Sometimes it’s not what it seems

I showed up for the Sunday morning B ride feeling somewhat apprehensive. The rear tire on my bike had a noticeable warp. It wasn’t really a bulge, but the main tread of the tire got off center at one spot. I was worried it might fail during the ride.

I put the bad tire on the bike last weekend, after I got a flukey flat. A screw had punctured the tire — maybe you saw the picture I linked to from my Twitter account. Anyhow, that tire was no longer usable, but I happened to have an older one hanging in the garage, so I put that on as a quick replacement.

It worked all right, but not great. I could feel the warp when the tire rolled, and Saturday I had to stop to re-center the rear brake, which turned out to be rubbing at one spot on the wheel. But I completed last Sunday’s group ride, and rides on Friday and Saturday with no other problems, so I thought I’d take ┬áchance on the tire one more day.

About 10 miles into the ride, my friend David ran over a radial tire wire in the road, and it stuck into his tire. He pulled it out, but warned us all that he might be stopping to tend to a flat down the road. The two of us rode more or less together from then on.

Southwest of the small town of Buda, right after turning onto a busy two-lane highway, I felt something give on my bike. Suddenly, I couldn’t shift anymore, although I could pedal all right in the small chainring. David stopped with me, and Scott turned around to join us while the rest of group continued on. Last week, Scott broke a shift cable on our ride, and rode 15 miles on only three gears through some hilly terrain. Our first thought was that I had a snapped cable, too.

The rear tire rubbed against the front derailleur at one spot, and we couldn’t fix that. David, the most adept tinkerer of the three of us, played with the shifters while I held the rear wheel off the ground. He confirmed that the problem was a broken cable. I decided to turn around and head back to Buda, about three miles away, and have my wife perform sag duties from there.

One of our club members, who was riding with the A group this morning, is an expert bike mechanic. I contacted him after my wife got me home, and he told me to bring the bike over. He glanced at it when I pulled it from the back of the SUV, and said, “You’ve got a broken front derailleur.”

We put the bike up on a repair stand in his workshop, and he checked it over thoroughly. I mentioned that we had all diagnosed the problem as a snapped cable. He disagreed. He didn’t stock a replacement derailleur, and sent me out to get one. The local Performance store had what I was looking for — an Ultegra, on sale (the broken was a Tiagra). I bought it and took it back to his shop. He had it on and working perfectly in 10 minutes.

“Your cables are fine,” he said. “I checked them out carefully while you were gone.”

He adjusted the trim of the shifters as precisely as possible, and charged a whopping five dollars for his trouble. “The good news is, this replacement derailleur you bought is more solid than the other,” he said. “You should never run into the same problem with this one as you did today.”

I thanked him for his work and loaded my bike back into the SUV. As always, a trip to bike shop racked up more expenses than I’d planned on — the derailleur and a new tire, plus some stuff came to a round $100. But the bike is running again, which it wouldn’t be if I’d stuck to the original assumption about what was wrong.


  1. weilandnet says

    I’ve been riding around the past week, maybe more, with a rubbing back brake, but I didn’t know. So I feel your pain.

  2. Jeffh says

    Let me know if you notice a difference between the Tiagra and the Ultegra. A mechanic suggested I make the switch, but I couldn’t see spending the money if I didn’t need to. Curious, however, to see if you feel there’s a worthwhile difference.

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