Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

De-Lousing Susan

This morning, putting off the inevitable even though I wasn't sure what exactly was inevitable this fine Saturday morning save this evening's bachelor party for a friend, I flipped over the bike to clear my tires of debris. A flashlight, tweezers, and ten minutes: it's an easy, satisfying task, Susan so much a part of me that removing slivers of metal and glass and pebbles from the treads of her aging tires that it's as pleasing as removing splinters from my own skin.

As I slowly spun the tire, flashlight carefully angled to create a tangent of light and an oval of brightly lit rubber, an angle designed to bounce light off shiny debris and signal its location nearly submerged by the surface of the tire as it often is, I espied a tiny white bug, not unlike booklice: infinitesimal, shaped like a slightly flattened beetle or tick, subterranean pale. I skewered it with my tweezers and continued on, finding surprisingly little debris but frequent tears in the surface of the tire, especially inside the tiny lightning bolt S's signifying Specialized, the manufacturer, virtually all of which contained minor rips likely induced by my not infrequent skids, which must pull mercilessly at the tire as it grasps at gravel and asphalt to slow 160 pounds of steel and flesh.

Then I observed another bug, and dispatched him too, vaguely irked. Just a moment later, I saw two more, tumbling over each other as they negotiated the pits and ridges of the tire's surface. This looked like an infestation, though one unlike any I had ever observed or imagine.

I hate bugs. I really really hate bugs. The small ones especially, because one can imagine they are everywhere. And one does. This one, anyway.

Further rotation of the tire -- by now, I was spinning it by grasping the spokes, preferring not to touch the unclean surface of the tire itself -- disclosed yet more of the little bugs, ranging from small to impossibly small, mite-like, living on Susan!!!

Next, I took the logical step of inspecting the front tire. Oddly, the front tire disclosed a less worn but more pocked and superficially damaged tread, no debris, no bugs. I checked it several times around. No bugs. I wandered over to my geared bike, which rests alongside Susan, the bedroom fireplace my makeshift stable, collecting dust, the air slowly bleeding from the unused and neglected tires. On this bike's tires, as well, I observed no insects.

Logging on to the internet, I posted a question to the fixed-gear mailing list, to tap into the wisdom of the international fixed-gear community. Surely if this were an infestation, it wasn't one-of-a-kind; someone else would understand, would have answers, would help me understand how to de-louse Susan.

The first message in reply consisted of a quip, and a confession of ignorance regarding the substantive problem I face. The second, however, from this kind gentleman, contained more wisdom, and bad news. He wrote:

Those are most likely Vittoria beetles, commonly called tire
ticks. The only solution is to replace every tire on every
bicycle in the immediate vicinity. If you ignore them,
they'll suck all the air out of your tires.

While I had been planning to replace the 38c tires on my geared bike with something narrower, in the vicinity of 28's, I had no cause to replace the tires on my fixie, which came to me new and more or less unused with the bike when I bought it in the winter. Indeed, recently I'd been planning to invite a friend who confessed ignorance as to how tubes and tires are changed to hang with me one afternoon on the porch while I rotated the tires on the fixie, to prolong their very satisfying life. I have only flatted twice in hundreds of miles; and to find similarly reliable tires will cost me plenty.

So no instead of two tires it seemed like a good idea to replace at some point in the next couple of months, I instead have to replace four, urgently. And I imagine I also have to throw away four tubes, Lysol the wheels and the place the bikes rest half to death, and all of this before I close on the new house, since the last thing I want to do is introduce pestilence to my new home the moment I move in.

Worse, until I can get all of this done, I have to live with the fact that at least one, and quite possibly both of my bikes, at least one, and quite possibly four tires, are crawling with -- eesh! -- bugs.

Granted, if you, like me, are still fairly naive to the nuance of bike maintenance, you might wonder, as I do, whether I'm being had. (Vittoria, by the way, is a tire manufacturer.) But at the end of the day, does it matter? A) If CycleDog is so clever as to invent that on the fly (tire ticks!?), I deserve to be had; and B) even if he is full of shit, the fact remains, in whatever way, for whatever reason, and to whatever degree, one of Susan's tires plainly is infested by something, and one reasonably can assume that whatever the vile creatures are, they are more than prepared to, and certainly will given sufficient time, infest the other tires and only God knows what else.

So I guess it's time to do some shopping, and pray I can get a couple more rides out of the infested tire before the new ones arrive. In the meantime, I can at least console myself that with every spin I am killing who knows how many tire ticks, and that those who survive are probably throwing up all over the inside of my rapidly rolling tires. A simple pleasure, but a gratifying one. I wouldn't make a very good Jain, I suppose; I thrill in the torment of any creatures that lack fur and make me, or Susan, feel unclean.

And in that sense, de-lousing Susan is akin to de-lousing myself, which makes removing splinters, literally or figuratively, pale by comparison.


Anonymous binky said...

Apparently I missed a post somewhere..."Susan?"

7:16 PM  

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