Summer is the time for epic rides: Race Across America, Tour de France, Giro d’Italia. Thirty years ago, I was lucky enough to have experienced my own epic ride and am now re-living it day by day via my crushed and musty journal. Starting in the San Diego airport and concluding at home in NY State, my dad, a friend and I pedaled, self-supported, across the USA in seven and a half weeks.
I’m glad I kept that journal; there are so many rich details I had completely forgotten which came flooding back as I read the entries. Such as the family of squeaky little spotted skunks that stole our food on our second night. Discovering quick-sand. Making a cardboard sign that read “Vegas” and hitching a ride to get out of the heat of the desert. Sleeping on the side of the road next to sagebrush or rocks or in a gully; wherever we could find a flat place to lay our tired bodies. Taking a hike in the desert and discovering a spring-fed dreamy oasis of palm trees, crystal clear cold water and blissful relief from the scorching sun.
Other things I remember clearly, such as the brutal heat of the Mojave Desert in the worst heat wave in 50 years. The disappointment upon discovering that Joshua Trees are not in fact trees at all and don’t provide a lick of shade. I remember the Ranger escort as we cycled through the 1.1 mile Zion National Park tunnel and the cheering crowd who greeted us as we emerged. And I’ll never forget the eight miles of switchbacks to the top, and then 20 plus miles of downhill as we descended Wolf Creek Pass in the Rocky Mountains.
We were just three little people traversing this enormous and diverse country of ours, but in my mind, we were rock stars! Re-living this journey day by day is giving me restless legs. It’s been 30 years – time to start planning the next great adventure!
I pondered the merits of tubeless wheels the other day for quite some time as I pushed my flatted bike more than two miles to the parking lot. Bottom line, I would have ended up pushing even if I had a tube due to the circumstances, but we’ll get to that.
First, why do people run tubeless? 1) It’s the newest, hottest thing. There’s no argument against that line of reasoning. It’s why I’m running tubeless….so I can talk about it as the newest hottest thing. It’s lighter than running with tubes. Subtract two tubes, then add back in the sealant and you have a savings of maybe 260 grams (a little over half a lb.) depending on the tubes and how much sealant. However, the most compelling reason is that you can run much lower air pressure (20 – 35 lbs.) and not risk pinch flats. The lower air pressure provides more grip, especially in cornering situations.
Good stuff. But what happens when you flat with tubeless tires? There are a number of ways to flat no matter what you’re riding and sometimes what you have in your tool bag will determine whether you ride or walk off the trail (or even get on the trail in the first place). Flat Scenario 1: Tubeless tires will lose air if you don’t keep your sealant refreshed and distributed on the inside of the tires. The sealant fills in air holes, so if it’s not coating the inside of the tire, air seeps out. If you ride infrequently you will probably have to check your sealant, and/or air up every time you ride. Flat Scenario 2: Running low air pressure sometimes results in a ‘burp’ where the tire compresses too much and pulls away from the rim letting air escape – usually if you hit a rock or root at a funny angle. Generally, all you need to do for this is refill with air using a CO2 cartridge and head (hand pumps generally don’t provide enough volume when you break the rim seal) Flat Scenario 3: When you run over a thorn or nail, the sealant inside your tire should fill the hole. If it doesn’t, you either don’t have sufficient sealant, or the hole is too big to fill. Carry a small bottle of sealant and CO2 cartridges to make the repair. If the hole is too big, you might need a tube to remedy the situation.
The other day I fell into scenario 3. A rock ripped a lug off my tread creating a hole too big to fill with sealant. Even if I had a tube, which I didn’t, I would have had to insert a boot to keep the tube from leaking out the hole. I didn’t have a boot, or anything that would have worked such as a dollar bill, or mylar Gu wrapper, so I did what we all have to do from time to time….walk.
But I’m going to stick with tubeless, at least for now. I put a reminder on my calendar to check sealant every 2 months. And on my long rides, far away from civilization, I will carry a tube and a boot because I really prefer biking to walking any day.
This is from Ben Thorpe at the NOC bike shop. We have the signup sheet on the counter at BCB!
Tsali needs your help! Tsali Recreation Area was once the mecca of mountain biking in the South. With your help we can return it to its rightful place as “the” mountain biking destination in the South. There are many individuals that have volunteered countless hours to try to maintain this precious resource but these individual efforts often go unnoticed and unsupported. It takes an organized group of like minded people to make a real difference. By creating an organized club we will show the Forest Service as well as IMBA/SORBA that we are serious about the maintenance of our existing trails and that we are worthy of new trails. Yes, new trails are a realistic possibility if we have an organized, committed group that is willing to maintain them.
On Saturday the 21st of November I attended the IMBA/SORBA Board meeting. (If you are not familiar with these groups you can check them out at www.sorba.org) They are interested in starting a chapter in Western North Carolina. In order to do this we must have 50 members that are willing to join TSAMBA as well as IMBA/SORBA. If you want to support our trails a sign up sheet is in the bike shop or you can e-mail me you name, e-mail and street address as well as your phone number and I will add you to the list. On March 19th-21st IMBA/SORBA will be holding its board meeting at Nantahala Outdoor Center and will vote on new chapters. With your help we can become the next chapter in this important mountain biking advocacy group.
Tsali holds a special place in the hearts and minds of many mountain bikers. My hope in starting TSAMBA is that people can come Experience Tsali for the first time, again.
Thank you for your time and consideration.