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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The Great Divide - One Puncture, No Flats

You should've been gone
Knowing how I made you feel
And I should've been gone
After all your words of steel
Oh, Sherrie, holds on, holds on, holds on
Oh, Sherrie, holds on, holds on, holds on

Oh, Sherrie, Steve Perry, Randy Goodrum, Craig Krampf & Bill Cuomo (1984)

Now, that's got to hurt. But the tire holds on another 1,500 miles.
And the Allen wrench holds on another 2,000 miles in a pack.
(photo by Paul Brasby)

Many ask me about mechanical problems on my ride of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. How many flat tires? How many broken chains? How many worn out brake pads? Cables? Wheels? Pedals? Bottom bracket? What else?

The answer is one. One mechanical. A rear tire puncture on Day 2 that didn't even cause a flat. That's it.

Paul cruises up Red Meadow Pass early on Day 2 of our Great Divide ride.

From USFS Tuchuck campground atop Whitefish Divide, we start Day 2 cruising toward Glacier National Park just to the east, drop to and spin along the Flathead River valley, and climb back up Red Meadow Divide. We enjoy fast, narrow gravel roads through tall forests that occasionally open for big views both up the mountains and down the valleys. What a way to start the day.

We meet several other cyclists, including Bill, a northbound Great Divide rider on his Day 45, who is full of information and counsel. Here's a gem from him. "Start slow. Everyone wants to get those big 60-80 mile days in. Ride 40-50 miles a day for 10 days to start and let your body decide." That turns out to be very good advice that perhaps we should have followed.

In the morning, the rear tire still has not lost any pressure, but the puncture remains.
(photo by Paul Brasby)

After lunch at idyllic Red Meadow Lake, we soon top the pass and fly 22 miles down hard packed gravel. Twice I stop for pictures. Otherwise, this is 30-40+ mph territory, easy.

Abruptly, gravel turns to pavement. Almost immediately, I hear a metal scraping sound from my rear wheel. It repeats randomly, not rhythmically. What is that?

Nothing appears to be rubbing or dragging. The brake rotor, pads, and levers are fine. Tire pressure is unchanged. Then I spin the rear tire to find a large something had punctured the tire. Between the sealant, dirt, and speed, the puncture sealed without any apparent loss of air pressure. I certainly did not feel any change of handling during that long, fast descent. With no real loss of air pressure, I soft pedal the final few miles to our campsite for the night.

Paul holds the Allen wrench with dried up sealant by the plugged puncture.
(photo by Paul Brasby)

Of course, I get distracted at camp with evening activities, such as meeting fellow bikepackers, and neglect the tire that night. In the morning, I'm surprised to find the air pressure unchanged. But I still need to sort this out.

Paul, a master tire plugger, takes a look. To our amazement, he pulls out of the rear tire a rusted 2 mm Allen wrench. Somehow, that long end punctured and completely entered the tire, while the short end stopped the penetration and rested under the tire tread. So, in the fast gravel, I didn't hear or even notice anything. When rolling onto pavement, I then heard the long end of the wrench randomly scraping against the inside of the rim.

Even for Paul, a master tire plugger, this is his first time plugging an Allen wrench puncture.

Paul's plug holds on for almost 1,500 miles supporting a 70+ pound bike bouncing over rough roads. Finally, on Day 34 near Salida, Colorado, the tire develops a slow leak that appears to be around the plug. With little left on the tread anyhow and with rough, prickly New Mexico on the horizon, I decide to just replace the rear tire at Absolute Bikes. Nothing but praise for both the original Bontrager XR2 2.60 tire and Paul's masterful plug!

Other than that one puncture and eventual tire replacement, I had no other mechanicals. That may simply be the result of riding conservatively, choosing and maintaining durable components, or dumb luck. Maybe it's all three. 

Oh, Sherrie, Steve Perry (1984)

1 comment:

  1. funny, I had a similar thing happen a few weeks ago, but in my pickup tire. while driving slow through a residential neighborhood, I could hear a "tick, tick, tick" as I rolled along. Thinking I perhaps had a rock stuck in the tread of the tire, I stop to examine the tire and find a 6mm allen key stuck deep into the tread. i pulled it out and of coarse it immediately started loosing air through the puncture. I had my MTB with me so I grabbed my Dyna plug and inserted 2 strips. it sealed the leak. I had it patched a few days later. lesson learned...always carry some tire plugs