By Scoop Skupien
I hooked left onto Green's Lick Trail and started cranking downhill. This was the moment I’d been waiting for during the last 30 minutes of climbing. Sure, the trail has a burly/gnarly factor of 9.5, so you need to be vigilant, but it’s a nice downhill that lasts forever.
Unfortunately, it was much shorter for me on this fateful day. Because one minute later, blasting through a boulder field, I heard a sound we’re all familiar with. A great slamming, if you will. A rock about the size of a brick flipped up and smashed against my bike. It was the type of sound that lets you know there will be repercussions.
In a big way.
The next sound made my heart sink. It was as if every librarian on the eastern seaboard had gathered their combined shushing power for one moment of glory. Perhaps an attempt to set the shushing world record.
Or announcing a flat.
All by myself
A second later, my rear tire was completely flat. Me being me, I was alone, I hadn’t seen anyone for a while, and I was far from a trailhead.
Actually, I was about eight miles from home. You see, I ride to Bent Creek from my home in West Asheville, so… yeah. I had a lot of things going for me.
But don’t cry for me, Argentina. I love solo biking, so I do it completely prepared.
Or so I thought.
Within a few minutes of my flat, around 3:45 p.m., a guy rode by. He’s a true mountain biker, so he stopped and asked me if I was OK or needed anything.
“All good,” I said. “Just a flat. I’ll be out of here in three minutes. Thanks.”
I’ll be out of here in three minutes.
What an idiot. It was like I was daring the universe to mess with me.
The unstated code
With that, my friend took off down the trail. A good mountain biker, he lived by our unstated code: Stop and help each other. But when someone gives a thumbs up, you go on your way.
As we all know, mountain biking can be a dangerous sport. And the more you love it, the more dangerous it gets. Therefore, when we see a comrade in need of help, we should always ask if they are OK or if they need anything.
It’s just the right thing to do.
Anyway, as my fellow mountain biking enthusiast rode away, I took off my backpack, opened my emergency bag, and pulled out my spare tube. But as I did, a bad feeling washed over me.
Oh no. No. No. No.
I was on a new bike now. It’s an unbelievable bike. A bike I love.
What kind of bike is it? It’s a Transition Smuggler, but that’s not the point.
To borrow a phrase from a good friend of mine, it’s a bike they will pry from my cold, dead fingers.
But that no longer mattered.
What did matter was the fact that I hadn’t updated my emergency bag since my wife bought me this fantastic bike as a Christmas present. And that meant I was holding a 29-inch inner tube with a Schrader valve. My new rims only accommodate Presta valves, which are much smaller.
The Schrader valve didn’t fit. It doesn’t fit. It never will fit.
Trust me, I checked. Multiple times. Like, muuultiple.
And I’m like the world’s most challenged person in terms of… well, anything that doesn’t deal with the written word, really. Presta, Schrader, Presta, Schrader, Presta, Schrader. I don’t know. At this point I was begging air to go in and stay in.
I might have said something like: “Air! Go in! Stay in!”
You never know.
So many issues
I was having other issues. I know you’re busy and have your own challenges, but you never know what you can learn, right?
Here they are, in order of importance, though the closer I got to 5:00, the more important No. 3 became:
- I might have to push my bike to a bike shop three miles away
- Hopefully, that bike shop would be open
- Cocktail hour was swiftly approaching
It was too late to yell to my friend. He was long gone.
I’ve taken to laughing maniacally in these sort of situations lately. In my 30s and early 40s, the expletives I would have emitted would have echoed off the mountains for weeks. But that doesn’t help. Never does.
Especially since my issue was a direct result of prolonging a trip to the bike shop. You know, I really think I was waiting for something like this to happen before I took my bike into Asheville Street and Dirt to go tubeless.
Speaking of strategic decisions, I was thinking about filing the hole a little bigger, figuring it shouldn’t affect the strength of my rim. But, miracle of miracles, at 4:11 p.m., two more riders came by.
For once in my life, I actually had some money on me. I asked the guy who gave me his spare inner tube if I could give him anything.
“Pay it forward,” he said.
Off they went. But of course, my issues weren’t over.
I was still in crazy town. The valve on the inner tube my friend gave me was bent. Can you believe it?
It gets better. My pump failed. I’m not kidding. It was amazing. And I was sure my bike was upside-down in poison ivy.
But at this point, it’s almost a letdown if I don’t end up with poison ivy all over me, run into a bear, or a hunter shoots me in a nonlethal way, right? Sorry to let you down…
I managed to fill my tire about halfway when more riders came by and let me borrow a pump. I was quickly back in business.
But you know what? Throughout my little episode, I noticed something. About 10 bikers stopped. Wanna know who didn’t? Two hikers and a runner. In fact, they barely even responded when I said hello.
So say what you want about crazy people flying down the trails on their mountain bikes. Those crazy people are the nicest, friendliest, helpful crazy people on this crazy planet.
In fact, we rule.