Comedy of (Mechanical) Errors

Guest poster Jeff Hemmel finds that sometimes, rides just don’t go as they’re planned.

Just as in life, some days on the bike go smoothly…while others make you wish you had just stayed home. Proof? I offer a glimpse into today’s ride…or as I’m calling it, the comedy of mechanical errors.


Text friends (or at least the short list of friends who also work from home and thus can ride on a weekday morning), see who’s ready to ride. One’s out, one’s not responding. Begin mindless wandering on Internet.


Still no response, so come up with a solo plan. Just for grins, I’m going to tackle several Strava segments in the area and see if I can post some ridiculously fast times so everyone will think I’m a cool cyclist. Haven’t heard of Strava? It’s a GPS-based, mileage-tracking app with a social-media component…but let’s face it, it’s really just a way for people to compare themselves to others and convince themselves they’re cool cyclists.


Finally leave the house, heading toward the downtown route favored by the local cycling club. Approach the first segment I’m targeting, bordering a local country club. Pop a caffeinated energy gel into my mouth and get ready to hammer. Instead, realize I have a flat and curse the loss of precious, Strava-busting momentum. That makes two flats in about three days in the same tire…or two more than I’ve gotten in about the entire last year.


Remove the tire, lay my bike on the grass, and begin my inspection. Yes, I know that guy on YouTube does this process in 45 seconds, but I’m actually trying to find out what caused the flat…not just have it repeated another couple miles down the road. After two minutes of tentative feeling around inside the tire (does anybody really want to discover the cause with their bare fingers?) I find a tiny piece of glass. It’s buried, so I spend the next several minutes trying to dig it out.


Overcome the revulsion I have about putting something in my mouth that has been produced in a factory and attempt to blow a little bit of air into the tube to give it some shape. Nothing’s happening. Un-strap my Lezyne mini pump (hey, like a Boy Scout I’m prepared), then spend the next several minutes in frustration trying to unscrew the air hose which is housed within the pump body for storage. Curse myself for not greasing the threads.


Finally pump a little air into the tube, then start wrestling with the tire. After thousands of miles it’s decided to snap itself back into a kinked, twisting figure eight that my frazzled brain simply cannot decipher. Nice elderly lady stops by to offer assistance…obviously she’s never seen an experienced cyclist change a tire before.


Grab CO2 cartridge and let ‘er rip, anxious to get on with my ride. The tube begins to fill, then quickly the gizmo fails, adding a few greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and causing me to whine like a baby about my now-frozen hands. No spare cartridge, so go back to the mini pump.


One thousand, three-hundred-and-twelve pumps later and I’m exhausted. My tire is just on the firmer side of mushy. I’m obsessed with this Strava thing so I soldier on, ignoring the fact that I’ll soon be passing through a little rougher side of town with no spare, no patch kit, and no other tough-looking guys in badass Lycra. Okay, I do ponder for a moment who I can call should I have another problem…and wonder how long my puny self and expensive road bike will sit unnoticed while said person comes to pick me up.


Start to roll once again and realize my tire is mush. Stop, un-strap pump once again, and pump another thousand times (give or take). Tire pressure is now maybe an optimistic 70-psi.


Once again get underway, but aft water bottle is jumping wildly with every pedal stroke. Inspect and discover the cadence magnet on my crank arm is now inexplicably colliding with the remounted mini pump, which in turn is springing the bottle in question. Pedal in weird, half-arcs until I find a park bench…where I proceed to stare at the situation with all the knowledge and experience of a guy who just took 30 minutes to change a single flat tire.


Give serious consideration to the theory that a crank arm that can handle all the force generated by a Tour de France winner just bent under the weight of a 16-pound bike frame sitting on a well-manicured fairway. Un-strap pump, put it in my jersey pocket, give up on being king of the GPS-tracking-app mountain, and head home, completing a whopping 16 miles…in 1 hour and 37 minutes.

I did finally solve the mystery, or at least the part of it that didn’t involve my own incompetence. The pump bracket has mounting slots, rather than boltholes. Though the bolts seemed tight, the bracket had somehow slid to the left…just enough to derail my best-laid plans.

Hmm…maybe those Strava guys did it.


  1. says

    Great post thanks for sharing. Days like this are never fun. But I always strive to make the best of it. Look on the bright side now you have some more experience changing a tube.

  2. says

    Next post should be about: “The Ride of a 1000 lights”. Yup, you guessed it … when you and your riding group manage to catch a red light every single time 😀

  3. says

    Hilarious! There’s a fine line between perserveing despite the obstacles and being too pigheaded to realize it’s not your day. Sounds like you stayed on the right side of the line. I tried out Strava this weekend as well and was disappointed I did not get credit for two segments that I should have. I can’t imagine what the problem was, other than the segments appear to be on a multi-use path about 30 feet from the road and I was actually on the road itself. Major bummer.

    • Jeff says

      On the right side…barely!

      As to Strava, I’ve had pretty good luck with the newest version. I do remember the disappointment of going crazy on a big mountain climb this summer…only to somehow lose my data afterwards and not get to actually see it!

  4. says

    Thanks for getting me hooked on Strava … there are not a log of segments in my neck of the woods, so I feverishly created some in hopes of nabbing those little achievements on some of them, only to find out there are plenty of riders faster than me … I will just have to drive out there and put some insane times and then get back in my car (LOL) 😀

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