Monday, August 26, 2019

PSA: Check your kit!

Not hard to imagine this scenario: You've just finished a busy week of work.  You're tired, run down, aware more than ever that you aren't getting any younger.  But you recognize that summer in the alpine is fleeting, ephemeral, oh-so-precious.  You know you'll be lethargic on the climb, but you're acutely aware that you'll feel umpteen times better if you get some rarified air in your lungs, incinerate some endorphins, and liberally paste your shins with wildflowers that didn't have the good sense to grow outside the trail tread.  

You motivate.

With limited daylight left you know it won't be an epic.  You reach for the light pack, fill a single bottle, don helmet, shoes, chamois, gloves, and head out.

The climb is slow, as expected.  But the world -- despite how advanced summer already is -- is a riot of greenery and wildflowers.  Lupine, columbine, aster, paintbrush, skyrockets, larkspur, mules ears, and limitless skunk cabbage stretch to every horizon.  You aren't moving fast, but you're *exactly* where you want to be.

90 minutes of climbing -- some of it deliciously technical -- bring you up to the limit of where trees can grow, providing views so expansive you can't quite focus on distant ranges.  Could be the lack of oxygen.  The grade relents and you feel the inexorable, delightful, never-not-amazing pull of gravity as you start to gain speed.  A trickle of spittle hangs in the corner of your mouth, so heavily are you salivating over the approaching descent.

Within the first hundred meters your speed increases to the point that you can pump, carve, and hop the bike easily.  You immediately remember why you're OK with a 30# sled, so capable is it once beyond walking speed.  

But then -- a noise: thwapthwapthwaphissthwaphissthwaphissthwapHISSSSSSSSSSSSssssss.

Gah.  Never even saw it until it was *in there*.

A cursory glance shows that plugs -- even many, stacked -- just aren't going to solve this.  You break the bead, pull the valve, stick in the tube that's been rattling around unused in your pack for -- how long?! -- and start pumping.

The bead seats.  Pressure is enough -- or so you hope.  Who even knows what pressure to run with tubes anymore?!

As you install it back into the frame it happens: ssssssssssssssSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSsssssssssssssssss.

Removing the wheel again you discover that the base of the valve in that old tube has cracked, failed.  Irreparable.


Your riding partner offers his tube, which quickly proves to be even older than yours, and won't take any air.  With not a single patch between the two of you, your ride just ended.

You bid your riding partner good luck as he begins the much-anticipated descent.  

You turn 180* and begin walking your bike back down the hill.

You possess the presence of mind to enjoy the views as you walk, acutely aware that 30 extra grams worth of patch kit would have allowed you to solve this problem sans hoofing.

Check your kit before your next ride.  Don't let this happen to you!

Late addendum: It took ~$0.50 worth of Aquaseal to fix the hole in the tire.  Not a great trailside fix but easy and reliable once back home.


  1. What patch goodies do you usually carry? I've found it hard to patch a tire on the trail as you have to thoroughly clean the tubeless goo off before the patch will stick.

    1. For day rides: Tubeless plugs of many shapes and sizes. Normal Rema patches -- they work as well on tubes as they do on the inside of tires. At least one tube of appropriate size.

      For multi-day trips, at least 2 tubes, more plugs, super glue, curved needle and carpet thread. Maybe a small tube of sealant if the area is super thorny.

  2. strip of duct tape, foot long roll of tent repair tape, plugs, patches and glue and some glueless patches, a few zapstraps. those are light. when alone i also carry tools (wrenches, chain tool, co2,) pump and tube.

  3. There can only be one answer, Mike: Heavier Tires.

  4. I'm surprised that you are still using a chamois : >)