Robot’s Useless Reviews – Flat Tires

A flat tire is nothing. It is the absence of a thing. A soft tire is still something, maybe a way home if you’re lucky, but a flat ceases to be anything. If we step back in fact, most of what a tire is, is air. The tire on its own? Not useful. The rubber is a prison for air, and all the air wants is to get out. The air is fairly consumed by an obsession for not being held prisoner in that tire. The nail, the screw, the sharp rock, they are all just accomplices in a jailbreak that is never not underway.

The tire is like, “you have to stay here to make this tread work,” and the air is like, “I gotta be free man.” Someday, somehow, that air will escape. It’s Andy Dufresne. The tunnel is behind the poster. One second you’ll be riding, the next you won’t, and Andy will be on the beach in Mexico and Morgan Freeman will walk up and this metaphor has entirely lost its way. Either way, you’ll be stuck with a lame ass flat tire and the credits will be rolling.

No one enjoys a flat. I have PTSD from trying to panic fix a flat once on the side of the road on the hottest summer day as mosquitos methodically drained my body of blood and sweat stung my eyes, my companion riding slow circles to keep the bugs off and the light slowly ebbing beyond the trees. That’s Squid Game level evil right there, but the prize isn’t a giant bowl of money. It’s heat stroke and an antihistamine.

A flat is akin to an injury, but to the bike. Like when I broke my collar bone a few years back, I lay in the dirt, incapacitated, and felt hot disappointment flush over me. The machine had stopped working. A flat is like that, bitterly disappointing, horribly inertial. As though your will was encased in that tire, and it suddenly leaked out.

Did you ever think about how long that air has been in there? How long you’ve been coasting and capering about on the same 10 cubic yards of air smushed into 1 cubic foot of tire? Any way you slice it you’ve gotten more than you deserved. If you run tubeless, then that’s an act of hubris beyond the realms of pneumatics and karma. You get a flat, you’ve been pneuked.

A flat tire seems like a good metaphor for most of life’s challenges. It’s not that big a deal. You know how to fix it. It’s just that you don’t feel like it, and you have a low-level victim complex. Why do these things always happen to you? Well, it’s because you’re unworthy in some way that isn’t at all clear, but you should spend all your time thinking about.

One day, the tire WILL BE the air, or rather, air will no longer need to be held captive in the tire. Some other sort of foam matrix will do the job, or a jelly, or a flexible polymer of some sort. We think we’ve been waiting for jetpacks our whole lives, but no. It’s the jelly tire paradigm shift we’ve been waiting for, like Godot or the singularity. Until then, better bring a pump.

Join the conversation
  1. erikthebald says

    *Just changed my display name from eborling to erikthebald, to reflect my IG account, my Swedish heritage, and my (lack of) hairstyle.

    Ahhh, flat tires. Well said Robot. A wise-ish man once said that pinch flats are 100% user error, reflective of either not enough air, hitting something too hard, or riding worn out tires in this brave new world of tubeless. I 100% agree, which makes for a moment of self-loathing when it happens to me. Sometimes pinch flats come from a small puncture leading to air loss leading to a pinch. More and fresher sealant may have prevented that.

    On my mtn bike I recently installed Cushcore because I got tired of punching holes in the BEAD! of tires. Mega pinch flats. Sometimes it was from running worn out baloney skins with no sidewall integrity left. Usually it was from hitting sharp rocks really hard. It always stung when it was the 4th ride on a brand new DHF EXO+ tire (OK that only happened once but I did hit that rock garden really hard). Pinched the tire, and you can’t plug a hole at the bead. Throw money at it, add some weight in the form of Cushcore, and so far so good. I like the dead feeling they impart as it reminds me of how my dirtbike rides.

    I don’t think we’ll ever get to where we are with dirtbikes. I knew Cushcore would help and that I wouldn’t whine about installing them because I run bib mousses on my moto. Those are solid foam “inner tubes” that are flat-proof. Manna from heaven provided you can learn how to install them without throwing the 12″ tire levers across the garage out of frustration. You also have to keep them well lubed and keep road riding to a minimum and speeds below 60 mph. Heat is the enemy as heat will turn them to dust. If mousses fail, it is 100% user error.

    Flat tires are indeed a metaphor for most of life’s challenges. Sometimes it is random occurrences that cause our woes, but more often than not it is user error or a decision we made, even if at first glance we can’t see that our decisions lead to what seems like a random occurrence. Not that it makes it any easier to deal with the sweat and mosquitos to get our carcasses back on the road home.

  2. Wyatt says

    Oh man, Ive done that panic change in the face of mass mosquitos. Its terrible and the disdain that oozes from your trying-to-be-compassionate riding buddies whilst making the change is palpable. Ugg.

    That said, Ive had three flats across two different bikes this year and that is my worst tally since the advent of tubeless tires. Ehh, not so bad.

  3. schlem says

    So many tricks, little rituals and talismans in the quest to keep an inflated tire rolling. I’m not religious, but I’ll wear whatever patron saint medallion will ward off the hisses.

    There are no shortcuts; only mistakes that will have me fixing a SECOND flat tire. It’s ironic to me that I’ve become really good at doing something that I have also come to loathe.

    And tire sweepers? Can someone please make these again? I feel like most of the horrid little shards that perf my tire would be swatted away by a magic bit of artistically bent wire. I tried making some from piano wire. FAIL.

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