Winter cycling links

2011-11-15 by . 1 comments

The first cold winds are blowing by my home; winter is coming to the northern hemisphere of our resource-drained planet. We're doubtless going to see a lot of questions about winter riding on the main site. Here are some sites that helped me learn how to ride in the winter.


This is one my favorite winter cycling sites. There's a lot of very, very good information here. The self-proclaimed "Home of the Winter Cyclist and Other Crazy People" is the granddaddy of winter riding sites. Started in 1998, this site is old: Beware moving and scrolling HTML.

Cold Feet

This is cyclist Charlene Barach's page, and it has great advice about cold-weather cycling. The rest of her site is also well worth reading. Charlene has been riding in Canadian winters for years, and knows an awful lot about winter riding.

Winter Riding Tips

Pamela Blalock's site is quite comprehensive. She spends a lot of space on appropriate fabrics for winter riding.

In addition, I've learned a lot from some of the winter riding questions on this site:

How do I gear up a bike for winter riding?

I live in NYC and would like to ride to work during the winter as well. What should one do to a mountain bike? a road bike?
Note: This question has a lot of great answers, but AdamFranco's answer in particular is tremendous.

What to wear when it's cold?

If I put on heavy clothes it will be very hot inside them after the warm-up. If I wear only a T-shirt I'll freeze. What's the solution? I ride around 20 km in a hilly city, with temperatures between 0 and 30 celsius.

What gloves work well for winter riding?

I'm starting to plan ahead for winter riding, and gloves are definitely high on the list. What gloves work well for winter riding? Are cycling-specific gloves the way to go for a flat-bar bike with index/thumb shifters? Would regular winter gloves be good enough?
Disclaimer: I have the top-voted answer for this question, so my opinion of just how awesometastic this question is, is a little subjective. But I think that gloves are often overlooked when it comes to winter riding; it's hard to brake and shift when your hands are numb from the cold.

Filed under Site, Winter Riding

Valet Bike Parking Extravaganza! (Part 2: actually parking bikes)

2011-10-31 by . 0 comments

This is part 2 of a two part series. Part 1 focused on all the detailed planning leading up to parking a ton of bikes. This is about the actual event where we parked 2551 bikes.

The Day

Early-morning coffee

Some people had to get there at 5am to do setup, bag check, valet bike parking for last minute registration, etc. Luckily for me, the main valet bike parking that I would be dealing with doesn't really start until the first riders come back from their 30-, 60-, or 100-mile ride that they left for at 8am, so showing up at 9am was plenty of time to do some of that last minute setup (chalk, canopies, tables, putting tickets on clipboards, etc.) and to train volunteers. Some of our volunteers were regulars who only needed a little training about the differences (tickets have spots already, you have to deal with bags too, walk down wide aisles and park handlebars first, walk riders through so they see where their bike goes and direct them to the exit). Many of our volunteers were people who had never volunteered for any kind of bicycling-related activity at all before. Some of the local high schools have a community service requirement that they were fulfilling (most of these went above and beyond!), some were volunteering via the Gran Fondo's volunteer call and didn't know our organization. Some weren't bicycle riders at all. So, basic training emphasized being careful with the bikes, pointing out some of these bikes cost as much as a car, pointing out that one bad scratch can ruin a bike (most bikes are carbon frames), walking them through the procedures, etc. There was assigning people out to various jobs. Some people went off to help with bag intake since the electric "golf" carts ran out of batteries and bags needed to be hand carried in. There was a little bit of waiting. And then a few bikes started trickling in. I think the first bike was one with a snapped rear derailer.

Around noon, before things were too insanely busy. Note the chalk marks to indicate which aisles to walk down and which not to.

Then things picked up.... and picked up more... and got entirely crazily busy... At one point we were almost all full and there was a panic about not being able to find fresh tickets (with rack spots on them). I think early on a few tickets escaped without being collected, so up at the very front there were a handful of spots, so we released the 7th seats on racks for the first zone (red). I think later all of the “seven” tickets were released and many of the “eights” as well.

A sea of bicycles! Picture taken from front. Note two blue canopies for the two exits about one-third and two-thirds through our area). This picture was actually taken when things were starting to slow down just a little bit, these racks were a bit more packed a couple hours beforehand.

I believe we got very close to our 1085--1280 bicycle capacity. We did resort in a few cases to turning a smaller bike or two around to help squeeze one more bike into a rack, but we didn't have to do much of that and had the freedom to do it with only a small bike that wouldn't mess up the walking aisle too much. At one point, Cheryl (one of the main Bike Monkey / Gran Fondo people) came into the bike parking area and asked about finding a bag. "I've got a bib number, can you find the bag? The rider is in the hospital and unconscious." I explained that we could but it would take a long time looking at each bag. The numbers from the bag check ticket, or even just the color of the ticket would help, as would a description of the bag. I think there was some more phone calls and they got the ticket number (at first getting it as a "C" when it should be a "B"), I located the bag and it was whisked away. Later I learned the details. There's a tricky descent ending at Hauser bridge and there'd been a bit of rain out there earlier. It had been the very first rain of the season, so was chock full of extra oily slipperiness. A few riders fell down the ravine and had to be airlifted to the hospital. I was helping find one of their bags (or maybe their partner's bag?). Last I heard they were in stable condition and expected to recover fully. News article day of: 3 GranFondo cyclists seriously injured at Kings Ridge News article next day:  2 GranFondo riders remain in hospital.

Note that we parked about twice as many bikes as we had capacity for, so the system for turning spots over worked out well.

Line of people waiting to park their bikes or get their bikes back. Note my name-tag on my beer in lower right.

The Fondo staff were good at taking care of the volunteers. We all got food tickets to get lunch from one of the food vendors (I got curry because the paella line was too long). Snacks were delivered regularly. Beer from New Belgium Brewing was delivered several times. It's possible that beer was my primary sustenance through the event.

Some people worked pretty late until everything was torn down and packed away.


The day was exhausting. I was totally useless the next day. Sore legs, generally tired. Another volunteer that worked only about 4 hours (I worked closer to 10 hours) said her pedometer told her she'd walked 13 miles, so I figure I must've walked a marathon (26 miles; 42 km). We've already been talking a bit about planning for next year. I figured out that the "narrow" 7 foot aisles could have been 6 feet instead because most bikes are closer to 3 feet (in front of the seat when hanging) than 3.5 feet; a little front-of-wheel overlap across racks is ok; and we really never did have to squeeze down those aisles like I thought we might. I believe that using that aisle space for parking would've gained us roughly 100 more spots (9% more, or about 18% more than a standard alternating-on-racks setup). Last year we got a lot of tips (used to fund the annual volunteer appreciation party), but this year not many. Tip jars in more spots would've helped, but I think our usual routine where they wait at the front staring at a half-full tip jar while we retrieve their bikes is more likely to get us tips than this year's routine where we escorted them through and they never stood around waiting. All of the volunteers were awesome, but we were surprised about the high school students. They could've shown up, done the bare minimum and gotten their community service credits, but most of them really worked extra hard, showed initiative in minor adjustments (like somebody to direct people into the right lines) and were cheerfully awesome once they got the hang of things.

Valet Bike Parking Extravaganza! (Part 1: planning & setup)

2011-10-25 by . 2 comments
Bicycles inside orange security fencing on kickstands and racks

Our typical valet bike parking setup

This is part 1 of a two part series. This part will focuses on all the detailed planning leading up to parking a ton of bikes. Next week will be Part 2 with the actual event where we parked 2551 bikes.


I'm heavily involved in my local cycling advocacy group, and like many bike groups, one thing we do to raise money, encourage more riding, and make ourselves known in the community is Valet Bike Parking. Usually this involves parking 50--100 bikes using 3--10 bike racks (basically an 8--10 foot (3 meter) long metal pipe with legs). A few years ago, our most famous local pro cyclist Levi Leipheimer teamed up with the folks at Bike Monkey (cycling magazine and organizer of local races) to do a big organized ride to raise money for getting the Tour of California to come to Santa Rosa again, and to raise money for Levi's wife's favorite charity. The route is based on a training route that Levi uses, over 100 miles (160 km) with at least 8500 feet (2600 meters) of climbing. There's also 65 mile (100 km) and 35 mile (55 km) options, but over half the riders take the longest option. I've helped in some capacity all three years with the valet bike parking that's set up so that people can enjoy food, beer and a festival after they're done riding. This year I helped out with the planning, especially figuring out the layout. That first year there were 3,500 riders, the second year 6,000 and this year 7,500.

First Year

The first year we were right next to the finish line and the festival (with the beer tent conveniently right in front of us) and parked about 1,500 bikes: more than we'd ever parked at any other event. We ran it similarly to how we'd run an event parking 100 bikes, just with more space and more volunteers. A rider comes in with their bike, a ticket writer fills in a ticket and uses a rack number a runner gave them, and a runner runs the bike to the rack and parks it. At this scale that led to a lot of yelling ("Rack number please?", "I've got 3 spots in C37!") and chaos (5 ticket writers year C37 and now we can't quite fit the bikes). Did I mention chaos?

Second year

Fondo parking last year (2010)

The second year we were up a little hill from the finish line and a short walk from the main festival; and we parked about 1,500 bikes, but also handled bag check. I think the distance and visibility is why even with many more riders we didn't park many more bikes. We did a bit of having somebody go and write down rack numbers on tickets for empty spots which involved less yelling and chaos, but there was still plenty of chaos to go around.

This year

This third year we were looking at a spot directly next to the finish line set up to easily guide finishing riders directly into the combined valet bike parking and bag pickup line. We were also being given a smaller space than before so that it could be next to the finish line. And being asked to handle the flow differently with walking people to the bikes so that they exit via a different spot than they enter. The combination of probably many more bikes and less space was greatly worrying. I was thinking we might get as many as 3,000 bikes and was figuring that at best we could fit half that many bikes in the space. Efficient use of the space and re-using spots as soon as they're empty was essential! Additionally, the person who's usually in charge of these things was actually leaving the day before to go on a 5-day fundraising ride. She'd be helping with planning and setup, but wouldn't actually be there the day of.


Last year's space is irregular area on lower left with grass and basketball courts, this year

First, we used Google Maps to get a rough idea of the space. Also went on site to look around at things. The new space is definitely smaller, but also flat and fairly regular. There's a couple speed bumps and also a few curbed median things on one side that will block placing racks. One side is a wall at least 10 feet (3 meters) high that helps make our security perimeter simpler. I took the rough measurements and worked it out to about 17,000 square feet (1600 square meters).

First parking plan

It's not obvious from these map pictures, but the divider down the middle of the parking lots has 2 gaps. Our first plan was to use one as an entrance and one as an exit. Use some fencing to control the lines (keeping people from walking across the finish line next door), and a station at either end for somebody to watch our perimeter. One end would be where the bag check was. With further talking with the Bike Monkey folks, they really wanted a single entrance and flow for both bike parking and bag check, so that people pick up their bag at the same time and place that they drop off their bike. Entrance would be at the top with the two gaps both used as exits, because that works best with the flow they've got set up outside our area. And in the morning there would be multiple "satellite" bag check areas with bags moved into the main space after the ride starts.


I also started trying to work out some math, both to figure out how many bikes we can fit and how to fit as many as possible. The racks were actually from a third party, the Vineman Triathlon folks. They've got new racks this year. There was some back and forth discussion and we were able to verify that the racks are 10 feet long including the legs (the old style racks lose more space to the legs). Unlike our racks, they don't have a base, so they should be able to straddle a speed bump if necessary. Our space is 299 feet long and 59 feet wide. But we need some space at the front for the entry and space at the back. So real space usable for racks is more like 270 feet by 59 feet.

Our usual rack setup (alternating directions)

Our usual arrangement involves racks about 12 feet apart with bikes alternating directions (to maximize how many we can get on a rack). With 10 foot racks that gets about 10 bikes on a rack that will be about 7 feet wide. Add in a 5 foot aisle on either side and put a bunch of those racks in a row. Add gaps that line up to give you perpendicular aisles to get around the space. With a 59 foot wide space, the obvious thing is 5 racks end to end with leaving one lengthwise 9 foot wide aisle. We should be able to fit 22 rows. After accounting for exits and curb structures, that's about 100 racks or 1000 bikes. The plan of alternating the direction bikes go into the racks has a few problems: mainly that you often have to do extra walking to get to the correct side of  a rack for a given bike, and bikes often get tangled and it's hard to get a bike out. So I also worked out the math if we did all bikes in the same direction in a rack. I took some measurements and made some educated guesses. It helps immensely that for a large road race all the bikes are a similar type with relatively short wheelbases and similar handlebar widths. I figured out that when hanging from the saddle, road bikes seem to stick about 2 to 2.5 feet behind the saddle and 3 to 3.5 in front. Handlebars are about 1.5 feet wide, which with a tiny bit of squeezing is 7 bikes per rack. By having bikes go in "handlebar first" and not walking down the aisles full of that end of the bikes, we can place racks alternating between 7 feet (closed handlebar aisle) and 9 feet (back of bike and 4--5 feet of walking space), and then taking into account exits and curb structures is 155 racks or 1085 bikes, an 8.5% capacity improvement! So I worked with that second "all the same way" plan, and worked out a diagram with measurements marked out, canopies where they should go, everything planned down to the inch with racks alternating 7 feet and 9 feet apart:

First version of parking map (click to zoom)

This was a good starting point for a discussion of details. We decided that color coding regions would be a good idea. Somebody pointed out that I should swap which way the alphabet goes because it would make more sense when standing at the front. Many refinements happened. In the end, this was given to the people that were going to be placing the racks:

Simplified diagram given to people doing the setup (click to zoom)

And this was generated for the on-site map to be posted at various spots:

Map posted on site and used for labeling

The plan then is to preprint tickets for each rack+seat, and then have somebody at each exit collect tickets as bikes leave and copy the rack+seat to a fresh ticket that gets sent to the entrance. To my mind this is almost like a multi-threaded computer program. A fresh ticket is a reservation for a place a bike can go. A ticket writer at the front has a pre-pulled set of reserved spots and sends (via runner) those bikes to the spots. When a bike leaves, the used ticket halves are reattached to each other, the identifiers for that spot are copied to a new ticket and that reservation is now open again and sent back up to the front to be sent out again.


A sea of empty bicycle racks

On Wednesday, all the rack tickets were printed.  There was some trouble figuring out how to make software work the way we wanted, so the closing time was pre-printed, but each ticket just had a "rack" and "seat" spot and those were handwritten on all the tickets. Part of the bag plan was to use the back area for some bag intake, so we reserved the tickets for those areas to be "released" once bag intake was done and those racks could be set up.  We also reserved all the 7th and 8th "seats" on racks so that we didn't have to deal with trying to squeeze that last bike onto a rack unless we were really almost all full up. The primary rack setup happened on Thursday during the day, with vineman folks and some other volunteers. I came along at the end of the day, helped with a few last-minute setup decisions (exits weren't precisely measured on diagrams I had so there were minor adjustments), got counts and measurements for the final map that's above, etc.

My bike on a rack, showing how they're hung up

Got a chance to take a few pictures, verify exactly where exits and entrances were, etc. I could see that it's difficult to tell a 7 foot aisle apart from a 9 foot aisle, so one of our plans (if it wasn't already; I forget) was to use some chalk to mark things out. To help with navigating the colored sections, in addition to our usual "A1"/ "E33" type rack labels, we'd use some of the same paper as the tags were printed on to color code the racks.

To be continued on Monday...

Twitter + Stack Exchange Specialized Giveaway

2011-10-19 by . 0 comments

Edit: This contest is now closed and winners have been announced.

The Prizes:

The Rules:

  • Retweet THIS to enter the contest.
  • Include your Twitter handle anywhere in your Bicycles.StackExchange profile.
  • Earn 10 rep points across the Bicycles site (excluding points earned by linking SE accounts) from now until Friday, 3pm EST to increase your chances of winning 3-FOLD. See how to earn rep here.

The Terms:

  • Anyone, anywhere is eligible.
  • Winners will be picked at random, with each winner eligible for only one prize.
  • Winners will be announced Monday, October 24.
  • Prizes must be picked up in person at a licensed Specialized dealer.

Good luck!

(Note: This giveaway is not sponsored by Specialized.)

Please ask any questions on the official meta thread for this giveaway.

Filed under Contest

Great place to ride: The Chesapeake & Ohio canal trail

2011-10-11 by . 0 comments

The C&O runs 180 miles along the Potomac river from Cumberland, MD to Washington, DC. The surface is mostly packed dirt. You don't want to ride this one with skinny road tires. I managed with 700x32 standard touring tires, but riding here is more fun with knobby tires.

I've been on the trail twice, once as part of a Pittsburgh to DC tour, the other on a shorter three-day ride. (We rode the W&OD west for a day out of DC, then turned towards the more-or-less parallel C&O and doubling back towards the district.)

It's worth noting that the C&O meets up with the GAP trail in Cumberland, which takes you pretty much all the way to Pittsburgh, PA. The two trails are popular touring destinations.

If you're starting in Cumberland, check out the Cumberland Trail Connection, a bike shop that has catered to trail users for years.

The C&O itself starts more or less in the middle of town as a brick-and-stone trail:


Once you exit town, it quickly turns into the dirt trail it will be for most of its way to the nation's capitol.


You'll ride through fields, past pastures and horse farms, and through woods. If it's rained recently, you'll also get pretty filthy. I highly recommend fenders on this trail.

When I went on the northern half of the C&O, portions of it were very overgrown. However, they've since tamed the path a bit, which I think is a shame.


Bring lights along; there are a few unlit tunnels where you'll need them.


Most water available along the trail is from cisterns, and is treated with iodine. If you'll be on the trail for more than a few hours, check the status of these with the park service. Getting stranded overnight without water is, as I can testify, no fun.


Williamsport aqueduct

Fallen tree, about four hours south/east from Williamsport. I had to take an on-road detour, and I was glad I had a GPS for that bit.

Snapping turtle on the C&O, near the great falls

If you have time, stop and see the Great Falls. It's right off the trail itself, and maybe an hour or two from the end of the trail in DC. I found it breathtaking, and well worth spending a couple of hours.


Great place to ride: Pike 2 Bike – The Pennsylvania Turnbike, Harrisburg, PA

2011-09-26 by . 2 comments

This 8-mile section of the old PA Turnpike was abandoned in the late 1960's. The pavement is now cracked, overgrown, and it feels lonely and dead. But it's actually fun to ride on!


We met a group of folks from at the access point. There's a sign before you enter that, in effect, lets you know you're riding at your own risk. In fact, I wasn't entirely clear on whether riding here is legal or not.


There are some tunnels, so bring a light along. (One tunnel is about a mile in length.)


The pavement is very rough, and I'd bring a bike with wide tires is you have one. I was surprised by how few mountain bikes I saw:


This is more of a stroll than a ride; you really can't go that fast, or that far--but riding on what used to be the Pennsylvania Turnpike is a strange experience, and one I found well worth the drive from New Jersey.


More information:

Great place to ride: Pennypack Park, Philadelphia, PA

2011-09-19 by . 0 comments

I found I had an unexpectedly free weekend, so decided on a short weekend tour. Why not, yes? I had the time and the bike and the desire for it. My route would take me through Pennypack Park on the way out of Philadelphia.

The Pennypack Park path is paved, and is quite twisty and hilly. Since the first day of the tour was characterized by rain, I had to take it easy when rounding corners. The rain became more than an annoyance perhaps a mile after entering the park, so I took shelter under the Bensalem Avenue Bridge.


While waiting, I reviewed my directions yet to come. I didn't have long until I got to Tyler State Park and the hostel there. I had no idea at the time that the rain later that day would be so poundingly, painfully thick that I'd accept the offer of a ride for the last few miles.


The park is quite beautiful. I would probably be using the modifier breathtakingly if I had seen it in the rain. Pennypack Park is only a few miles in length, but it's well worth the trip.


This guy rode his bike to the park with his fishing pole. He clearly wanted to be left alone, so I did.


The park has nearly ten miles of path, but I left the trail at Lorimer Park, a mile or so before the end. This is a good place to park if you're going to drive here.

Pennypack Park is a great place for a day's ride. You'll use your hill-climbing gears here, but the hills are all short sprints. This'd be a challenge for kids or new bikers, or a fun diversion for seasoned cyclists.

A Jersey Boy Visits Portland

2011-08-29 by . 4 comments

While waiting for the Red Line to take us to our hotel, we saw several cyclists; I noticed that many of them--most of them, almost all--were signaling their turns.

Sure, most of them were using that weird, left-arm right-turn signal that kids learn in driver's ed, but they were signaling.

Portland, Oregon is--to a right-coast denizen--bike paradise. I'd heard of the city's amazing bike facilities. (I'm a volunteer copyeditor for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, and why that's the case is another story.) Actually seeing the bike lanes and transit facilities and the competent riders and drivers who know how to treat them--reading about all this did very little to prepare me for the reality.

We visited the city for a week, and had a great time. We rode on the Steel Bridge, and the bike traffic was inspiring. (We even saw a guy on a welded-together tall bike rounding corners. How do those guys dismount, let alone stay upright?) We rode the west-bank river walk. We visited Powells. (Several times!) We saw City Bikes paint their new mural. We spoke to buskers--and saw them get chased away by the police. And we drank coffee. A lot of coffee.

Sitting in Peet's Coffe and Tea in Portland, Oregon

Let's back up a little bit:

Drivers in my home state of New Jersey have a pretty bad rep. The forums are filled with tales of drivers who scream at cyclists, and stories of idiot high-school seniors in SUVs throwing slushees at bike commuters. After all, bikes in New Jersey are ridden by children and people whose licenses were pulled after a DUI conviction.

To be fair, the cyclists themselves in the Garden State are said to be, almost to a rider, wrong-way cyclists with their saddles too low who run red lights and ride on the sidewalks when they feel like it. Or so the thinking goes. I can't really fault any driver here who thinks that cyclists are scofflaws--because most of us are. But let's get back to Portland:

After a day or so in the city, we rented bikes from the hotel: machines that the hotel called "cruisers" and I called "rattling deathtraps". We had to pump up the tires and raise the saddles, and I did my best to tighten the handbrakes so they actually worked. (It's a shame the city has no proper bike share program.)


When we were riding across the Burnside Bridge into SW Portland, I (stupidly) signaled at the last minute to make a left turn. A car slowed and let me into the lane. Maybe this is normal behavior for the city, but it's nearly unheard of back home. (My wife was smarter than I was, and refrained from making that turn.) I rode more intelligently later in the day, but cars continued to treat me in a similar fashion: like a vehicle who deserved access to the road. Jersey drivers don't even treat other cars this well.

Bikes are everywhere. There's on-street parking for bikes. Businesses have racks as a matter of course, and they're not hidden away where thieves can snip open locks with a reasonable expectation of privacy. (Privacy is a constitutional right, yes?)


This treatment of cyclists as equal road users obviously must feed back in some way. Drivers and cyclists seem to respect each other in a way that's hard to explain to someone that lives where cab drivers won't even let you change lanes.

Later on in our trip, we stayed with cousins in town and they lent us a pair of mountain bikes. When we took those bikes on the MAX, people offered to move out of the way so we could get to the bike hooks (well, they did most of the time), and more than one commuter struck up a conversation with us. Did I mention that Portland's transit is cheap? A seven-day pass for all Portland area transit is exactly the same as a single round-trip ticket on the train from our house to New York City. That's one round-trip ticket = seven days of unlimited riding.

Portlanders, if you don't realize what you have and what the BTA has done, I invite any of you to come to New Jersey and ride with me in Newark or Paramus or Clark. You'll figure it all out--and you'll figure it out quickly--the first time a cab driver accelerates to keep you out of a lane, or a bus driver tries to squeeze you off a road.

Cherish what you have, and know that you have my admiration. (And my envy.) This Jersey boy knows you've done a great job!

Mural being painted at the Citybikes Workers' Cooporative in Portland, Oregon.

(A similar version of this post has been written for the BTA blog.)

World Naked Bike Ride 2011 – Southampton

2011-08-22 by . 0 comments

I took part in this year's World Naked Bike Ride. The ride is a celebration of cycling and the human body and also aims to highlight the vulnerability of cyclists on the road.

At the Southampton ride there were about 150 riders, which is a pretty good turn out for a cold Friday evening. The dress code was "bare as you dare"--some dared more than others.

We rode around Southampton and got an overwhelmingly positive response from car drivers, pedestrians and other onlookers. We managed to get some favourable media coverage and hopefully we helped raise the profile of cycling a little.

The 2012 World Naked Bike Ride will take place in March in the Southern Hemisphere and in June and July in the Northern Hemisphere. More details are available at


2011-08-03 by . 2 comments

I ordered some Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires for my touring bike, to replace the 3-year old mismatched pair I had on there--one of which is original equipment. (Relating to my last post: Knobbies are great fun, but my September tour will be almost all on roads, and I want to ride on these for a while before a week-long tour.)

Those of you who've changed anything thinner than a mountain bike tire know that they can be tough to get on, at least the first few times. The Marathon Plus is the nuclear option flat resistant touring tires--heavy, but considered reliable and a very good ride. They're also even stiffer and more ornery to get on than any other touring tire I've installed. After some struggling, I got the rear tire on the rim and put it back on the bike. The front tire, a Panasonic, was a little more trouble. (Yeah, it's the newer tire, but newer by just a few weeks; I had a nasty blowout on tour when the bike was fairly new, and had to toss the tire after a day of riding with a boot.)

I had more trouble getting the bead around the rim, and for a moment, wondered if I was digging into the tube; I gently pulled the tire iron out (I usually just use my fingers, but this tire was tight) and tried again. Eventually, with my wife helping, the tube was on and I inflated to 85psi. (The maximum is 95.)

After some other fiddly maintenance, I put the bike against the wall, in preparation for the morning commute on the towpath. A few hours layer, I hear a loud bang! Loud enough to be a balloon popping next to my ears, or maybe a gunshot from fifty yards away. The front tire had exploded, and the bike was standing there with the tire half-off the rim, the tube in shreds. The guitars I have hanging on the walls were ringing, as were my ears.


There are two takeaway lessons here. First off, though you may sometimes have little choice in the matter,. using a tire iron to seat the tire is probably a bad idea. At the least, inflate the tube more! (I'm fairly sure I could have put more air in the tube.) It could have been that the bead wasn't seated properly (I understand that can also cause a tube to blow), but I was careful about that. I massage the tire onto the rim evenly before fully inflating, evening everything out and also checking that the tube isn't caught anywhere. (Obviously I missed something this time. Just look at that picture! That's a classic pinch flat, allright.)

Secondly, replace your tires before three years pass; the tread on those was pretty low, the sidewalls almost gone.

There's good advice in this question about tight tires. I can't believe I forgot the talc trick! I'll try it in the morning when I replace the tube.

Filed under Mechanical, Touring