What is that whap whap whap?
Last week I started hearing something peculiar whenever I was riding at least 10 mph or so: A constant whap whap whap. You know that annoying sound, when something is hitting against a wheel, like a pannier strap, or perhaps a brake shoe that is not properly adjusted. Only thing is, when I got off the bike to examine it and spin the wheels, everything looked fine. Brakes were fine. Nothing was flapping against the front or rear wheels. My husband checked, too. Nothing. But the noise was there: A whap whap whap whenever I was riding. It sounded like it was on the back wheel.
Today my work took me to south St. Louis. On a quiet side street I got off the bike to investigate again. I finally saw it:
The road side of the rear tire has developed a bulbous surface about an inch or so long. It’s swollen and pushes in easily. It pops right back out.
Ah, well. Winds were out of the south today, fighting me as I rode from my Central West End home to Grand and Gravois. I had looked forward to zooming home with the wind at my back. But now that I was aware of this tire problem, a speedy route home down Grand Boulevard was out of the question.
However, when you’re on a bicycle, there’s always a bright side. I used quiet side streets to get home. I marveled over a tulip tree at the corner of Spring and Hartford. “Beautiful, isn’t it?” commented a women walking by. “I was just looking at it myself.”
I got to stop in Tower Grove Park to check on another tree planted in memory of a friend and fervent believer in a bright future for non-motorized transportation. Julia Orth was 24 years old when she lost her life in a 2006 car accident. A vision that she had while riding in that car is well worth reading.
My bad tire also helped me discover another advantage to being slow: Even though I couldn’t discern the problem immediately, I could hear it. Would I have heard a tire on my car that had developed a tender worn spot? And my bike’s tire didn’t cause any damage to me or others by blowing out at a high speed.
Time for new tires!