04 July 2014

When life gives you flat tires make rubbers!

Zambian-style bicycle rubber
This year my street has witnessed a most extreme series of deconstructions and reconstructions. (It was the best of times it was the worst of times...) Back in 2008, the City Council voted to approve funding 100% of the construction of a sewer replacement project in my 90 year old neighborhood. Great news!

Five years later the project started. Then it got cold as it tends to do in the winter. Me and the neighbors scratched our heads as to why the contractor began work in late November, but I figured the contractor knows more about a lot more about how to do their job than I do. They were chosen not me. (Not-so-relevant aside: The contractor is Aplex, Inc from Linn, Missouri. They are not to be found in any phone book that I get nor do they have any web presence. Neither of those facts matter of course. Aplex has done a great job building two new sewer lines on my street, installing a stormwater drain, building new sidewalks on both sides of the street and building new curbs & gutters. That's what matter, right?)

They have also done a great job stirring up sharp objects that puncture bicycle tires. When the houses on my street got their sewer lines tied into the new main line, the street was eliminated. Not forever. Aplex's crew of strapping lads didn't just dig up a bit of our street. We got a whole new street out of the deal. The aggregate of the ages came up for air before being entombed again under rebar and new cement.

Street closed signs popped up. Cars mostly ignored them and we have had the most peaceful street for the last six months. On my bicycle I did not ignore the street closed signs and that was at my own peril. I have had more flat tires on my bicycle in 2014 than I think I've had in the last decade. I never find anything in the tubes or tire but I usually notice the flat while biking on or near my street.

2014 has been busy. I am getting more into my job at KBIA. Lisa spends more time in school so I have more household duties. Patching bicycle tires was never my strong suit and now with my plate feeling full I am more inclined to buy a new tube rather than struggle to patch a blown tube.

I do try however. I put the popped tube in a bucket of water, find the hole, glue it and patch it but, alas, I get another flat. (To you who think it is something in the wheel or tire, I looked. I have had two flats on both tires in the past six months. Equal opportunity punctures.)

All of a sudden I am swimming in holy tubes as seen below.

While Lisa and I were Peace Corps volunteers in Zambia we observed many Africans riding bicycles. They are much more common than cars but not as common as are pedestrians. Cars there are a luxury item in Zambia and as it turns out in a lot of the world. (I snicker at my neighbors with "We are the 99%" bumper stickers on their cars. The percent of Earthlings who own a car is 9%. Or so says the internet. I digress.)

Zambian bicyclists are cargo haulers. They move people, goats, 50kg bags of nuts, massive quantities of bush-made charcoal and anything else imaginable. To tie goods on they use what is called in the vernacular "a rubber." Condoms in Zambia are called condoms so far as I recall and not rubbers.

To make a bike rubber with your popped tube cut off the valve stem and toss it.

You'll be left with a rubber sheet about six inches across by six of so feet long.

Now cut each piece lengthwise and there you have a pair of the biggest rubber bands you ever did see!

You'll end up with two nice long stretchy rubber bands for turning your bicycle with only a rack into a hauling machine. Of course a cargo bicycle works well for that, too.

Tie a rubber on to your bicycle rack and wrap it around the desired object you wish to haul. I moved a lamp last week on my rack using a rubber. Many other items are possible. It still remains easier to drive a car and most Americans will continue to choose that option. Enjoy your freedoms on this Independence Day 2014!

The nice thing about home-made bike rubbers is they are easily adjustable to corral any reasonable quantity of movable stuff.

Now if we could only do something about the pitifully small bicycle racks available in the USA for bicycles. There were several ways Zambia had it up on America and one clear area was larger, more ample custom-made bicycle racks!

Happy hauling!


  1. Great post, Trevor! A great idea. Boy--that work on your street has been out of control.

    1. The street is 99% done now and open. The hordes of traffic I feared has not materialized, but calls from neighbors complaining to the neighborhood association president are trickling in. On-street parking taken away. Driveways not resurfaced right. I do try as a committed car-hater to be sympathetic.