Saturday, January 19, 2013

Worn Out

The big horse,
Rolling Comfort4
my beloved custom made titanium bicycle, festooned with all the special rando-oriented bits and pieces is in the shop for a midwinter makeover. More on that later. 
I have not ridden any ‘big miles’ events in some time.  These BHAG events are the hallmark of the rando crowd, but reviewing the logbook I see that a trend of consistent, shorter rides (centuries, 100, and 200K’s) is developing.  At first blush this is decidedly underwhelming, but for me, this could be the seed of a mighty oak.  I’ve ridden 5 1200Km events and nearly as many 1,000k brevets.  Those things always stand out as major accomplishments, and so they should.  Those epic endurance fests are well remember control├ęs along the Cue sheet of one’s riding accomplishments, quickly recalled when someone asks, “What was your most memorable … (fill in the blank).” 
But what do we really know about ourselves?  Better than our strengths, we know our weaknesses, better than our triumphs, we know our shortcomings.  For me, consistency is the moth-eaten fabric of underachievement which provides no warmth as I look back on my ride history.   
So, the emergence of regular, steady accomplishments on the bike has me raising my eyebrows and wondering if there is some secret ingredient I have overlooked that is helping me in this regard.  Don’t get me wrong, though I am half way through year two of my 100Km per month string, I am not about to pop into a phone booth to change into my sooperman tee shirt.  A quick glance at the awards section of our national rando mag will reveal that there are lots of riders sporting impressive strings of monthly accomplishments.  I am but an egg. These baby steps don’t count, until one can look back at them over years. 
That is the irony and also what makes consistency such a different (and in my mind more remarkable) accomplishment than the ‘epic’ get. If it were the same as completing PBP, I could shout from the roof tops “One in a row!” after my first 100Km monthly permanent a couple years ago. See the difference?  No one thinks about that steady drip, drip, drip of water which began 40,000 years ago when the stand on the rim of the grand canyon staring into the maw of ancient history.  We value most our acomplishments that are hardest to achieve.  Tortoise and hare, it’s all the same, and I respect that hare for his dogged perseverance, something I aspire to. 
Because I have been plugging away, the elements and the efforts have apparently taken their toll on the equipment.  I broke one of the shifter paddles on my bike a couple months ago.  At the time I thought the shifting was getting a little harder but assumed it was me getting a little weaker, or just me honing my whine, and then, Ping!; the shifter paddle went flying across the road.
I do my own minor maintenance but this is the next level.  These Campy shifters are like a Swiss watch, lots of tiny bits, springs, pawls, cable connections, all needing to go together in a certain,intricate order. My pal Brian rebuilds his own shifters, but he’s got the patience of Job; I’ve got the patience of a hungry five year old with ADD in a candy shop, so it was off to the LBS.  As mentioned, I do my own minor maintenance (emphasis on monir).  I recently replaced brake pads and noticed that the brake cable was starting to fray at the brake clamp. Two and two caused me to consider the possibility that the cables and housings had been replaced ….how long ago?  They certainly had not been serviced since.  Friction between the cables and housings can cause sticky of hard shifting.
So I dropped the big horse off for a checkup and was chagrined to find that the diagnosis was a well worn drive train and need for a rebuild of the ‘other‘ shifter.  According to Corey the chain rings, cogs, and chain are all much closer to the end of life than the beginning.  I expressed my surprise as we stood there discussing the forlorn looking patient.  It hadn’t been that long since these components were  installed had it?  Well actually it had been that long.  It was this this prompted me to look back at the log which reveled the increasing incidence of one and two hundred km dots on the calendar.  More than I thought.  
Looking at the bottom bracket, hubs, fenders, the lower half of the bike generally, Ian (the consulting second opinion) mentioned that it looked as though I had been riding in the rain.  These guys are both seasoned randonneurs with much more impressive palmar├Ęs than I, so they know perfectly well what it takes to ride consistently here in the PNW. 
It was true; the bike looked as if I had left it in a creek bed for a week.  As mentioned earlier, I do minor maintenance so usually I clean the drive train off and lube the chain after these winter rain fests.  I had not done that before bringing the bike in and the better light of the shop revealed that the wet roads of winter apply their own destructive version of grinding paste to the running gear.
There are still a few really crappy months of riding ahead, so we agreed that the shifter would get the rebuild now, and that I would ride out the winter on the current drive train, postponing the major overhaul would until April, or May after the worst of the weather has headed for the southern hemisphere.
As it happens, some of the equipment on the ‘upper half’ is in need of work as well.  I have for the last few years had a problem with one of my hands.  A couple of my fingers lock into a curl if I make a fist (or grip a hammer or wrench, tie my shoes, brush my teeth, etc).  It has always been annoying but has gotten worse since last summer.  Now I can’t un-bend these fingers without pulling on them with my other hand, and it his painful.  I would say excruciatingly painful but no need to insert gratuitous epic-ness where it does not belong.
Anyway the orthopedic surgeon I have visited says it is not uncommon, and is easily remedied with a “simple outpatient procedure”.  I love this euphemism for cutting open your body with a sharp knife and then using a dentist’s drill and all manner of modern tools to carve up, reshape, or remove excess body parts.  You can probably guess how enthusiastic I am about this.  He says it’s outpatient work but I will need a driver to get me home.  He also says it requires about two or three weeks of recovery.  On this point I questioned him very closely.  
You see where I am going with this I am sure.  I have not gotten a date for the ‘procedure’ but I think if I can get those monthly rides out of the way early in the next month, and follow up shortly thereafter with the chop shop, then I should be able to schedule the next rides late in the next month, aloowing plenty of time for recovery and keeping my pathetic little strings alive.  A consideration I would have never been concerned with, if I had not taken a peak in the logbook.
Stay tuned  


  1. Hey Paul,

    Couldn't find any other way to contact you so apologies for it being a comment. We bought a site a while back and have now changed brand to a new site and wondered whether you would change the link you have in your sidebar to our new site

    I look forward to hearing from you,

    Kind Regards,

    Adam Samuel
    Founder of NotAnotherHill

  2. Adam:

    Happy to, but you will have to pay me double what I was getting from bikeblogcollection.

    You can reach me at pjinoakville(at)comcast(dot)com

    Dr C