Detecting leaks

Today, I took my bike out for the first time in two months. Despite the interval, I could still more or less expertly unfold it and launch onto the road.

However, I was terribly wobbly. I almost immediately veered into the queue cars and vans parked along the street. How could my riding have become so rusty in two months?

I hopped off the bike and lifted it to the curb. Ten seconds inspection revealed the problem. The front tyre was flat.

I wheeled my bike to the second-hand bike store where I had bought my lock and lights. A man with a Canadian accent and two centimetres of cigarette butt in his hand helped me attach the bike pump to the wheel nozzle thing.

‘Have you got a puncture?’ he said. ‘It’s really flat.’

‘I haven’t ridden it in a while,’ I said hopefully. I hoped it wasn’t a flat. I don’t know how to fix those yet (Damjan did buy me a book, I’m sure I can look it up).

‘How can you tell?’ I asked. ‘If there’s a puncture, I mean.’ For some reason, I had a mental image of putting the tyre in a bath tub of water. It just flashed into my mind and I didn’t have time to figure out what it meant.

He said, ‘If it’s flat again tomorrow, then you’ve got a puncture.’

I took this to mean that it’d be fine for me to ride today, and so I continued on my planned 20 km ride along Regent’s Canal and Victoria Park.

It was cloudy but dry, a good day for cycling except it became chilly by late afternoon. Also, my helmet was probably on too tight so my head hurt.

The expedition ended two hours later, with front tyre still firm. I felt proud. This was the first independent longish bike ride I’ve done on my new bike.

Tomorrow, I will squeeze the front tyre to see if it’s lost much air. In the mean time, I’ve been pondering the strange mental bath tub image. I now know what it means.

As kids, Jason and I had a number of blow up vinyl toys (didn’t everyone?). For example, we had blow up baseball bats, which we used to swat each other.

Once a few rounds of swatting had occurred, these inflatables would eventually start losing air. I remember dad taking various inflatable toys to the bathroom, putting them in a full bath tub of water, and squeezing them. We then followed the stream of bubbles back to the indistinguishable location of the leak.

The inflatable was then dried and patched with sticky tape. And thus, it lived to fight another day.

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