Mark V’s first repair trick: The Pepsi Tyre Boot

Making a tyre boot

Twenty years ago I purchased my first road bike. It was a 1994 Specialized Allez. Now about that time, the bike industry had hit the zenith of its torrid love affair with gaudy colours (true, logos had yet to grow to the gargantuan sizes seen on today’s moulded carbon frames, which depending on the weather conditions, can be seen from low earth orbit ). The whole “purple anodize” craze had died down somewhat, but manufacturers en mass decided to spice up tyre products with colours. Black was too boring, too 1989. So that Allez came with grey treads, the Specialized Turbo Team in Umma Gumma Grey. Twenty years later, I still remember those tyres….remember them as the shittiest tyre I rode. You see, tyres are black for a reason: carbon black is used as a filler, which gives the vulcanized rubber toughness and UV/chemical stability. Without carbon black, those tyres might grip well, but they wore away super fast. And they punctured like no one’s business. As my introduction to road cycling, I didn’t know better tyres existed. I thought all road cyclists just learned to deal with multiple flats per ride. With the amount of practice I was accumulating, I learned to fix flats right quick.

The casing ripped rather easy too. As a poor yet moderately clever university student, I devised a way to make cheap and lasting tyre boots. Step one: get an empty, plastic soft drink bottle. Even back then, I had an insane cola addiction, so there was never a shortage of raw materials. Step two: cut a small oval of the plastic, about 15x10mm. Step three: apply a piece of duct tape to the concave side of the plastic. The duct tape should have a 8-10mm border around the plastic. Step four: make a few more of these and then stick them to a bigger square of the cola bottle plastic. Keep this square in your on-road repair kit, and peal off the tyre boots as you need them. These work better than a dollar bill or energy bar wrapper because the plastic is better at resisting bulging through the hole in the tyre casing, even at the high pressures of skinny road tyres. Also, the tape will keep the boot from dislodging, so it’s a semi-permanent fix.

I devised this trick out of necessity, because those Umma Gumma tyres tore for any random reason. With today’s tyres that use better, non-carbon fillers (silica) and better casings, I don’t bother carrying a card of my ready-to-apply tyre boots with me except on longer tours, but I often use these boots whenever a customer has a largish hole in an otherwise still-good tyre.

Making a tyre boot

Making a tyre boot

The Best of Austin isn’t At SXSW

One of the wonderful things about bikes is that having one can unlock treasures. Take SXSW for example, where the world’s geek-elite class converge to network and connect. The Austin Convention Center is buzzing with activity and with passion and the energy of start-ups and established companies striking deals. .

Just a few blocks away though you can find equally rewarding experiences, though without the stock option possibilities of a good conference.

Today I’m tooling around on a loaner Tern, part of our loaner fleet at SXSW and I’m checking out the local coffee scene.

Barista

Austin, which just a half-decade ago had just a fledgling scene is now full of coffee places and roasters. I started my day single origin espresso with Stumptown at Juan Palota, stopped in mid-ride for an iced espresso at Jo’s and now am relaxing at the hand-hewn wood bars at Houndstooth on 4th and Congress.

As someone in the coffee business I’m particularly impressed with the setup at Houndstooth. Their espresso machine was designed by Kees Van Der Western and is a thing of beauty. It’s also worth more than any of the cars parked outside.

As a veteran trade show attendee, possibly the best advice I can give is to take your time in a city and absorbing the local culture. You’ll end up being rewarded in ways that will surprise you.

Building Bikes to Ride with Friends

Staging Terns

Terns staging

Just updated our schedule for SXSW and the first thing we’re doing when we get in town Thursday is building up a fleet of bikes with Jason Harris from Nokia. On all those Terns, we’re installing bike mounts for Lumias. That’ll happen with beers and tacos, of course.

For riding around town

For riding around town

Ride with Us

Then we’re riding daily and will announce the meets spots and times on Twitter. Sunday it’s the Mobile Social at 12:30 CST. Meet on the Create lawn where the DJs of the Sun are playing.

Terns

Built up with bike mounts for Lumias

SRAM Introduces 7sp and 10sp Downhill Drivetrains

7 Speed!

That’s right, a whole 7 speeds

SRAM introduces new X01 drivetrain components for the downhill set, including an innovative 7sp drivetrain. That’s right, I used “innovative” and “7sp” in the same sentence. Read on about clever parts for those who like to use bikes to fall off mountains in a semi-controlled manner; I myself have my eye on the 10sp version of the derailleur.

A Heavy Rain Fell on Me and My Mind

A heavy rain fell

Would periodically wipe off the computer, to see how long I’d been out there

Rain fell on me like a junk drawer pulled from a cabinet, off its guides onto the kitchen floor yesterday. Read on Twitter that Californians think they’re riding in the rain too, but they’re not, just on vacation from the Sun. Saw another cyclist and we gave each other a, “Make it home safe Bro,” nod.

Been riding so much in it this spring, concerned I maybe experiencing PTSD, cause that wasn’t epic at all, just what I had to do. Epic means you enjoyed it somewhat and there was a triumph, however small. This ride was rote, like writing lines on a blackboard. Pedal to this corner, turn left or right, then pedal some more. If I expect to perform at my late-season goals in road and cross, then there’s no choice but to ride in all weather.

After procrastinating all morning, I proved to myself I could still do it. Didn’t want to at all and I got caught out, which is unusual. If there’s one thing I do well, it’s prepare for all conditions and last time I got hypothermic was about 8 years ago. That’s when I rode down Weber canyon in the shrub-steppe desert of Eastern Washington. A cold winter wind blew up the valley and took with it all the heat from my body. It’s an odd thing that happens there, like a reverse gravity situation where your speed on the steep grade descent is stalled by a headwind.

I lost count of the storm fronts that passed over me yesterday, but the last one dropped ice water from the sky in a hostile squall. Soaked through and cold, I knew I was in trouble with 40 minutes to go before home. In the last 20, as my hands couldn’t pull the brake lever hard enough, I cursed the loss of Hydro to a recall. If you don’t know what you got till it’s gone, then rubber pads scrapping an aluminum rim on a long descent reminded me that this bike is using an iteration of wagon wheel technology to stop.

After pulling off my clothes in the mud room and throwing them towards the washer, and feeling a bit disoriented, noticed my belly was bright pink with toes and fingers numb. In the shower, digits burned and tingled, a symptom I imagined the drug Lyrica is for.

The Gabba, Nanoflex, and Gore kit all did their job, the elements just overwhelmed them. Mother Nature reminded me again who’s boss. Guess I’d forgotten in 8 years since the last time she hurt me, what she can do.

I get a rush from mastering the elements. Being comfortable in miserable conditions with the right gear.

As I wrote in 2012 on a similar day, a focus on gear keeps us on the road during the dreariest of days, and a bike like the Roubaix I’m riding smooths the roughest of roads. The Zertz and layup, geometry, and whatever secret sauce makes the bike just roll, like a rouleur wants.

As hard as the weather is on your body in Seattle, it’s harder on the roads and with rivulets running down them, you can hit a pothole without seeing it. That happened on a fast descent, as I steadied the bike between painted white lines and cars roaring past me near SeaTac. Sequestered into a bike lane, I didn’t have much room to recover from the hit, and the bike took it without the expected carbon shudder. Wheels stayed true to the line, on track, with the rubber on the ground. Banking left away from traffic and to a steep, 14% grade, the compact cranks I’ve been struggling to adapt to also proved their worth with gearing I spun.

The S-Works SL4 Roubaix I have in to demo is built up with Force 22, a compact crank, and an 11-34 Wifli cassette. The big-ringing, muscle-memory I have was struggling to find the gear with a 50/34 setup.

That was until yesterday, when I really needed it, and again today when I’ll ride again.

The gear and bike I’m riding are all the right choices. I’ve just got to pay attention to the weather patterns and how long I’m out there. Having been humbled, I also remember how to keep my sanity in the wet. It’s like doing the dishes after a fine meal, enjoying something good takes time and effort.

Shed

Left the bike on the shed to think about what we just did together

The aftermath and cleanup of a ride like that weigh on me. I left the bike outside to think about what happened, like I was doing. The difficulty will reward me later but in the moments when I’m pedaling, that doesn’t make it any easier.

As Equipped

As noted above, that’s a Roubaix SL4 frameset built up with Force 22 (50/34 & 11/34) Zipp components, including the 30s wheelset. Every part on that bike I recommend and what I run for myself cause I don’t F around in the Winter with products not liked or trusted. The cockpit includes a Joule GPS and Knog lights. I run the Knogs, just like a car, as daytime running lights. The SKS longs fit the Roubaix just fine with Hutchinson Fusions at no more than 100 PSI.

Props to Padraig of Red Kite Prayer for the edits on this story

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