Flat Flat Flat Flat

01.30.2006 | 4:28 pm

Bob and I started last weekend in the best of all possible ways: a mountain bike ride.

I picked Bob up and we made our way to a trail I’ve been on only once before: Crop Circles. It’s an interesting trail — it’s as if a group of people got together and said, “OK, we’ve only got a few acres of land here. Let’s do what we can to put as much trail as humanly possible into it.”

The trail starts by spiraling inward (thanks for the link to the satellite photo, NobbyNick), up and down very short hills, over roots and rocks, with constant quick turns and careful navigation around trees. You’re never going fast, but you’re having a great time just maneuvering. Amazingly, the trail was not a boggy mess, in spite of a month of near-continuous rain.

Once you get to the center, the trail doubles back on itself and spirals back out — though you’re riding a parallel trail, not the same one you used to ride in. Ingenious.

Bob and I were having a great time. It felt great to be back on mountain bikes; this was the first MTB ride either of us had been on since Fall Moab.


Flo is Go

This was the also the first time I’d had a chance to ride the Dahon Flo offroad, and so far I’m very impressed. I had hoped it would be a good bike to lug around for when I’m out of town. It turns out that this is a good bike, period. The saddle is far enough back over the rear tire that I was climbing without slipping. The steel frame felt just right — not harsh, not flexy. The components were top-notch: Rock Shox Reba fork, Avid disc brakes (especially nice when it’s wet outside), SRAM shifters.

Before long, I stopped thinking about the fact that the rear triangle can disconnect from the front on this bike. I’m no longer going to think of this as a travel bike. Instead, I’m going to think of it as a great mountain bike that travels.


Blackberries = Evil

As we got toward the center of the Crop Circles trail, Bob and I came across a section where some people had been doing some trail maintenance, cutting back blackberry bushes. Part of me was grateful to whoever had done this, because blackberry bushes have to be cut back frequently — they’re an incredibly aggressive weed (blackberry bushes are not weeds for only one month per year, when they’re loaded up with delicious free fruit) and would otherwise choke off the trail in short order.

This grateful part of me was overruled, however, by the part of me that noticed that the trail was now littered with blackberry branches, which are thick and thorny.

In hindsight, Bob and I should have got off our bikes and portaged. But we didn’t.

Within a couple hundred yards, Bob got a flat. Within another ten yards, he got another. At about that time, I had a flat, too. Within a couple minutes, my front tire joined the club.

We were done.


I Accept Fate Philosophically

We didn’t have stuff to repair four flats — not on a ride like this. We started walking our bikes back, tempted to call the ride a dud. After all, we had only been riding for half an hour or so. We were just getting started.

Sometimes, though, you take what you can get. This time of year, any mountain biking at all seems like feels like a windfall. And now, at least, we know that the trail’s in good shape, even this time of year. So yeah, we’ll be back, later this week.

And next time, we’ll know to carry our bikes through the bed of blackberry branches.


  1. Comment by Bryan | 01.30.2006 | 4:37 pm

    This has to be the first online thing I’ve read (outside of allrecipes.com) that blackberries in a non-technological sense…

  2. Comment by Unknown | 01.30.2006 | 5:26 pm

    While picking blackberries I flatted one half of a new pair of Nike air trail running shoes. Hmph. I didn’t even know there was an air bag in the forefoot. Those thorns are surprisingly tough and there’s always enough of them to have at least one pointed in the worst possible direction. Lesson learned.

  3. Comment by Unknown | 01.30.2006 | 5:31 pm

    It’s a shame that you didn’t get to complete the trail.  Maybe some Stan’s No Tubes in your tubes next time?  I realize that’s rich coming from me, who by coincidence, had to be saved by Rich for the very same thing at Fall Moab. 
    It’s good to hear about the Flo.  I have wondered.

  4. Comment by Unknown | 01.30.2006 | 5:41 pm

    Check out the view of this trail from above:http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&q=renton,+wa&ll=47.467499,-122.194126&spn=0.001164,0.002556&t=kKudos for getting out on the Mountain bike.  I haven’t had mine out yet this year!  UGH. 

  5. Comment by Donald | 01.30.2006 | 5:54 pm

    Better than me saturday. I didn’t even make it out of the garage. I was just topping off the pressure and it flatted itself. it was an old tube that self destructed and i didnt have a spare or patch kit i could find. had all the pumps in the world though

  6. Comment by Unknown | 01.30.2006 | 6:16 pm

    Hah! Welcome to the great northwest – home of the wild blackberry. Soon your arms and legs will bear the scars of the wild blackberry, you’ll ride with slimed tubes (or Stan’s), carry several extras, and you’ll learn to instantly recognise the threat level of the vines you are riding through. My least favorite are the hooked thorns of the late bearing variety those thorns have real grabbing power. Moab is sounding real good about now.

  7. Comment by Unknown | 01.30.2006 | 6:38 pm

    I have a great method for avoiding flats on my mountain bike: don’t ride it.  Ever.  I’ve tried everything else.  This is the only thing that works for me. 
    /s Al Maviva
    - aka King of the Snakebit Tubes

  8. Comment by Juliet | 01.30.2006 | 7:34 pm

    Thanks for the review of the Flo, is it expensive?  I saw a tourist riding the Dahon allegro  in my (touristy) neighbourhood on Sunday – it looked great and he looked really happy to be riding (in the sun) while on vacation. 

  9. Comment by Robert | 01.30.2006 | 7:58 pm

    When I got home with my two flat tires, Wendy reminded me that the bike she bought ten years ago hasn’t had a single flat. She’s ridden it in Utah, Indiana, Boston, Germany, and Austria with the same tubes. That might be a record.

  10. Comment by Unknown | 01.30.2006 | 9:06 pm

    I thought it was FAT cyclist, not DUMB cyclist. No spare tubes or patch kit ? Fatty and Bob both dropping the ball at the same time. I guess it was the first ride of the year.
    ps- I’ve done it, too

  11. Comment by Tyler | 01.30.2006 | 9:16 pm

    So, the last time I was out of the northwest, I found someone was
    growing blackberries in their garden.  I was horrified.  Why,
    oh why, would anyone grow a thing like that on PURPOSE?

    That stuff it worse than kudzu.  I give their yard 2 weeks before it’s overgrown.

  12. Comment by Unknown | 01.30.2006 | 9:21 pm

    Hey, if you have any pictures, I could put them in my Flat Tire Gallery:


  13. Comment by Unknown | 01.30.2006 | 9:42 pm

    Four flats killed a ride?  How hard is it to carry even just one patch kit and one pump between the two of youse?  "Not on a ride like this?"  Jeez.

  14. Comment by Robert | 01.30.2006 | 10:37 pm

    Boz – We did have extra tubes with us — we just needed one more. Keep in mind that this is a 90-minute ride. What are the chances of getting four flats on a short ride like that? One in a hundred? One in a thousand? One in two, if you ride over thorns?

    Thorn – To answer your question, it’s not very hard at all to carry a patch kit and pump. Say, you seem like a really fun guy. Maybe you could come along with us next time and give us some pointers.

  15. Comment by Big Guy on a Bicycle | 01.31.2006 | 12:12 am

    Hmm.  I hardly ever get flat tires while mountian biking (but now that I’ve said that…).  Flat shocks, yes.  I hope the replacement shock will do the trick, rather than rebuilding the same bad one again.
    I was pushed into a blackberry bush during a race once.  No flat tire, but I was bleeding profusely from about four dozen cuts along my right side.  The pusher lamely claimed it was an accident.  My friend claimed that punching him in the face was an accident, too.

  16. Comment by Unknown | 01.31.2006 | 3:47 am

    there comes a time when one spends more time fixing flats than riding. only carrying a couple tubes and maybe a patch kit solves that problem. ride over, no more time wasted fixing flats.
    bob, i got a flat at the bottom of amasa back, just as we got to the car, last ride of fallmoab05. the karate monkey continues to sit in the garage, sad, lonely, rear tire limp and twisted, frame covered in that pinkish southern utah dust.
    i’ll fix the flat before spring, but i’m not cleaning it. ever.

  17. Comment by Unknown | 01.31.2006 | 2:33 pm

    Google maps is da’ bomb
    true dat

  18. Comment by tayfuryagci | 01.31.2006 | 4:17 pm

    that picture looks cool. it seems like a nice trail.

  19. Comment by Sue | 01.31.2006 | 4:50 pm

    I have a friend who had three kids from the exact same problem you guys had (he needed a little more rubber).

  20. Comment by Unknown | 01.31.2006 | 6:47 pm

    "Say, you seem like a really fun guy. Maybe you could come along with us next time and give us some pointers."
    I’d love to–always up for a ride!  You can count on me for not just fun and joviality but also a patch kit and pump.  Pointers ain’t my speciality, unless you count "put a patch kit on the bike and leave it there until you need it to prevent not just disasters but just plain ol’  bummers."
    Oh, wait; was that sarcasm?

  21. Comment by Zed | 01.31.2006 | 10:07 pm

    Okay, Fatty, I looked into those Armadillos, and it’s like you say, they appear to weigh a ton. Maybe I’ll just stick with the Panaracer Stradius Elite Z’s I’m using right now. Anybody have any comments on road tires that strongly resist flats?
    BTW, I used to ride with thorn-resistant tubes on both the front and back tires of my mt bike. I might as well have had concrete in the tubes, but even the goat-heads of Grand Junction couldn’t pierce ‘em.

  22. Comment by Unknown | 02.1.2006 | 6:09 pm

    Mr. F.,
    A couple of comments from my (admittedly bizarre) stream of consciousness:
    1) You have most of it right…I would take two tubes and a patch kit with you, road or trail. Forget the seat bag thingy..does not look eurofesh, which is important!…wrap the tubes and kit tightly with a rubber band, and tuck the package in a jersey pocket. Keep using a pump..very reliable and they fit demurely on the frame like a well behaved child…seldom seen and never heard.
    2) You just showered the world with bad flat karma mojo. I have been thinking a lot lately about tires, tubes, flats, glass, road flotsam/jetsam, etc. lately….but haven’t had a flat in two months. Now I read your blog. I am sure to puncture two of three times today and tomorrow…thanks a lot.

  23. Comment by Jeff | 02.2.2006 | 10:22 pm

    This also explains the existence of Renton (besides Fry’s).


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