Perhaps the moon and stars are misaligned. Or maybe our bikes are just getting tired from being ridden so many miles (I just passed 6,000 for the year.) Whatever the cause, recent club rides are being affected by ‘mechanicals’. This is a cyclist’s term for a problem with a bike that occurs during a ride. And my friends are having quite a few lately.
Ten days ago I was doing Mount Hamilton, a very long ride on a very hot day. Sean managed to have 4 flat tires, each causing a delay. 4 flats on a single ride is more than bad luck; it usually means there are underlying issues with the tire or the rim tape or some other gremlin. We finished the ride over 1 1/2 hours later than I expected, and since it was about 102 degrees that afternoon the flats contributed to an excellent day of hot weather training.
A week later on Saturday’s club ride, I’m at the back of the group climbing Sutter Ione Road, riding pretty easily with two friends, when we come up on Jeff, who has stopped by the road with a broken chain. Broken chains are rare, but Jeff is a big strong guy. He didn’t have a chain tool or a master link or connecting pin needed to fix it. Russ gave him the link but didn’t have the tool. Since I did (and the connecting pin too), I stopped to fix the chain. But Don H, thinking nobody had the necessary tool, had already turned around to ride back to Ione, about 8 miles, to get his car and rescue Jeff and his bike. When his bike was fixed Jeff also backtracked to tell Don H no rescue was necessary.
After this there was considerable confusion regarding who was riding where. Cell phone coverage in the foothills is spotty, and various attempts at text messages and phone calls didn’t get through, so 4 of us backtracked from Volcano on the last reported route we expected to see Jeff and Don riding. But they had modified their plan, as we learned when we got to Sutter Creek where my phone did work. No big deal: I did the ride I wanted, it just took an hour more than I expected.
Then yesterday Rider B topped them both. I’m keeping him anonymous.Rider B is a good friend. He is also a very competent bicycle mechanic. So I was surprised that his bike was having shifting issues. But apparently something was really wrong and his chain jammed in the front derailleur and Rider B fell. He was not seriously injured but his knee was scraped. And his rear derailleur hanger was bent, which didn’t help the shifting.
One might think Rider B had enough bad luck for one day. But about 5 miles from the finish he ran over a sharp screw or nail and punctured his tire. The hole was huge, requiring a ‘boot’. This is a thin piece of rubber we place inside the tire to protect the new tube and keep it from bulging out of the hole. Roadside repairs are always a bit tricky. On the first attempt, the boot slipped and the inner tube started to bulge out. So Rider B had to deflate the tube and try again. He was probably in a hurry and a little flustered. He inflated the tire with another CO2 cartridge, but the new tube exploded with a loud bang! Bad tube or bad tire or bad technique? We’ve all done this, and it is incredibly frustrating.
I told Rider B I would ride to the finish and get my car and drive back to pick him up. But as I was riding, Don H was already driving his car back to check on the stragglers. And both our efforts were unnecessary. Gary provided Rider B another CO2 cartridge (#3) and another tube (#2). The third time really was a charm; Rider B was able to ride to the finish. This time the total delay was only about 20 minutes.
I had my own major mechanical back in March when my rear derailleur hanger broke. I was luckier than Rider B: I didn’t fall (pure luck) and I was about 200 yards from my house (even more luck). I’m going to keep lighting those prayer candles.