Oh Lawd don’t flat my tire,
Oh Lawd don’t run down my dawg.
I’m on the trail just forgetting about
Living so low off the hawg.
Did another 60-mile bike ride yesterday with my friend Andrea’s Meetup group, starting at the Fossil Cove brewery in Fayetteville and taking the Razorback Greenway to the Bentonville square and back.
The ride was not without unexpected excitement — and the usual bucketful of aches.
By the time we rolled back to the brewery, some five hours after starting, we were complaining about aching backs, spasming calves, and saddle-anesthetized tender parts. The usual complaints, in other words, that could be soothed by beer.
But on the way up to Bentonville, two events occurred that we hadn’t anticipated and came rather to regret:
- One of the riders, on his first ride with us, on a brand new bike, hit a dog.
- Another of the riders (me) ran over a branch, in a big dip in the trail in Bentonville and got a flat tire.
Rider no. 1 — Bob — felt bad about banging into the dog. But it really wasn’t his fault, so much as the dog’s and its owner’s. The dog was on the wrong side of the trail — our side — and unrestrained by a leash. This was a winding segment of the trail, and Bob saw the knot in front of him too late — the dog owner on the left side, the dog and a girl jogger on the right. He tried braking at the last moment but hit the dog square on, and the beast yelped of course and ran away, first into the weeds and then down the trail in the direction he and his master were going originally. The man then ran after the dog.
I can’t imagine the hound is not hurt — suffering from deep bruises or contusion, or a broken bone or two. C’est la vie, apparently. I can’t imagine, either, that the owner will not restrain his dog if he takes him out on the trail again.
Rider no. 2 — me — should have slowed down up the road, in Bentonville, as the trail wound and dipped near a little park. I found myself sailing fast down a curve, with a deep dip, and there I ran over a branch and soon felt an odd drag. I stopped and looked at my front tire, and didn’t see anything amiss. But then, a few yards further down the trail, I stopped again and saw that my rear tire was flat.
I pulled off the trail, onto a sidewalk, and turned the bike over to examine the damage. No sooner had I got out my tools and spare tire than a couple of friendly bikers, heading south toward Fayetteville, stopped and came to my aid.
Gilbert, a black guy maybe 40 or 45, sturdily built, provided example and directions. I’ve changed tires before, but not for a while … and not perhaps at all on the back wheel. This repair is more complicated than on the front wheel, of course, as you have to mess with the chain and derailleur to take off the wheel.
Soon Gilbert, with his white buddy standing by and offering encouragement and advice, was giving step-by-step instructions and implementations:
- He released the lever on the back wheel, which was tightened so hard that I couldn’t get it off by hand, and took off the wheel.
- Deflated the rear tire and gently slid the tire off the rim on one side only and pulled the tube out, leaving the tire in place on one side.
- Put two puffs of air, two puffs only, into the new spare tube and inserted it gently on the rim.
- Showed me how to use my little pump with “two-hand power,” holding the wheel and valve in one hand and pumping air with the other.
- Illustrated and had me repeat the maneuvers necessary to re-insert the wheel on the bike.
I was touched by Gilbert’s help. He and his buddy didn’t have to stop. But they were good Samaritans and expert teachers too. And made it clear to me, by their word and example, that I might study how my bike works before I head off blithely on the trail.
The Zen of bicycle maintenance, yes? You who take out your bike, and maybe take out a dog or woodchuck or, gods forfend, a skunk, should know something about how to take care of the bike … and yourself.
And perhaps some day, not too far down the line, take care of another biker who needs your help and will pass on the lessons to other unschooled bikers too.
As a black man, too, Gilbert was offering help to someone he might not have been inclined to help. What was his experience with whites? Generally good and friendly? But certainly he has seen racism in his day. If there aren’t too many black folks cycling on the trail, that may be a reflection of economic circumstances as well as recreational preference. Bikes can cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. It’s cheaper to walk, or find a hoop and bring your basketball. (Gilbert, I surmise, is a professional with a good job.)
Most of the minorities we see on the trail are Hispanic, and they are generally walking. If you yell “On the left!” when about to pass, another biker claims, they move to the left. But if you yell “A la izquierda!,” I say, they’ll understand the Spanish warning and keep to the right. Strange but true.
Oh Lawd, whatever the case, don’t send me too many hurt dogs, don’t give me too many flats. And let us all be thankful for aid that arrives, whatever the motive, whoever the man, and render the same unto others some day.
P.S. Gilbert chided me for turning the bike over, onto handlebars and seat, suggesting I would scratch the finish this way. (I don’t think this is true, as the bike rests on bars and seat, not tubing.) He said, “You wouldn’t turn your wife upside down, would you, and treat her that way?” I allowed as to how it depended on what I wanted from her … but Gilbert didn’t respond to this joke. He was in the heuristic mode, not jocular.