Comedy of Airs

Sometimes words can’t adequately color the folly of man.

By “man” I mean me, which seems both generous to me and insulting to my gender — particularly in light of the tale I’m about to share. And since words alone won’t do it justice, I will attempt to adorn this tale with some drawerings, as I tell you…


So motorcycle tires invariably lose air, quickly. I dunno what’s different about them that causes them to expectorate the O2 that God intended for them to hold in a matter of days, but they do. A couple of times a week I have to saddle up my scoot1 next to the pickup, get out the clackety-clacking air compressor, and juice up the wheels to the proper PSI.

Usually it’s not an issue. It’s a good chance for me to let the bike idle and warm up anyway.

It looks something like this:

“Dagnabbit! The bike stalled,” says I. It had begun stalling a bit when the engine was cold, in the cold weather. “It probably needs a minor air/fuel adjustment! Which I can do with nothing more than a screwdriver!” But, says I, “Tut tut! I have no time for this now! I must get to work! I will adjust it later!”

So, while the air compressor clack-clacks along, I hit the bike’s starter again and give it a little gas so the engine will fire up nice.

Everything’s cool. Engine is puttering. Air compressor is clacking. Brad is ready for his zippy little ride in to work.

And the engine stalls again.

“Drat!” says I. “It’s most unfortunate that I can’t keep the engine idling fast enough! I will just start it again and give it more gas!”

I am realizing that I did not identify important parts of the scooter on those previous drawings, and I left out one important part entirely. I shall remedy those problems thusly:

I don’t want to get too technical, but it’s important to understand a few things, mechanically, about motorcycles and scooters for this story to make sense.

The throttle, up on the handle, is what you turn to rev the engine. It’s the motorcycle’s gas pedal. The kickstand’s role is clear to anyone who’s ridden a bicycle. It keeps the bike upright when you’re not on it to hold it up. On motorcycles, it also keeps the back wheel off the ground so that the wheel can turn freely while the bike remains stationary. Think of it as putting your bike in neutral. You can give it all the gas you want, but if the back wheel’s off the ground, it’s not going anywhere.

It will just spin round and round. Sometimes very fast.

scooter wheel 4-800

So what could possibly go wrong if I started the bike again (which I did) and then gave it lots of extra lovin’ on the throttle (which I also did)?

scooter wheel 5

You’d think the “CLACK! CLACK! CLACK!”ing would be so disruptive that I couldn’t forget about the air compressor hooked up to the back wheel. That’s what you’d think. But you would be wrong, good sir. I believe it was actually that very CLACK! CLACK!ing that disrupted my brainwaves long enough for me to fire up the engine and really goose the throttle, until…

When the dust from the big ball of violence settled, I heard a heartbreaking hisssssssss of air leaking and a marked change in the pitch of the CLACK CLACK!ing air compressor. I surveyed the damage and found that I was suffering:

  • An air compressor with an air hose that was literally ripped in two.
  • A rear tire with a tear at the valve.
  • An ego with an even bigger hole in it.

I locked up the bike and drove the truck to work. But the question I pondered that day was less “How much is that new tire gonna cost me?” and more, “Can that old air compressor be fixed?”

My dad, who’s now passed away, gave it to me about 20 years ago. But also, I just hate throwing away stuff that might still be useful. So I took it apart to see how the hose was attached. I spent probably an hour looking online for a replacement hose, but the thing was from China, and, as I said, pretty old. Came up empty.

And then I thought about trying to just patch the hose.

It took a few trips to the Lowe’s Depot to get the right fitting, but, somewhere in the bowels of the plumbing section (see what I did there?), I found a nylon splicer joint — a nylon hose barb with the proper 1/4-inch inside diameter. (“Lead Free!” it bragged, as if this was a new evolution of plastic.) Repair was a simple matter of using two pairs of pliers to twist and pull the hose ends onto the fitting, then wrapping the whole assembly with an abundant strip of electrical tape. I honestly spent more time driving to the store twice for the right fitting than I did doing the fixing.

Just like that, I’m back to waking up the neighbors.

And from now on, I’m airing up the tires with the engine off, damn it.

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1 Not that I actually really have a scooter, dear thieves. Because I seriously don’t. You should view this whole story as a parable, and not a piece of journalism.

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