WAUKEENAH, Fla. — A milestone: I had my first flat on Monday.
After nearly two months on the road and more than 2,800 miles of riding since leaving San Diego on Sept. 20, I was the only one in our small bicycle caravan who had not had to change a tire — until Monday.
But I can’t blame my German-made Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. My rear tire was like an innocent mugging victim. It got stabbed.
As I was riding along a quiet country road just west of Woodville, I came to a screeching halt.
The rear rack had separated from the brackets that secure it to the frame just behind the seat post. The rack rotated backward on the bottom bolts at the rear axle and dropped the rear panniers to the pavement. They dragged behind the bike like an anchor.
The loose bracket that had held the rack in place behind the seat post dropped down and stabbed the rear tire as it rotated forward. Like a knife, it went right through the layer of rubber that protects against run-of-the-mill punctures: nails, thorns, wire-like pieces of steel from truck tires.
At first, I thought I might be faced with a trip-ending breakdown. But it turned out to be a relatively minor problem. I had to dismount the panniers, resecure the rack and replace one of the flimsier bolts with a good stout one that should hold fast until we get to St. Augustine and the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday.
Then, of course, I had to change the tube. The tire has a small stab wound, and the Specialized Airlock tube, with a slimy, self-sealing substance inside, had a slash too large to repair. But I was carrying three spare tubes.
The two Johns in our company came along just after my breakdown and offered help. But the first task was to resecure the rack and that was a one-person job. Just as I was preparing to take off the rear wheel to replace the tube, Kevin (Gerben) came along. He was a big help holding the bike steady as I took off the wheel, changed the tube and put the wheel back.
Once the panniers were remounted and everything else put back into place, the bike and I cruised down the road just fine and finished the 52-mile ride from Midway to a KOA campsite just north of Waukeenah in good time.
I was extremely fortunate that this mishap didn’t occur on a busy road in bad weather. That might have been a real problem.