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A Highway to Hell... A Flat-Tire Nightmare
by Jaime Guzman

Most randonneurs will have a “Flat-Tire Nightmare” at least once. But, five flats and seven tubes is ridiculous!

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. The weather and the company were perfect; the debris on the highway shoulder and the subsequent flat tires were not.

The 2014 Highway to Hell 400 started promptly at 3:00 am at the venerable Tim Horton’s at Saanich Plaza in Victoria. Dawn after crossing the Malahat was fresh and hopeful.

By the time I hit the first control in Nanaimo there were four good friends waiting for me: Graham, Mike, Jim and Phil. Noel, a Seattle randonneur would joint us intermittently throughout the ride. I knew Graham from a previous 600 in the Interior and I met Mike climbing the Malahat (he can sure climb!). Jim and Phil are the very first randonneurs I rode with, back in 2009.

The bad omens appeared soon after leaving the Nanaimo MacDonalds with two back-to-back flats for Phil and Graham, but the icing on the cake was my flat in the dark about 350 Km into the ride: It is so dammed easy to pinch tubes when you have Italian rims and tight wire-bed German tires!

The H2H ride is basically a straight line out and back to Union Bay, minus the complicated navigation leaving and returning to Victoria (to avoid dangerous highway crossings). The southern half is a busy four-lane highway, the northern half is a lovely two-lane highway by the sea. The only downside of the highway by the sea was that the restaurant at the Union Bay market was closed, so we had to improvise on the fly. Graham also had to improvise closing an overflowing rando bag with a busted zipper.

Busy B. C. highways in the spring are full with the winter’s debris forced onto the shoulder by the traffic, and you have to keep your eyes open, very open. Phil hit a small rock or piece of metal at some point with a subsequent flat, and to this day I don’t know what caused my flat, maybe something is still stuck in the tire.

I should know better than when your bike starts to feel “bouncy” during a ride it means you have a slow-leak flat. One of these days I will get enough resolve to put that tire back on and see what happens. I guess that’s the reason randonneurs travel with an extra tire: to save the time of trying to figure out what’s wrong in the dark!

With the flats and all it was a good long ride; by the time we hit the final control it was past 1:00 am and I was dead tired! Mission Accomplished!

Stay well and remember: Enjoy The Ride. Never Quit.

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May 12, 2014