11 March 2008

Rim strips/tape: Some handy advice for avoiding flats that I recently learned

Yay, I'm learning things.

First of all, the other night I patched a leaky inner inner tube all by myself for the first time. Oh, I've gotten flats before, but on each occasion a friendly helpful gentleman always pedaled up just in time to offer a helping hand. (Even my totally badass tires were not impervious to a 4-inch long rusty nail. Only yours truly would fail to notice a 4-inch long rusty nail in the road and run right over it.) But the other night was the first time I went through the whole process solo. It felt oddly rewarding.

I decided to repatch the old patch instead of replace the inner tube altogether because I noticed a small rip in what I could only think of as the big rubber band around the rim that keeps the spokes from poking the inner tube. (The hole for the valve is off-center, and the skinnier half had worn out.) A coworker had told me earlier that day about experiencing a similar flat, so I didn't want to waste a tube if it was about to blow any minute anyway if the big rubber band around the rim finally snapped. But then I began to worry--I can't walk into a bike shop and ask for one of those big rubber bands that goes around the rim, they'll laugh at me! There's got to be some technical term for it that everyone assumes I already know.

It's called a "rim strip," of course, and mine is made of rubber because my bike is cheap. (Well, cheap to most people, but I was eating ramen noodles for lunch and dinner the last week of the month I bought it. By the way, happy birthday, Avenger!) Most quality bikes have rim tape, which is much better stuff for some reason, to protect the inner tube from what are referred to, with the utmost gravity, as "spoke nipples." Bear with me; I've been learning this stuff here and there as I go along. I never said I knew all about bikes themselves, just all the great places where you can ride them and tips for avoiding disaster while doing so.

And then today I learned that for all my hybrid is comparatively cheap, I may have gotten lucky--all of my flats so far have been caused by rather sizable sharp objects that should have been incredibly easy to avoid. No mystery there. But apparently cheap rim strips are a common culprit of mystery flats.

And I thought that I should probably share this information, in case any of my readers feel just as clueless as I do about how our wonderful two-wheeled vehicles actually work. I can't possibly be the only person in the world who stared helplessly at their first flat tire.


At 11 March, 2008 18:32, Blogger Eric Allix Rogers said...

Don't worry, I'm clueless, too. I'm just really lucky. The only problems I've really ever had have been when things get stolen. Never once, in five years, have I had a flat.

At 11 March, 2008 18:50, Blogger Fritz said...

I have to admit that it doesn't even occur to me to chortle at "spoke nipples." That's just what they're called, kind of like chicken breasts. But I can see how the name is humorous to the uninitiated.

At 12 March, 2008 14:54, Blogger Freewheel said...

I use electrical tape on the inside of rims. It's stretchy and seems thick enough to protect the tube.


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