The Unprepared Cyclist

What a day! Sunny, a nice breeze, and 84 degrees (29C). There was nothing to keep me off my bike, even at the expense of foregoing yard work, and putting off a chore I promised to do for my wife.

I wasn’t going to go too long — maybe 20-23 miles — something that would keep me out about an hour and half. I could tell I haven’t been riding as much as I should, but over the years, I’ve built a good base, so getting back into a rhythm wasn’t difficult.

A fellow from my cycling club caught up to me and passed me like I was standing still. But then I caught a group of unfamiliar riders, and went by them. I felt strong pushing up some small hills, and had fun reaching 35 mph going down a sweeping bend on an empty road in a new housing development.

About 13 miles in though, something wasn’t right. I had just gone through a 90-degree turn on a busy road, and was heading up another small hill, but my rear wheel felt unstable. Uh-oh — a flat!

I wasn’t comfortable changing it in the shoulder of a 65 mph highway, so I walked the bike about a quarter mile to a pulloff, and set about changing the tube. It turned out that the smallest possible shard of glass had punctured the tire and the tube. I picked it out of the tire, checked for any other debris inside the tread, yanked out the punctured tube, and got out a new one.

Some time ago, I stopped bringing my small pump on rides, deciding to stick with CO2 cartridges. I had some recently-purchased cartridges in my seat bag, but when I went to attach the inflator chuck to one, I made an unwelcome discovery. The cartridge was one of those unthreaded ones. I needed the threaded kind.

So there I was, at the side of the road, the bike upside down with the chain hanging forlornly, and doing the only thing I could think to do: Call my wife.

She was there in less than 10 minutes, and we headed home. I inflated the tube in a matter of minutes and got the tire back on the bike, but by then, it was too late. My cycling window for the day had closed.

I’ll be stopping by the bike store for a few new, threaded cartridges. And I think I’ll start carrying the mini-pump again. Sometimes, it’s not a bad thing to be a belt and suspenders kind of guy.

And you wonder why I still call this blog Bike Noob.

Starting the New Year with a Pfsst!

Finally got a break from the cold, rainy weather that started 2015, and I was anxious to get out on the bike Saturday. My wife had already done her ride for the day, and I was moving too slow to go with her. Once I finally did get saddled up, she was back, showered, and already hard at work in our home office.

I figured I’d start the new year with one of my most frequent rides, about an hour and a half through the neighborhood. The bike was performing well. It shifted silently and rolled smoothly. On this sunny, 55-degree (12C) afternoon, I saw a number of other bikers, but no one I knew.

I turned south to go to a hilly subdivision. While climbing an easy hill toward a highway that I had to cross, I became aware of a click from the rear wheel. It came regularly, with every revolution. Oh, great! Another broken spoke!

I stopped the bike and spun the rear wheel. No broken spoke, but the click was still there. I slowed the wheel and located the problem. A staple had punctured the tire, and its trailing end was catching the seat stay with every turn.

Hm. I was a little over two miles from home, and the staple seemed to be holding air in the tire. At least, it hadn’t gone flat yet. I seriously considered trying to make the return trip with the staple in the tire. But then, I had a change of heart, and pulled the staple out.

Pfsst! The tire flattened out immediately. Okay. I carried the bike up onto an adjacent sidewalk and started to work. The spare tube I carried was a patched tube, and I always wonder if the patch will hold. In addition, I had abandoned my trusty Road Morph pump awhile ago (I still have it — I just don’t carry it with me anymore) and I had one CO2 cartridge and a valve chuck. I had to get it right the first time. My track record in this area is pretty dismal.

But it worked! The tire filled, and it held. As I put the wheel back on the bike, a couple pulled up and offered to help.

“it’s all done,” I said.

“All done?” asked the man, who was about my age. “Fan-tastic! Our timing is perfect!” We chatted for awhile, but his wife wanted to move on, so we said our goodbyes.

I headed straight home, not willing to trust the replacement tube any further. So, my first ride of 2015 was a whopping 10.7 miles — a little less than half of what I’d planned. But there was a silver lining. It seems that Strava wipes the slate clean at the beginning of the year. The hill I was climbing when I hit the staple is a Strava segment — and I got a King of the Mountain! Of course, my time on that segment was 16 seconds slower than my best time on it in 2014, but hey — it’s good to be king.

Out of Commission

I haven’t gotten in a lot of biking lately. Not only have I been caught up in the end of the semester crunch at the university, but my road bike has been acting up.

A week ago, I found myself unable to shift from the small chainring to the big one. I had to abandon a ride and get home, although that was the same ride where I discovered the broken spoke. I finally got the bike into the shop on Wednesday, where the mechanic listened to my shifting complaint and examined the bike. The chain is okay, since it’s fairly new. But he didn’t like the look of the big chainring.

“You’re missing the little pin that grabs the chain so it can move onto the big ring,” he said. “You’re going to need a new chainring.”

He thought he could get one into the shop the next day. But that didn’t happen, and I didn’t pick up the bike until Friday afternoon, after getting home from some Christmas shopping. Because of the lateness of the afternoon, I was unable to get the bike out for a shakedown cruise.

Saturday was mountain biking day, as we headed for a mountain bike park more than 60 miles from home. The ride was great fun, and although my friend Maggie and I took the “beginner” ride with an experienced leader, we agreed it provided plenty of challenges for us, and was just the ticket.

We figured that Sunday would be a recovery ride day on the road bikes. On the way over to the meetup place, I noticed that shifting to the big ring wasn’t as smooth as I’d like, but at least it worked. I liked the sound of a silent bike again.

We broke away from the main group several miles into the ride, and pointed ourselves toward the Veloway to do some slow laps. But as I pedaled along, I felt a snap.

The errant shift cable.
The errant shift cable.

The shift cable for the rear cassette broke away from the shifter. I was stuck in the smallest rear cog, and while I could pedal, it wasn’t going to be easy. I parted ways with Maggie and limped home.

After parking the bike in the garage, and showering and changing, I went back out to get a picture of the problem. And there it was — the rear tire had gone flat. First flat on the tire since I bought it last summer. Fixing the flat will be no problem, but the bike goes back to the mechanic this week — and I hope the shift cable can be repaired without me having to buy a whole new shifter.

In the meantime, I’m back to mountain biking for awhile.