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.