Friday, June 06, 2008

The Samaritan Tube

Bicycle inner tubes are the most common item we sell at the shop, and I wind up spending at least a few minutes each day explaining the difference between Presta and Schraeder valves. I also explain how some deep-section aero rims require a long presta valve. Today a customer asked if there is any disadvantage to using the long valve tubes even if his bike didn't have deep rims. "No real problem. The valve weighs a few grams more but I often carry a long-valved tube as my spare even though my bike has non-aero rims. It comes in handy for Samaritan purposes."

"Samaritan purposes?" the customer asks.

"You know, you might not need it, but you might come across some other cyclist with a flat and he might need a long valve tube."


Sure enough, on the ride home tonight, as I roll across Mercer Island, I see another cyclist pulled over with a flat tire. I give the standard call out of the fellowship of the wheel, "You got what you need?"

"Actually, no," the guy replies, "I was so anxious to get out when the weather cleared that I left home without my spare tube or patch kit."

"No problem," I say, "here's a tube. Do you have what else you need?"

The fellow had a pump, but no tire levers and he confessed that he'd never changed a flat before.

"You're in luck," I say, "I'm the shop manager for Bike Works." I show the guy how to pry the tire off the rim and locate the cause of the flat. I inflate the tube just enough to give it shape, place it in the tire, fit the tire on the rim and inflate the tire. While I'm doing this, I get to know Matt from Medina. He's very grateful that I saved him from a long walk home. I tell him a little bit about Bike Works. Matt says he'll stop by my shop some time and send his friends there. He also insists on giving me $20 for my efforts on his behalf.

I'll use the money to refill my stock of Samaritan tubes.


Revrunner said...

Way to go, Kent! Now if I can just remember where I put MY tire levers...

Dan Mc said...

I accidentally bought long valve tubes during my last stock up, but maybe it will turn out to be a good thing if I ever need to give out a samaritan tube. I always ask when I see someone on the side of the road.

As a side story - I changed one of the long valve tubes this week and as I was pumping it up with my frame pump the valve sheared in half! I blame me wiggling the valve back and forth against the rim as I pumped even though I was being careful.

That was 'a new one' for me.

Anonymous said...

I've long thought about carrying a 'samaritan' tube, and now I will. It is a great idea.


rob hawks said...


I probably have carried the samaritan tube to it's extreme once. I was riding up to a park in the Berkeley Hills one day to meet a friend for a hike. When I arrived at the parking lot, a couple of riders where there trying to figure out how to send one rider home for a car to come get the other rider, or could they make it stopping to pump up a slow but getting faster leak. The affected rider needed a spare tube with a long stem. I had a spare tube with a short stem, but I also had a long stem tube already on my rear wheel. That rim didn't require a long stem. So, we figured out I could swap out the tube before my friend showed up for the hike, and it would take less time than all the stops they would have to make if they tried to pump and ride, pump and ride.

Where did I get the tube with the
long stem? On another ride a while back, a friend who doesn't patch his tubes (gasp!) was going to toss it. I grabbed it and got a lot of use out of it before I gave it away.


Anonymous said...

Another advantage of long stems on regular rims is
that you can get a better "grip" on them when your fingers are numb from cold weather (no tearing of the tube). I know the long stems may appear goofy to sunny day cyclists but these stems are really the only way to go for year 'round riders.
A belated congratulations on your new
job. I starved when I was a wrench, but getting people back on the road was worth it.

Anonymous said...

So long-stemmed Prestas are the type-O-negative of the bicycle tube world. (within a given BSD & range of cross-sections, anyway...)

Anonymous said...

Good idea. I am a daily commuter by bike. I am often surprised at the number of commuters who venture out without tools and supplies for flats.

Anonymous said...

Kent, you are a good man, and that's all there is to it.

Mike, I like the O neg metaphor!

SGK said...

A few years ago a guy helped me out after the 2nd flat of the ride. He called it a karma tube, but idea is the same and I have handed out a couple since then. Bike people are good people.

Bujiatang said...

I carry samaritan nuts and bolts too--4x m6-.8 attached to the underside of my rack.

zachary said...

Recently while traveling in New England I was out for a ride on my Friday with its 20" wheels, but was carrying my tool kit from my road bike, and hadn't bothered to swap out the spare tube. I passed a guy changing a tire and asked him if he had what he needed. Unfortunately, his tube was dead, and so was his spare. When I told him I had a tube for him, he looked at my little wheels and raised his eyebrows. Handing him the 700 long stem tube brought a smile. We chatted for a little bit and I continued riding.

A few miles later, he caught up to me and we talked a little more. It is always good to get bike route advice from a local. There was an extra bit of road, going the long way back to town that I was thinking of taking, and when he asked if I was going to, I decided for it, while he kept on the direct route. The road brought me back to town across from a little park, and I stopped to eat an orange. As I'm getting off my bike, the guy rides up and hands me a new tube just like the one I gave him - "Just in case you need it."