Bike Commuter Reality Check

As the theme song to the 80’s tv show “The Facts of Life” says – “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life.”

Those words ring just as true for the realities of bike commuting, too. My blissful rides home this week with the south winds pushing at my back have been countered by the more difficult bike commutes into the forceful 20mph winds going to work. On the up-note — I’m getting in my resistance training. πŸ™‚

And then yesterday morning – feeling invincible as a bike commuter sailing past traffic at rush hour and loving the warmer weather – I experienced my first flat tire since starting to ride my current commuter bike ‘Toro’. Luckily the air pressure held to get me to my workplace destination where it promptly went completely flat. With the bike propped upside down in my office, I called on the help of a fellow bike commuter colleague and he provided support as a patched my barely punctured tube. It’s always more fun to face these bummer realities with a friend at your side. We both got our hands dirty and shared tricks and tips for flat repairs. In this case, I patched the tube – even left the wheel on the bike; sadly the skewer system I have in place on my wheels were on their too tight for either me or my co-worker to loosen. Then on my way home I did pick up a couple new tubes from the local bike shop along my route… and got my skewer unstuck so that I can remove the wheel when needed.

The flat tire totally surprised me and left me floundering — until I realized that I just need to reach out to the bike commuter community. I was not alone in my need and support was only an email away. The bad reality brought the good community back to bike commuting. It also reminds me that in this weather — with the snow all nearly melted — to look out for all the debris in the roadway that can cause flats.

There you have it – the good along with the not-so-good = the fact that I would (usually) always rather be bike commuting.


  1. RL Policar

    I hate flats. I actually rarely carry a spare tube or patch kit. What can I say, I’m a rebel…Fortunately, the times I’ve gotten a flat was when I minutes from home.

  2. Jay

    I ride down Lincoln Ave to downtown Chicago for work every day, so I’ve got the same “evening wind good” and “morning wind bad” as you. It sounds hokey, but lately I’ve been thinking of the morning wind as a high school bully. Like a bully, you’ve got no choice but to face up to it in order to get where you want to go. Once you do that, you may find that you’ve impressed the bully with your mettle and moxie, so the next time he sees you he thinks “this guy’s all right, I’ll help him out.” Just like the “evening wind good” on my rides home.

    Of course with Lincoln being a diagonal street, there’s the occasional wind that bullies me coming and going. Not much you can do about those jerks.

  3. Iron_Man

    Across from my office there’s a hospital with a helipad. Aside from the pilots, I don’t think anyone pays as much attention to that windsock up there as much as me.

  4. Elizabeth (Post author)

    I usually ride down Lincoln, too, but had detoured and ended up on Elston. The pavement on many roads presents challenges this time of year — buckled pavement, cracks (just wide enough to catch a tire), road debris, and lingering ice/snow. I think a sharp rock got my tire yesterday on Elston; I think I pulled it out before it could cause too much damage.

  5. Rob

    I agree… today was a tough day. According to the official stats, I managed to average 14 miles an hour this morning, and less than 10 on the way back! With a few gusts over 30 miles per hour (and apparently to 37 at O’Hare) there were a couple times when I just sort of stood there for a second and waited for the wind to pass.

    Most of the paths are ice-free by now, but there’s still a few places where there’s ice. Not sure how it’s going to be tomorrow, though.

  6. Johnny K

    Use tire liners they have been a game changer for me. I had a time finding them local however one of the bike shops I frequent had them. The shop where I bought my bike did not have them and stated that they didn’t carry them because they added too much weight. Honestly I don’t notice them at all. I guess with my weight and the weight of my panniers and rack the weight of a few grams from the liners doesn’t register. If your shops don’t have them they are sold online at many places including Amazon and Google.

  7. NoNeedForAName

    I second the idea of tyre liners. Shredded two rears this past season. Installed Mr. Tuffy’s, kept 5 PSI over manufacturer’s “suggested” limit, haven’t had a problem since… though I’m still scanning the trails for sharps, too.

    Now they’re one of the first things I do to a new/’new to me’ mount. I ain’t no weight weenie πŸ˜‰

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