All last week I could tell something was wrong with my bicycle, but I couldn’t determine the cause. Every day when I rode it, I felt a small cyclical thump in the feel of the rear tire. I inspected the tire for rocks stuck in the tread and for loose or broken spokes that might make the rim distorted, but could find nothing amiss.
I finally decided it might be low on air, so I pumped it up as best I could. The valve stem was tilted at a weird angle, making it a difficult task. I tried everything I could think of, but after experiencing all manner of technical difficulties, it was time for me to admit I needed help from a trained professional.
When I explained the thump-thump problem to one of the gurus in the bicycle shop, he looked it over and found no defect in the rim or the tire. I felt some satisfaction when it seemed he was as stumped as I was, but my satisfaction didn’t last long. Being the experienced mechanic he obviously was, he quickly had my bike down off the repair stand and returned into my care. All he said when he handed it back was . . . “Give that a try.”
I took the bike outside, hopped on, and made a few laps around the parking lot. I wasn’t sure if the thump-thump was completely gone, so I asked my friend to ride it around and give me a second opinion. When he assured me it appeared to be cured, we took it back in to the shop and found Mr. Guru Guy.
“It’s rolling smooth now,” I reported to him. “What did you do?” Mr. Guru Guy replied, “I just put some air in the tires. They were pretty low. I think the thump you were feeling was the valve stem. Oh, and the brakes were a bit loose, too, so I tightened those up while I was at it.”
After thanking him for a job well done, we took my beloved bicycle outside and loaded it up on the car carrier. I was grateful I didn’t need a new tire, or a new rim, or a new bike, but I wished he would have charged me some kind of fee. It would have made me feel better, like there was actually something wrong with my bike, instead of something wrong with me.
I realized, then, I had been riding around with low tire pressure for years without even knowing it. Now that I know it, I feel like a bicycle imbecile. But, hey, at least I’m an imbecile who wears a helmet, and who is not afraid to seek professional help when I obviously need it!