11.12.2010

diagnose the problem

diagnose the problem...
it is always best to diagnose the problem to prevent recurring problems

lets say you are at happy hour with your friends...
you see an attractive person that you are interested in
from across the bar you get the signals inviting you in to make contact
the non-verbal communication is clear... you make your way across the bar and start in with a polite hello
not much time passes... just the quick exchange of hellos... then the person backs away?
maybe excusing herself to go to the bathroom or gesturing that they need to take a call

trouble shoot things...
what did you say? was it the wrong thing
how about your breath? do you have a serious case of the bad breath onion ring? did you just eat a bag of Doritos?
you get the idea

today I was downtown running some errands
zipping around from here to there I went up on the sidewalk to get away from the traffic for a block when I heard an evil hiss
it was quick... it was fast... it was loud

in a matter of seconds my front wheel had a flat

I got off the bike and went ahead and changed the tube
while changing the tube I did a quick diagnosis of the problem

checking the puncture did not reveal anything definitive
it was not the double slice that is indicative of a snake bite-pinch flat
I checked the rim tape for a place where the tube may have made contact to the spoke nipple
then I reviewed the rim for a rough spot or a burr
then finally I check the tire for a piece of glass, a tack, or a nail

nothing...
in my 5 minute process of review and tube changing I came up with nothing
chalked it up to karma
just figured... flats happen

air in the replacement tube
old tube in the trash and I was on my way

on the bike back to zipping around town
went through the process of running my errands

then hours later on the way home it happened
just as before
JRA...
JRA? yes... that is bicycle speak for Just Riding Along
usually what a person says to the mechanic when they are trying to explain why their bike is in the condition that it is
sometimes JRA actually means... the car was on the roof rack when I entered the garage or my wife backed over the bike when I had it in the driveway
in this case... I was JUST RIDING ALONG

so... down on the National Mall... in the shadow of the Washington Monument on my way back home when I hear that same evil hiss
just as fast... just as loud... just as quick

OH SHIT!
NOT AGAIN!

so... I am off the bike and going through my bag
knowing I did not have a spare tube I immediately regretted throwing the old tube away
maintaining composure I dug out a patch kit
all the while making a mental crossing of the fingers that it has patches and glue

sure enough... I have patches and I have glue

this time I spend an extra minute trying to diagnose the problem

sure enough... there is some wear on the sidewall of these old cyclocross tires that have long since worn away their knobs
the slight wear on the sidewalk was caused by a slightly mal-adjusted well worn brake pad

so... with proper diagnosis of the problem I got to fixing things

again in a flash I go through the process of fixing the flat
only this time I do not replace the tube... I patch the tube

while the glue went through its process of vulcanization I pulled out a bicycle specific multi tool and adjusted the brake pads
not waiting the full recommended 10-15 minutes and I was putting the tire and tube back on the rim
using a piece of foil from the patch kit as a bumper where the tire was pushing through the tear in the side wall

back on the bike with on more errand to run I moved through the city
never taking things to full speed
never making any extra risky moves that would leave me lifeless if this quick fix were to fail me again

what is the lesson?

give that extra minute of diagnosis to the problem to avoid a recurring problem
and eat a breath mint

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