From the moment I got my bicycle, I've had one question asked of me, both from experienced bike friends and those who have never been on a bicycle in their lives, more times than any other. Day after day curious minds would make a jab about cycling, and then follow up with the ever popular question:
Have you gotten a flat yet?
The first month I was pretty lucky. I would smile all cheeky and say, "Nope not yet. Maybe I just repel goatheads."
No sooner than I was making smug remarks on how fortunate I was that my lucky streak of constantly inflated tubes had gone on for a whole month, that it happened on a commute to school that I finally got my first flat tire.
There are no words to describe the feelings of anxiety, hopelessness and sheer panic that comes over a novice cyclist at the sight of their first flat. Do I have an extra tube? Should I patch it? Should I replace it? How do I take the back tire off again? What if I put too much air in it? What if I don't put enough?
I had had a tube changing lesson a couple of weeks before my flat, and everything that I had learned went straight out of the window. Everything, but one solid piece of advice.
Having a punctured tube on your bicycle is just as stressful as walking out of your house and finding your car with a flat tire. But, and this goes with dealing with both, freaking out isn't going to do anything to change the fact that you are out of air. Stressing out only raises the possibility of making a mistake that could damage your tube and stretches out the time it takes to actually change or patch the tube.
So, instead of thinking that my flat tire had brought on my own personal armageddon, I was able to zen out and think of the best, logical and fastest way to fix my flat and get back on the road. In my case, it was to take another patching lesson.
As it turns out, it's really easy to change a tube. All you need (besides a clear head) is some glue, a bike tire lever, sandpaper, some patches and a bike pump. From there, it's pretty easy. Of course, it could have been that I was changing the tube in a garage instead of the middle of a bike trail or on the side of a busy street, but learning how to handle a stressful situation in a non-stressful environment enabled me to really learn the skills needed when I find myself with a flat and on my own.
If you are a novice cyclist and aren't fortunate enough to have fanatical cycling friends, check this video out. It offers step by steps instructions on how to change a flat, and gives you a list of everything that you will need. And remember, keep calm and stay zen on the bike trail!
Planet Bike - How to change a flat