Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Kilometer Too Far

Could be the title of a remake of A Bridge Too Far, or the title of an allegorical blog post about bike maintenance …. Dang, I may have broken the first rule of essay writing: Don't give too much away in the first sentence. Oh well.

As you may have read, I rode a 200K permanent last week. The weather was crappy. Towards the end of that ride, in the dark, in the rain, in the cold wind, (just after I woke up from my bonk actually) I thought about how much trouble I would be in if I had any little mechanical. A flat tire came to mind. Given that it took all my accumulated years of wisdom and remaining dexterity to get that Mojo bar out of its mylar wrapper, the thought of getting a wheel off, getting the tube out, putting a new one in, pumping up etc, was on the verge of a horror story. I was thankful to get into the finish without a problem but then of course promptly banished the thought (of a flat or my thankfulness) as I moved on with life’s other demands.

It is easy to lull yourself into thinking that everything is fine because nothing has gone wrong recently. Just like gas in the cars’ tank: Turn the key (or the cranks) and the car (or the bike) goes. Who needs more gas …. or bike maintenance, right? I know better but something having to do with the passing of time is happening to my brain, and every now and again I get a memo from the real world that remindsme to pay more attention.

Usually about this time of year (or a little later, say February) I invest in some significant bike maintenance. Most of the year I do basic maintenance myself, but I like to dive into the steep curve that is the early rando season with the big horse recently tuned up if not overhauled, something I don't have the skill to do.

My mechanically inclined friends chide me about how much this costs me and how satisfying doing my own maintenance would be, and how if I did it all myself there would never really be a major overhaul. They are right of course, but for whatever reason I’ve never gotten to the point where I am confident disassembling wheel hubs, or Campy Ergo shifters. Ride enough, for long enough and you get to know mechanical types, go a little further down the road and there is a good chance that you become friends with a real bike mechanic. I am fortunate to know three excellent bike mechanics, all of whom have an understanding and affinity for the needs at the practical end of the bike fashion continuum. They could all three do fine work on a $10,000 Colnago with the latest high zoot components, but they also know how to fix the ills of the likes of me.

Well, on that ride last week it occurred to me that it might be time. I didn’t mention that about 20 miles into the ride, the front derailleur quit shifting down into the little chain ring. Oh well you might think, it’s just one more gear what’s the big deal? Riders know however that if there is any gear that can be important at critical times it’s that littlest gear you have. I had characterized this ride as ‘pancake flat’ and that would be true in a Cyclos Montagnards sort of way. As one of the riders said to me after the ride: “I’m not ordering pancakes at your house again.” Fair to say the ride had its ups and downs and I missed the little gear, especially towards the end of the ride when the granny (or lack there of) matters most.

So up to the LBS this weekend to have my friend Cory work his magic. I let him know in my informal, casual, friend-and-co-rider-as-well-as-customer sort of way that he had free reign to do whatever needed doing to make sure that I would not be standing on the side of the road with soppy frozen fingers puzzling over the zip tie and duct tape solution to getting home. This is an act of trust that only develops with time.  A little plug here for your local bike shop.  Patronize them, they need you and there will come a time when you need them.

He called the next morning asking if I had any matching tires at home. Thus began the funny conversation: The rear was worn through to the casing.

In more than one place!

The pulley bushings in the rear derailleur were rusty and needed RnR. The rims needed to be drained of the collection of rainwater and road grit, and for good measure he rebuilt the rear hub. All good with me, I had a hub failure on the VanIsle 1200 a few years ago that was a near ride stopper.

There were a few other tweaks; he recommended I put on that front mud flap, that chain and cables looked good, probably need new brake pads next go round etc. But I have to say, I feel profoundly fortunate that I didn’t flat on the way in, and further no other gremlins decided to add excitement along the way.

I have been planning a post for some time to sing the virtues of my ‘new’ tires. It has obviously been longer than I thought because that ‘new’ tire on the rear is worn through and I only vaguely remember when I bought them. I do know that other than a couple flats (fewer than normal with other tires) I have had absolute peace and tranquility with these tires. Someone is going to ask how many ‘data points’ I have to support this product endorsement. The answer is, this is a report of my opinion, not facts, so in my opinion these tires are the right thing for me, and your opinion may vary.

They are the Rivendel Jack Brown Blues. I bought them as I recall after PBP 07 figuring I’d try something new as we were going into the wet season and I did not feel confident that the Gran Bois were up to the challenge of riding around here in the winter. I liked them and decided to switch to a pair of the Greens the next summer. So I’ve been switching between the two since 2007anyway and, well, guess it’s time for new tires.

If you are planning to ride through this part of the year or anticpate being launched by the rando trebuchet this spring, consider giving your favorite ride a late Christmas spa treatment. It is a known fact that a happy bike is much less likely to leave you by the side of the road.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, I'd say those tires are just about done.