Note: This page is no longer maintained. I'm archiving it here. - DJBSince I started commuting to work by bicycle several years ago, I've experienced more flat tires than it seems any one person should have to endure.  At first, getting a flat tire was all part of the novelty of riding to work.  Commuters who drive their cars generally don't deal with flats in the same way bikers do.  A flat tire in a car is an unforeseen event.  Most people don't even keep their spare tire properly inflated.  Others don't have the slightest clue how to change a tire and are entirely dependent upon AAA to rescue them from this generally inconvenient, yet rare, event. Bicyclists, on the other hand, generally plan for flat tires.  For instance, I carry a spare tube, a pump, a patch kit, and irons (among other sundry tools).  Originally, I just carried one tube.  That all ended the day I got one flat riding to the ferry from Alameda to San Francisco, and another flat while riding to lunch that same day.  Much cursing, swearing, grumbling, and other methods of verbally expressing my frustration soon followed that particular flat. The odd thing about these flats is that throughout my first 25 years on the Earth, I probably had as many flats total as I've had in the past few years. Towards that end, I've decided to start a compilation describing each and every flat from here on forward.  This will probably be therapeutic for me since it will make me realize that I really don't get flats every other day.

Date
Geographic Location
Perceived Cause of Flat
Estimated Time to Fix
Notes
Cost/Materials
16 Nov 99
San Francisco Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA
Glass on the Road One Day This one sucked!  Horrible Bike Karma!  Anyone who doesn't believe me when I complain that SF doesn't ever clean the streets either never opens their eyes or just steps over the piles of trash.  As I was riding home from work (fully dressed in my rain gear because I was expecting it to rain and the streets were already wet), a veritable mountain of glass appeared in front of me and I was unable to dodge without testing my impact resistance to a Ford SUV off my left shoulder.  I stopped almost immediately to check for glass embedded in my tire, but that was already too late.  That fateful Anti-Sucking sound was my tire deflating slowly.  Slowly, but surely.  I had enough air in the tire to get the bike on the boat to Alameda.  Once in Alameda, a not-as-surly AC Transit driver let me put my bike on the bus so that I only ended up carrying it seven blocks.  Of course, while carrying the bike, I made the mistake of thinking about how the only way this could be worse would be if it was raining.  On cue, the skies opened up.  The back tire (even with Kevlar belting) was ruined and I didn't have any spare tires around the house. So, I rotated the front tire onto the back (and went from Shraeder to Presta valves at the same time), and went shopping for a new tire the next day. Two New Tires (one as a Spare) - $35.00
Two New Tubes (one as a spare) - $10.00
Total - $45.00
18 Nov 99
Santa Clara and Sixth St.,
Alameda, CA
Sliding Rim Tape 30 mins. Riding home from the ferry my back tire inexplicably started deflating.&nbs When I bought my new rims, either the rim tape wasn't installed correctly, or it just slides.  Either way, I've not gotten a front and rear flat when the tube got caught between the rim tape and the rim.  Of course, when I was fixing the flat from the other night and putting the front tire on the back rim, I thought about checking the back rim tape, but decided it would be fine.  Why didn't I remember my flight training when we were told that as soon as you start rationalizing something with "Oh, it will be fine." instead of actively making the situation that way, the situation won't be fine?  Doh!  Sarah was kind enough to come and get me and my hobbled steed so I was able to change this one at home and also to spend a few minutes realigning the rim tape.  If I hadn't had to check the rim tape, I probably could have done this one in about twenty minutes. One Tube - $5.00
15 Dec 99
Our Front Hallway,
Alameda, CA
Separation of Valve from Tube creating a small pinhole leak 30 mins. I'm not sure when this particular flat actually happened.  I drove into work yesterday for a variety of reasons, so it could have happened Monday night or any time on Tuesday.  The hole was actually really small so it could have been leaking for some time.  I noticed the flat this morning when I grabbed my bike on the way out the door and saw that the rear rim was basically resting on the floor.  Suffice it to say that I did not arrive at the Ferry Building in Alameda for the ferry ride I usually take.  If you gotta have a flat tire, it's certainly best to have it at home. One Tube - $5.00
11 Jan 00
My Cubicle at Work,
San Francisco, CA
Rim tape sliding, tube slipping into space between rim tape and rim over spoke hole, and then the tube was pinched/cut 45 mins. This one took a bit longer to fix since I had to fix it in my cubicle at work, and I had to perform work-related tasks periodically during the fixing process.  The bike and I got to work without a hitch that morning.  Several hours later, while I was talking with someone on the phon e, I heard this hissing noise behind me.  I started looking around, trying to see who was using some sort of compressed air in the office.  The more I looked around, however, the more it became clear that the noise was coming from my bike.  Doh!  So, I had to sit there and listen to my back tire (of course) deflate for a few minutes.  Very disappointing, to say the least. One Tube - $5.00
09 Mar 00
Santa Clara Ave.,
Alameda, CA
Rusty nail one and one-half inch long speared through tire and into tube. 26 mins. What I need to learn is to stop thinking about flat tires.  A couple of days ago my thoughts strayed to what I would do if got a flat somewhere between the Alameda Ferry Terminal and my house in a location where neither one was a convenient place to go for either tire changing or transport back to the house.  So, today on my way back from work, I ran over a rusty nail, which immediately penetrated the Kevlar backing on my tire and punctured the inner tube.  (Note to self: Kevlar body armor may be bullet-proof, but I can attest that it's not Rusty Iron Nail Proof.)  So, I had to change the tire on the sidewalk, which wasn't the most convenient thing I've done all week.  At least the nail didn't completely trash the tire.  I was able to install a new tube into the tire and if you didn't know where to look on the tire, you probably would never see the puncture.  In fact, all the slits made by the SF Street Glass are much more noticeable than the nail puncture. One Tube - $5.00
23 May 00
3rd and Townsend,
San Francisco, CA
Unknown, maybe wear and tear? 25 mins. This flat happened just as I came through the intersection at Third and Townsend.  With almost no warning, my back tire just started leaking air.  Of course, I was on my way to the ferry, so this flat meant that I would miss the boat.  I was about a block and one-half from Start to Finish (a bike shop, which I don't particularly like), so I decided to walk my bike over there and have them fix it.  At the time, it seemed they might be able to get the tire fixed faster than I could (given that they'd have bike stands, an air compressor, and better tools).  However, I ended up with the rookie bike repairman fixing my bike, so it took about twenty-five minutes, which really wasn't any faster than I could have done it myself.  Oh well. One Tube - $5.00
Labor - $6.33
28 May 00
Our basement,
Alameda, CA
Incorrect installation of last tube by Start to Finish Bike Shop 20 mins. Most flat tires that don't happen while actively riding a bike, are discovered just as one is walking out the door to go somewhere.  Such was the case with this flat.  Sarah and I were going to bike up to Ole's Waffle Shop for an early morning infusion of coffee and greasy diner food.  She went down into the basement to get her bike out while I was finishing putting on my shoes.  She came back up stairs and told me not to bother getting my bike helmet on as we were walking to Ole's as my bike had a flat tire.  Since I hadn't had coffee or greasy diner food yet, I just didn't have the energy to get excited about the problem, so we walked up to Ole's.  This afternoon, however, I took the tire off the bike and discovered the problem:  the tube had been put into the tire incorrectly at Start to Finish the other day.  The gentleman, for lack of a strong enough pejorative, twisted the tube inside the tire.  It was a matter of time until the tire either blew out (worst case scenario) or just went flat (best case scenario, but still not a desirable situation).  So, I'll probably have to call Start to Finish on Tuesday and complain. One Tube - $5.00
12 Jun 00
Our front hallway,
Alameda, CA
Rusty staple or slipping rim tape 20 mins. The cause of this flat is a bit unclear.  It could be sliding rim tape (I've got to get wider rim tape...) or a rusty stable that I found in the tire.  The only good thing about this flat was that I was able to fix it at home. One Tube - $5.00
07 Sep 00
The ferry Encinal,
Alameda, CA
Tiny thorn penetrated tire and Kevlar lining and into tube 10 mins. This was a disappointing flat and my first on the new bike.  I didn't get to ride my bike home last night because I had to work late and I didn't have my bike lights with me.  As such, I was really looking forward to riding home today because the weather was perfect.  The ride to the ferry was uneventful and I stowed my bike with no problems.  However, when I got off the ferry, I found my front tire was deflated.  So, I hopped the bus from the ferry terminal to a location near the house, carried the bike home the last six blocks, and changed it at home. One Tube - $5.50
14 Sep 00
Atlantic Ave. and Main St.
Alameda, CA
A Tack 15 mins. I was riding home with a coworker who also rides the ferry when my rear tire started to ride a bit differently.  So, we stopped, and I spun the back tire to give it a once over.  Of course, my hand caught the tack which caused it to jump out of the tire.  As soon as the tack left the tire, the air started rushing out and that was that. One Tube - $5.50
15 Sep 00
Atlantic Ave. and Main St.
Alameda, CA
A Tack 15 mins. This flat occurred in basically the same area as the one the previous day.  This little number, however, instead of being a slow leaker was a complete blow-out.  The tire was completely empty of air in just a couple of seconds.  The city has been doing road 'work' on that road for the past couple of months.  Theoretically, they are improving drainage.  In reality, they appear to be exercising their orange cones and generally making the road worse for biking.  The road crews like to leave nice big trenches in the road, as a general rule.  When they do patch one of their trenches, the crews like to use an uneven patch, preferably leaving the sharp edges of the trenches exposed.  It was one of these trenches, ever so thoughtfully left behind, the blew out my front tire. One Tube - $5.50
08 Dec 00
Alameda Ferry Terminal
Alameda, CA
Unknown 20 mins. The cause of this particular flat is a complete mystery.  The tire was fine when I checked the pressure before leaving the house in the morning.  I rode the bike to the ferry terminal in Alameda without any problems.  After I got to the ferry terminal, the rear tire slowly started to deflate.  Aargh.  After getting off the ferry in SF, I started to change the back tire but couldn't determine why the tube had gone flat.  I pumped the tube up to a reasonably high pressure, and still couldn't find any holes or cuts.  I had Sarah and several other people see if they could find any holes in the tube but they couldn't find any problems with it either.  It's like the tube just got tired and wanted a rest. One Tube - $6.00
04 Jan 01
San Francisco Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA
Glass shard or nail 30 mins. This was a blow-out of Biblical proportions. I was speeding along the Embarcadero in front of the Ferry Building when my rear tire hit either a shard of glass or a nail and blew out, loudly.  People who were a block and one-half away heard the tire explode when it happened.  Of course, I was traveling reasonably quickly and before I could get the bike slowed down, the tire was already completely flat and I was riding on the rim.  Seeing as how I was basically already at the Ferry Building I just jumped off the bike (used a few choice words in my mind regarding the lineage of the person who left the debris in the road), and decided to change the tire when I got off the ferry in Alameda.  By sheer chance I was riding my old Schwinn because I hadn't ridden it into the city since August.  The tires on the Schwinn are much larger, and as such, take much longer to re-inflate.  The holes that were punched in both the tire and tube were quite large.  The tube had been ripped open in two locations as the foreign object penetrated first the top and then the bottom of the tube.  The rear tire had an equally impressive hole.  I had to use a folded up dollar bill as a boot so that the tube wouldn't protrude out of the tire once I inflated the tube.  All in all, this was a real bummer. One Tube - $5.00 and one dollar bill as a boot
07 May 01
San Francisco Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA
Glass shard 30 mins. This flat occurred in exactly the same location as my last flat tire.  It happened to the rear wheel on my Schwinn, again.  I was riding back to the ferry from a job interview.  Just as I got to the point where I would pull off the road and ride up to the docks to catch the ferry, my back tire was punctured by some glass in the road.  So, like last time, I put the bike on the ferry and changed the flat when I got back to Alameda. One Tube - $5.00
09 Aug 01
Third and Pacific
Alameda, CA
Thorn 20 mins. There is some question in my mind about whether or not I really needed to change this flat on the road or if I could have made it home before the tire went too flat to ride.  I picked up a thorn on the path leading from the ferry building in Alameda around NAS Alameda.  The thorn came from a plant and was of a pretty good size.  It caused my tires to make a slight thump as they went around and the thorn impacted the ground.  My initial thought was that I had ridden over some tar and had a tar/gravel ball stuck to the tire.  So, I stopped to knock the tar ball off the tire and that's when I noticed the thorn.  Air was leaking out of the tube ever so slowly with the thorn still in the tire.  I took the thorn out of the tire and air started leaking out faster, but still not that quickly.  That made me wonder whether or not I might have been able to make it home if I had just ridden quickly.  Of course, I might have damaged the tire or further ripped the tube open by riding with the thorn in the tire still, so perhaps I wouldn't have made it home anyway. One Tube - $5.00
18 Oct 01
Ninth and San Antonio
Alameda, CA
Broken Glass 20 mins. This was a stealth flat.  I was riding home in the dark from the ferry terminal in Alameda.  As I was riding down the bike path, a broken bottle suddenly appeared directly in front of me in the beam of my headlight.  I didn't have time to swerve and ran over the bottle.  I heard the glass shatter, but I didn't stop since everything seemed to be okay.  I rode on for another two miles or so.  As I turned from Santa Clara onto Ninth, I hit some of the bumps in the road and I thought, "Hmm...

That's odd.  My front tire feels a bit soft, almost like it's going flat."  That's when it hit me that the tire probably was going flat.  Doh!  I tried to fast break for home, but only got two more blocks before the tire was completely flat.  Bummer.

One Patch in a Patch Kit - $0.75
06 Jan 03
West Johnson and Randall
Madison, WI
Thorn 30 mins. As if I needed yet another trial that morning, a thorn decided to embed itself in my back tire.  The roads were covered in snow and Madison had decided to take the morning off from plowing the roads.  The bike lanes were essentially just snow-covered ice.  As soon as I realized that my rear tire was going flat, I pulled over, and walked the bike to a bus stop.  I rode the bus to a stop near work, locked the bike to a rack near the stop, and walked to work.  Sarah happened to be out and about that afternoon, so she put the bike on the back of the Saturn and took it home.  Changing flats is always more convenient at home, than on the road. One Patch in a Patch Kit - $0.75
11 Jun 03
West Wilson St.
Madison, WI
Glass shard 20 mins. Unsurprisingly, a bike with a flat tire does not have the same handling characteristics as a bike with two fully inflated tires.  I nearly discovered this fact the hard way.  I walked out of work, put my lunchbox in the wire basket, unlocked the bike, jumped on, started rolling down the hill, and nearly wiped out as my front tire went one way and the rest of the bike continued inexorably downward.  Wonderful.  A flat front tire.  A small glass shard (about the size of two sesame seeds side-by-side) punctured the tube after working its way through the front tire.  When I buy a new tire for my bike, I usually put the new tire on the rear rim, as the rear tire wears two or three times faster than the front, and rotate the old rear tire to the front.  As such, the front tire on my bike is usually far more worn than the rear tire.  In this case, all that wear and tear just made it easier for the shard to make my life frustrating for a while.  How did I get the glass shard in my front tire?  My route to work and back every day takes me through several neighborhoods populated quite heavily by University of Wisconsin-Madison students.  Why should this matter?  Apparently, there is no core requirement for all undergrads to study modern waste disposal techniques.  As such, there seems to be a tendency amongst the student population to discard glass bottles onto the streets and sidewalks whenever, and wherever, the urge strikes.  The City of Madison does a fair job of keeping up, but the students seem strangely dedicated to keeping a solid sheet of glass on the road in some places. One Patch in a Patch Kit - $0.75