Nailed by a Nail

September 6, 2021
13.51 miles
Pittsburgh, PA

Monday was Labor Day, so we had no classes. I was originally planning on joining a group ride held by the university cycling club, but I hesitated, since I wasn’t completely sure if I could maintain the pace that they were targeting. In the meantime, someone else claimed the last spot on the car, so I decided to just do a solo ride and join them next time.

The ride started out pleasantly enough; we’re currently in that fleeting window of time during which the weather in Pittsburgh is perfect. I headed out northeast from the city, intending on trying a new loop out to the Beaver Run Reservoir. But just six miles into the ride, I heard the sound that haunts every cyclist’s worst nightmares: the gentle hiss announcing the fact that my rear tire had just gone flat.

When I pulled over to inspect it, I was quite astonished. A nail had gone cleanly through the entire tire! As a regular cyclist, I’ve dealt with my fair share of flats, but they’ve always been pinch flats; this is the first time a foreign object completely punctured the tire.

Nail in bicycle tire Nail in hand
The “best” flat that I’ve ever gotten. I guess I got fairly lucky compared to the poor souls in this thread on Reddit. (full resolution: left, right)

I first tried patching the tube, but the patch wouldn’t hold, so I just swapped in a spare inner tube. While I was doing so, a kind motorist asked if I needed a ride home; I declined, but it was nice of him to offer. When I was done fixing the flat, I decided to just turn around and head home—I was mentally done with cycling for the day. At least I got a fun story, a pretty picture, and a free used nail out of the experience.