A Visit From The Puncture Fairy

12 May
My inner tube with a vertical split along the seam

My inner tube with a vertical split along the seam

Last week a friend of mine told me that he had two flats on his bike within the past few weeks—and like a total idiot I told him that I hadn’t had a flat in over nearly 6,000 miles. Experienced cyclists already know what happened next—my careless words summoned the Puncture Fairy and I got a flat on my next ride! For the uninformed, the Puncture Fairy is an evil little creature that shows up when you least expect it and wreaks havoc in your life (I know, she has the same job description as a mother-in-law). The quickest way to summon the Puncture Fairy is to mention that you’ve not had a flat in a while.

This past Saturday I went out for a 70-mile ride and about halfway through I heard a small explosion and then the front tire popped off the rim of my bike. Fortunately, I was climbing a step hill and was not going very fast at the time. If the problem had occurred just a few minutes before it could have been fatal since I had been riding on a busy highway at just under 40 MPH (yes, I was going downhill and had a strong tailwind). While the Puncture Fairy decided to pay me a visit, at least she showed me a bit of mercy concerning the timing. I’ve repaired a lot of flat tires over the years and can easily swap out an inner tube and be on my way in under five minutes. However, this was the very first time I’ve had a flat as a result of inner tube failure instead of a puncture. This time my inner tube split vertically along the seam (about 1.5″ long), and when the seam burst it knocked my tire off of the rim (which made it even faster to change the tire since I didn’t have to use a lever to get it off the rim).

The reason I told you this story is because it is finally spring and many folks are just getting their bikes out of the garage for the first time since last fall (which also means they missed a lot of good winter biking weather). Before you take your bike out for a ride you really need to make sure that you have a patch kit, spare inner tube, and a tire lever or two with you. If you don’t know how to change a tire I strongly suggest that you practice in your garage using the same tire levers that you carry with you when you ride.

Road debris sliced right through this tire

Road debris sliced right through this tire

You also need to have a back-up plan for when the Puncture Fairy really decides to ruin your day by slicing your tire in addition to puncturing your inner tube. Last summer I went out for a long ride with a young woman and on our way home she hit a piece of road debris and it sliced through her front tire like a hot knife going through warm butter. I took her tire off the rim, but it was a lost cause—not even a Park Tool Emergency Tire Boot could cover the damage.

Here is the piece of road debris that the young woman hit

Here is the piece of road debris that the young woman hit

The woman told me to just ride back to my house and she’d walk back (her car was at my house). However, this was not going to work for two reasons. First, I am a gentleman and the thought of leaving a lady by the side of the ride with a flat tire just wasn’t an option. Second, my wife would have shot me when I got home if she found out I left a woman by the side of the road home with a broken bike. So, I called my dear wife and she picked up the woman and her bike and then I rode home (and as slow as my wife drives I nearly beat them there).

When was the last time the Puncture Fairy paid you a visit?


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70 responses to “A Visit From The Puncture Fairy

  1. sueslaght

    May 12, 2014 at 11:29 PM

    This is such good advice. I am terrible at bike maintenance and changing flats. Just writing this will surely bring on the Puncture Fairy which has….shhhh…never paid me a visit. I’m sure there will be a blog post on her arrival in the near future. 🙂

  2. billgncs

    May 12, 2014 at 11:39 PM

    I always stop and ask any cyclist if they need a hand if stopped.

    The puncture pixie also stopped at my house, my thick 29er tire with very few miles had picked up a sliver of glass about the size of a few grains of sand – hard to find, but big enough to work through the tire and tube.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      May 13, 2014 at 11:53 AM

      Funny, two guys passed me while I was repairing the tire — one pretended no not see me and the other one asked if he could help. It is amazing how sharp a little piece of glass can be!

  3. hughes1963

    May 12, 2014 at 11:46 PM

    Last year while riding a 45 mile group ride I had not one but two flats within two miles. I had one spare tube. Needless to say my day was done.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      May 13, 2014 at 11:54 AM

      After I put the new tube on I did ride a bit more cautiously since I only carry one with me — and I patches are easy to b\put on, but I don’t trust them as much.

  4. velobum

    May 13, 2014 at 12:25 AM

    That is a fine example of road debris! I had a 4 flat day last year – 3 for a riding partner (might as well have been mine since I needed to stop and help each time), one of which was a split seam like you experienced, and the fourth for me caused by a drywall screw which stayed embedded in the tire, making it rather simple to detect the hole.

  5. cyclerist

    May 13, 2014 at 1:55 AM

    Trick question about PF and last time i had a puncture-not going to tell it to avoid bad karma on my back 🙂

  6. ATdF

    May 13, 2014 at 2:11 AM

    last week…three time in a weeeeek…!!!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      May 13, 2014 at 11:55 AM

      That is one record I don’t want to beat!

      • ATdF

        May 13, 2014 at 12:08 PM

        …and you know when? the same day i posted the video with lance armstrong reparing a flat /-:

        • All Seasons Cyclist

          May 13, 2014 at 1:22 PM

          I watched the Armstrong video you posted and learned something! I had never tried to partially inflate an inner tube by blowing into it before — it works!

        • ATdF

          May 14, 2014 at 1:29 AM

          lance number one even as mechanic (-;

  7. Chikashi

    May 13, 2014 at 3:08 AM

    Not telling you!

  8. Chatter Master

    May 13, 2014 at 4:35 AM

    I don’t want to jinx myself…..

  9. Gwen Stephens

    May 13, 2014 at 5:20 AM

    Boy, I guess I’ve been really lucky. Since I often cycle to work when the weather’s nice, I need to invest in one of those kits. Thank you for this informative post.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      May 13, 2014 at 11:56 AM

      I wouldn’t ride around the block without a spare tube and a patch kit — be careful!

  10. christov10

    May 13, 2014 at 5:52 AM

    Twice already, this year, on each of my road bikes. Both were inner-tube failures. At least they’re a lot cheaper than tires.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      May 13, 2014 at 11:57 AM

      I was trying to do some research last night on what causes inner tube failure, but couldn’t find anything that really made sense.

      • christov10

        May 13, 2014 at 2:00 PM

        One of the tubes failed where the (Scraeder) valve stem joins the tube on a set of 35 year-old Arraya rims drilled for Schraeders. I have heard that is a common problem with that type valve-stem. The other appeared to have blown out on a standard 700c Weinmann (sp?) rim with Presta valve. Both bikes have unpunctured Gatorskins. The Presta tube was several years old, the Schraeder, a Kenda Thornproof (dumb purchase – weighs a ton and the weight’s perceptible even riding an 29 # steel bike).

        • All Seasons Cyclist

          May 13, 2014 at 2:35 PM

          I’ve had valve problems before, but most of those who caused by “user error” (me). This time the tube tore right down the middle and the Gatorskin tires were unpunctured.

  11. runcolbyrun

    May 13, 2014 at 5:58 AM

    The Puncture Fairy is like Beetlejuice. Only you say her name ONCE and she shows up. Evil. She is evil. Good advice!

  12. Tom

    May 13, 2014 at 6:00 AM

    Super clean hands… did the Puncture Fairy pack Cat’s Tongue towels?

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      May 13, 2014 at 11:58 AM

      I don’t leave home without a Cat’s Tongue towel in my saddle bag (I keep one with each of my five bikes).

  13. Judy Crankshaw

    May 13, 2014 at 6:10 AM

    Now, if I tell you when the last visit was, isn’t that going to invite another visit?

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      May 13, 2014 at 11:59 AM

      Yes it will! So when was your last puncture?

      • Judy Crankshaw

        May 15, 2014 at 7:42 AM

        Not going to tell. Don’t want to invite any unexpected visits. 😉

  14. thehomeschoolingdoctor

    May 13, 2014 at 6:23 AM

    I’ve missed the cold weather cycling–and medium weather cycling for that matter…and the puncture fairy doesn’t ever visit our bikes.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      May 13, 2014 at 12:00 PM

      Be careful! I’ve heard that if you spend all winter inside to avoid the Puncture Fairy she will send her sister, the Pregnancy Fairy, to visit your house!

  15. taplatt

    May 13, 2014 at 9:22 AM

    I love the idea of the Puncture Fairy! Well I don’t really, but that’s a great name for it… I’ve had a couple punctures due to old/off-center rim tape. Annoying.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      May 13, 2014 at 12:01 PM

      “Annoying” is putting it mildly — at least mine happened on a really nice day.

  16. runnershealth

    May 13, 2014 at 12:26 PM

    A good mobile phone is a cyclist’s best tool indeed!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      May 13, 2014 at 1:21 PM

      Never leave home without it! Of course, I use the Cyclemeter app so I need the phone to keep a record of my speed and distance — and sometimes I even make a phone call with my iPhone (but very rarely).

  17. ragtimecyclist

    May 13, 2014 at 1:23 PM

    When did I last get a puncture? Ha ha, I wasn’t born yesterday you know.

    I have a friend who is a real puncture magnet. Wherever he rides we follow closely behind, safe in the knowledge that he has selflessly swept the road of anything sharp. If I summon a picture of him in my mind, it is of a man at a roadside, bike upturned, grappling with tyre and tubes – I’m not sure I’d recognise him in a real-life scenario!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      May 13, 2014 at 2:33 PM

      I’ve ridden with people like your friend — and I try to stay out of their way! One lady I sometimes ride with loves her very thin, high pressure racing tires — but they attract glass like nothing else I’ve ever seen (and I am always the one who ends up changing her tires).

  18. 16incheswestofpeoria

    May 13, 2014 at 3:59 PM

    I had a couple of flats over the past year. Inconvenient, sure, but it’s the 150 ride from 2011 that I remember–and offer to others as a cautionary tale.

  19. bgddyjim

    May 13, 2014 at 6:09 PM

    Sorry brother but I’m not touching that question with a 10′ pole! No chance sparky! You’d have needed a stack of dollar bills in that second tire, holy smokes!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      May 13, 2014 at 6:13 PM

      I was just wondering if other cyclists were are superstitious as me!

      • bgddyjim

        May 13, 2014 at 6:48 PM

        I’m a hockey fan too – it’s like a damn double whammy of superstitious. And the Flat Fairy is real.

  20. Richard E & Mary L Marion

    May 13, 2014 at 6:54 PM

    Continuing to lighten the Urban Assault Bicycle. Have an excellent Mechanic and we keep making the changes based on retaining the Continental Plus Touring 42-MM even though a PAIR weighs as much as The Moon. I’m an older guy… like to fly… but don’t wanna die… The tires, low gearing, and a rear rack are the only non-negotiable core components. No denying the very real effects of superstition. Some events defy analysis. They do.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      May 13, 2014 at 7:04 PM

      “Like to fly, but don’t wanna die” sounds like a good motto to me!

  21. canadianinjersey

    May 13, 2014 at 10:09 PM

    Had my first flat of the season 2 weekends ago. Totally my own fault. The night before the ride I reminded myself that I needed to check the tires, but I didn’t. So 5 miles into a 75 mile ride, I heard the disheartening pssss. I ride Hutchinson tubeless tires on my road bike and my daily commuting bike. The one disadvantage of the Hutchinson Atoms on my road bike is that they’re so low profile that getting a tube inside as a roadside repair is next to impossible. Instead, I carry patches (you can patch the tire just like a tube), and latex. But this time, to my chagrin, I found that I had worn right through the tread and was riding on exposed cotton threads. So I called my wife for a sag wagon pick-up, swapped the tire for a new one and headed back out. I’ll definitely check the tires before long rides from now on.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      May 13, 2014 at 10:22 PM

      Riding on exposed cotton threads? WOW! You certainly got your money’s worth out of the tires! How many miles did you have on them?

      • canadianinjersey

        May 14, 2014 at 10:51 PM

        That tire was on the rear wheel. In general, I’ve been going through one rear Atom a season (2,500-3,000 miles), but on the front the Atoms have lasted 2 seasons. The recent flat was my first try of the Hutchinson Atom Galatick, which has a more flexible sidewall. As near as I can remember, I mounted that tire last July/August, so mileage was probably under 2,000. Still pretty good. I had checked the tires carefully a couple of rides previously, and had noted that the tire would need replacing, but there hadn’t been any wear through at that point.

  22. Mule

    May 14, 2014 at 1:01 AM

    Riding to Dover in the British winter Gales, it was dark and raining very heavily. My top speed for the last 5 miles had been 6mph and the head wind stopped me dead on the larger gusts, when suddenly I heard a bubbling every couple of seconds (apparently at that speed with that much rain locating a punctur is child’s play). When I got off to fix the puncture I found my spare had been damaged in my saddle bag and on repairing both tubes that my pump was unable to maintain a seal over 30psi. Ended ip hocking a ride in a van back to the train station and cutting my journey in half. (50 of 90 miles)

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      May 14, 2014 at 9:32 AM

      Fortunately, I’ve never damaged a tube inside of my saddle bag — I keep it in the original box (but smash down the corners) and wrap the box with wide masking tape. My saddle bag is rather small and I’m sure that friction could easily rub a hole in a tube if it were not protected.

  23. Jeff Katzer

    May 14, 2014 at 8:54 AM

    You were doomed the moment you opened your mouth.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      May 14, 2014 at 9:32 AM

      It’s funny, we joked about that a few moments after I made my stupid comment — won’t do that again.

  24. Michael Voodoo

    May 14, 2014 at 9:53 AM

    I keep the Puncture Fairy at bay by keeping a tube in my rear tire that has a slow leak. Every two days, I re-pump my tire to rock hard status and hope for the best…although, just to speak of the Fairy, may be doom enough.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      May 14, 2014 at 11:02 PM

      Yeah, you’re doomed — speak her name and she appears without warning! Better carry and extra tube for a while!

  25. krisandthebike

    May 15, 2014 at 4:46 AM

    Since The NEW Diva and i, started adventuring we’re now counting three punctures in three months – AND that’s despite innersupport/shield – whatever it’s called in english – that is supposed to prevent puncture. 😡

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      May 18, 2014 at 8:41 AM

      I really don’t like those shields that fit inside of tires — I think they cause a lot of flats. You might want to look at a better pair of puncture-resistant tires (sometimes called “hard case” tires) and / or using Slime sealant inside the tubes.

      • krisandthebike

        May 18, 2014 at 2:24 PM

        Sounds reasonable. A friend of mine use those shields and haven’t had a flat in ages.
        Luck i guess, or lack of adventure…

        But yes, i’ll consider it. Those tyres are expensive in Diva-size Big ones, and money isn’t growing in my garden. 😉

  26. Mrs. Brown

    May 17, 2014 at 9:16 PM

    Three times last year on my brand new bike ugh! Thank goodness for the guys in the bike club. I try my best to change the tire but my muscles stink plus I am slow.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      May 18, 2014 at 8:39 AM

      You just need to practice tire repair at home a couple times — it really isn’t that difficult and doesn’t require much strength at all (just a good pair of tire levers).

  27. MikeW

    May 19, 2014 at 10:48 PM

    That is a gnarly piece of hardware left on the road…must have been a buff fairy. Glad everyone was alright. A puncture fairy visited our soccer ball. Pumped it up the other day, and now it’s as flat was before. The puncture weapon was not found, meaning that the puncture fairy or nymph or whoever pokes soccer balls would probably beat the rap.

  28. cyardin

    May 28, 2014 at 4:40 PM

    Bl00dy h3ll, that’s not road debris, that is a bear trap for cyclists. Just a question, is the puncture fairy (naughty little thing who visits me in triplicate whenever she rears up on me) related to the spoke demon?

  29. Crash MacDuff

    July 3, 2014 at 2:55 AM

    I’m not saying when I had my last flat, since the mere discussion will summon you know who, But I do have Kevlar® tires. Happy cycling!

  30. eatpedalpaddle

    December 30, 2014 at 5:09 PM

    My last puncture happened 3 weeks ago on my indoor trainer! Was 4min into my warm-up when the tube failed. Was like a 110psi gunshot! Scared the crap out of me! Definitely the 1st time I’ve punctured while riding indoors…


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