, she said, “Hey, why don’t you go get what you need to fix your bike.  You need to ride tomorrow.”  So I left the mowing to her.  I do not deserve this woman.

I went to the bike shop which like bookstores and nurseries always have the nicest people to assist. We fussed around and found the right tire size.  I bought two tires and a tube.  The nice people at Trek gave me five bucks off the tire that had been marked up.  While they searched I watched the female twenty something hefting bikes up and down from the repair rack and wielding her tools deftly.  Thinking of things unisex these days, I marveled at how boys and girls work together in such equality and I wanted to be one of them in this new age.  Are there any sissies anymore, male or female, gay or straight? At least in the bicycle shop everyone had muscle tone.

But I went home, took a nap, opened a beer and set about changing tires.  I always worry about getting the chain back correctly on the cassette (or mass of gears on the rear hub).  This time I took note of the sprocket last used.  I suspect this was unnecessary as I believe chain and sprocket find each other like lovers.

The philosophical element here is  making sure that one’s tread design hits the road effectively in the advancing direction of life.  One must remember always to find the little arrow marked “Forward Direction >>.”  It is difficult to pick out from all the other information such as  brand name, tire dimension, inflation pressure and a bunch of other numbers on either side of the tire and understood best by Bontrager and the folks at the bike shop. Experience with tractor tires, believe me,  has inestimable value here. When the tread has a v-shape, the single, convergent point must dig into the earth for maximum traction. A man has to attack life with the tip of the arrow, not the feathers.

Then one must remember that the clamping lever on the hubs goes on the left side of the bike.  In the end one notes that a successfully mounted tire also has the brand name on the right side.  It all fits and matches when fitted right.  As in life it helps to know port from starboard.  And like life, inflation is crucial.  I mean how much air we blow into the tube or skin of life matters:  enough, just enough, too much?  You can’t just count on the same pressure you put into the old tires.  The secret lies in all those variable dimensions which determine the surface area of the inflated tire. Even here leverage matters — pounds per square inch.  In this case sixty PSI did what it took eighty PSI to do on my last set of tires and tubes.  It’s a matter of time, design and change.  One must adapt to his pressures, internal and external.

In the end I did as good a job as anyone at the bike shop.  The tires held firm and I joyfully cycled my whole route the next day.  My wife got her sun bath, too. With a little more care and foresight, I’d have had an additional fifteen or so miles on the trail that weekend and a tanner spouse.

David Milliken

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