In the saddle: Flat-out failure on the Rio Grande |

In the saddle: Flat-out failure on the Rio Grande

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesRepairing a flat on the Rio Grande Trail.

BASALT – I set out eagerly early this week for my spring reacquaintance with the midvalley section of the Rio Grande Trail above Catherine Store Bridge. The scenic segment, closed during the winter months, reopened for the season on Saturday.

As usual this spring, I was wearing pants, gloves, a headband beneath my helmet and a biking jacket over two layers of clothing for the ride. I eyed an ominous cloud bank rolling over the ridge near Carbondale as I left home, hoping its progression up the valley would be as sluggish as my own.

So far this year, I’d opted for only a water bottle and a cell phone in the way of provisions, but this time, I grabbed my Camelbak, stuffed with a rain jacket, spare inner tube and all sorts of tools I’ve never actually used. I needn’t have bothered.

The ride upvalley was glorious despite the chill. A donut hole of blue sky and sunshine followed me to Basalt and beyond. I turned around, intending to retrace my ride, when my rear tire began to drag. It was flat as the proverbial pancake.

I have to confess, in four-plus decades of riding, it’s the first flat I’ve ever experienced out on the road. I’d never before changed a tube – it was sort of a point of pride for me, like being able to boast that I’ve never changed a diaper.

A stranger immediately offered aid, but I assured him that learning to fix a flat was something I needed to do. I pulled out all the stuff I’d been carting around just for this purpose and got to work.

Fixing the flat wasn’t that difficult, though trying to inflate the new tube with that little hand pump was next to impossible. I just hoped I could limp home on my flaccid rear tire, where I could pump it up for real. That’s when another stranger stopped and offered to muscle the pump, with far more success.

I was feeling pretty good about myself for at least a quarter-mile. Then the newly fixed tire deflated almost instantaneously, leaving me to pull out the one effective tool in my arsenal – my phone. Luckily, a friend answered my distress call. I walked the bike down to Hook’s Bridge and she gave me and the bike a lift home.

I handed the tire to the experts at a bike shop in Carbondale, who fingered a penetrating piece of quartz from the soft surface alongside the trail as the culprit. Those bits of rock, always strewn across the trail, cause plenty of flats, I was informed.

That’s why riders should always be prepared on the Rio Grande – with a cell phone.

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