Saturday, December 27, 2008

Beginners Page 1 Airing the Tires

Beginners Page
# 1
Airing up the tires
By Roy and Christine Jones

We have been submitting reviews of different tours in different places for a couple of months. When we first talked to Scott about it, we hoped to stir up interest for the recreational rider who is out for fun, health, and doesn’t care if he ever hits 20 miles per hour except going downhill.

I forget how many are dues paying members of SABA, but it seems that I see the same thirty faces that I did last year when the club was much smaller. We wanted to reach the other “70” and get them active in riding. We had hoped that between the organized rides and various tour opportunities, a few more people would join in. Maybe if they knew that there were some slow members who ride despite getting “dropped” by the masses but still keep coming back, it would get some more to try it out.

Maybe if the silent majority knew of the struggles we have gone through and continue to experience, they would come join us.

Before we knew there was a bike club, we started biking for fun, health, and to lose weight. We started out going five miles, then seven, and then we hit 10 miles! That was a milestone. Then one day I made a wrong turn and we went 15 miles. We were so proud. We were now distance riders but we started wanting to go faster. We had el cheapo mountain bikes that sometimes got up to 10-12 miles per hour. (We thought the only other bikes were used by professional racers in the Tour de France.) The internet was a wealth of information so I bought a road bike over eBay and lucked out. It fit. I didn’t know 56 cm from 2 pints. I didn’t know shifters came in different places. The bike I got had shifters on the tube (but I didn’t know it was a tube at that time). But was it fast. I could run circles around Christine on her mountain bike. So we got her a new 1.2 Pilot Trek in November 2006. Her bike had shifters on the handlebars. Man, that was convenient and I marveled over the advances in technology. I didn’t know when they changed from shifters on the tube to handlebars and still don’t. And she ran circles around me until she hit some loose dirt and fell the day after getting her first bike shoes and hurt her left knee.

In December 2006, we discovered SABA and joined. We went on the Christmas lights ride with some of the club members and found that they were very friendly and helpful. Some of the members brought extra bike lights because they had heard that there were some newbies riding---and guess what? We didn’t have lights. You need lights to ride at night?

Then winter hit and our riding went down to every once in a while when the temp was reasonable. Finally daylight saving time hit and we joined the group at Mary E Lee Park. Once again we found the club members friendly and helpful. And sympathetic. The route was 13 miles and it had hills! One or more of the members would hang back with us as we were still riding at 10-15 miles per hour. And we thought those hills by the dam and up toward Knickerbocker were Mt. Everest in size. I almost had to get off and push uphill and Christine was huffing and puffing so much that Anke came back and rode with her. Christine just knew that Anke thought she was going to have a heart attack.

We made it for that 13 mile ride and after two weeks riding the Monday ride, we felt brave enough to try the Tuesday 20 mile ride called the Loop Group. We didn’t know the route so some of the members stayed back with us to show us the way. We slowed them down so much that we convinced them that we knew the way. As soon as they left, we turned around and rode back the way we came. As it was, we turned around at 10 miles so by the time we got back to TXDOT, we had ridden 20 miles anyway.

Oh yes, this article was entitled airing up the tires. Rapidly we started learning all the extras that come about in order to ride. You may have already noticed that we had bike computers in order to know that we went 10 miles per hour or rode for 20 miles. Then along the way we learned that the real riders air up their tires before every ride. So we bought an air pump. The bike shop probably thought that EVERYONE knows how to air up a tire because we weren’t asked if we knew how to put air in a tube with a Presta valve. The floor pump had a double-sided nozzle assembly for a Presta and a Schrader stem. Road bikes had Presta and mountain bikes had Schrader, so we were set.
The first time I tried to check my tire pressure; I unscrewed the Presta valve cap on one of my tires, attached the Presta end of the pump’s nozzle assembly, and tried to pump air. The air went nowhere. The gauge on my pump skyrocketed. I could not get air to go into my tires for anything. I was too embarrassed and macho to go back to the bike shop and ask. So I did the modern thing---typed in “how to air up a bicycle tire” on the internet. I found an excellent article written by a person who had the same problem as I did. I learned that the Presta valve has a little locking nut at the end of the stem and if you unscrew it, the pump will work. Oh by the way, after airing the tire, pull the nozzle off straight from the stem. Don’t twist or wiggle the nozzle to get it off the stem. Really don’t want to tell you why I learned not to do it. And then don’t forget to tighten the locking nut after airing the tire. Again, don’t ask me why.
There is no way to go through all of our learning mistakes and triumphs in one article so we may continue in future writings. In the meantime, we would like for the other “70” to come out and ride with us and we can learn together.


  1. I recently acquired my first mountain bike. I am not sure of the brand or even how to ride it properly! I stumbled across your blog through "Blog of Note".
    Thanks for putting in the beginners articles. I intend to read them all and hopefully I will be able to take up riding without a hitch!

  2. @Inge--good luck. I hope you avoid my mistakes and just have fun. Speaking of fun, I hope you read "Beginners Page #9, Intro into Mountain Biking." Of all the write-ups, I think I had the most fun writing up that ride.