Back in 1997 I was doing some adventure cycling on the logging roads deep in the mountains of Humboldt and Mendicino Counties. In such harsh conditions so far from contact with civilization, having my bike in working order was critical. It was in those woods that I first became aware of an incredibly unnerving problem that I call valve stem rot.

Of course the most common failure that disables a bicycle is a flat tire. This usually involves a tube puncture. To account for this inevitable event I always carry patches. Sometimes a tube has been patched too often already (I’ve had 20 or more patches on more than one tube) or it sustains a long cut that is unpatchable. To account for that, I always carry spare tubes. Not one, but at least two in case one has gone bad. On serious outings I also carry a spare tire too.

It was good that I had taken such extreme precautions in the Redwood forests of northern California because after several flats, I discovered that two of the unused spares I was carrying had valve stems that had just rotted off the tube. Fortunately I was carrying more than two for that expedition.

I figured it was a bad batch of tubes and mentally adjusted the levels of redundancy I needed with respect to different vintages of tubes and that was that. Until today, I haven’t had that problem since 1997. But today I went to my garage and found a flat waiting for me. After checking the tire for pointy foreign objects, I was surprised to find the valve stem had started to rot off.



I have to say that this tube at least did give me years of decent service. With my astonishingly good Continential tires, I hardly ever get puncture flats any more. I’m down from at least once a month to more like once every 18 months or so. But why today did the valve stem decide to come unmoored from the tube? I don’t even have a conjecture.

What I’d like is for some company to at least pretend to address this problem. I would spend extra money on a brand that acknowledged the problem and claimed to take special precautions to prevent it from happening. Even if the claims were bogus, just getting people in the bike business to think about this would be a start.