The top of the Adriatic and outer islands of Venice, and a potentially disasterous mishap

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September 26th 2016
Published: September 28th 2016
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Sun, beaches, flat terrain, gelato, vino: life is good pedaling around the north end of the Adriatic Sea. Leaving Trieste on Saturday morning, we negotiated city traffic and then joined the throng of weekend drivers and many bicyclists as well heading north. A bit of a climb to good views from the limestone cliffs and then downhill to industrial Monfalcone and a turn left to the flat delta of the Isonzo River. The elevation profile from here to Ravenna will be best approximated by a horizontal line.

Much of the delta area is a biological preserve with separated bike trails along sloughs and the northern Adriatic coast. A lot of this area is biological preserve and so we were tempted by and followed the bike routes through the natural areas, thus lengthening our planned 40+ mile day to 50 miles or so. Even on mainly flat terrain, this makes for a tiring day, especially when the afternoon temperatures start to get pretty warm. We ended up in Aquileia, a pleasant small town with Roman ruins and a very old Christian church with interesting mosaics. Fun place to stay.

Day 2 was a planned 50-mile ride to Lido di Jesolo, a beach resort north of Venice. We had to stay a bit inland and on numbered highways instead of back roads because of the need to cross many rivers and sloughs on bridges. The Italians' reputation for fast driving is well justified, and we had to be always alert on the crowded roads. Lido di Jesolo was still hopping even though it is past the main beach season. Our hotel was between the main strip and the beach, which were like parallel lines, one block apart and several miles long. The clientele were mainly middle-class Italian, Austrian, and German families, although, the one bar with live music seemed to be filled with leather-jacketed Italian motorcyclists. It was the weekend of the Oyster Run back home. Maybe this is international motorcycle weekend; who knows?

We saw lots of people in cars, on motorcycles and bicycles and walking on these two sunny weekend days. About halfway to Lido di Jesolo as the highway passed through one small town, a group of 20-30 motorscooters passed going the other way, most with hand-written signs saying "Vespa Club", in English, taped to the front.

Day 3 was to be an interesting, and more relaxing day, riding south along the beach and crossing the two long islands that form the eastern boundary of the Venice lagoon We would ferry across the inlets between the islands using the same system of vaporetto boats that had gotten us around Venice a few days before. Only about 30 miles of flat riding total. All went as planned at first -- the 13-mile ride south to the first ferry, with the lagoon appearing on our right: fishermen, beautiful white egrets on the pilings , a few tourist boats, an altogether peaceful day ahead for sure. A Punta Sabbioni we bought the tickets for all three crossings and soon boarded the No 14 for the Venice Lido, the first of the two long islands fronting the lagoon. It was an incredibly pleasant crossing with a boatload of friendly tourists, including a number of other cyclists making our same journey as a round trip for the day. At the Lido had good start biking down the 9-mile road south to the next crossing, past 4-star hotels and private, gated sections of beach reserved for the patrons of those hotels. The Venice Lido is definitely a step or two up from the middle class kitsch of Lido di Jesolo.

A few miles into this pleasant ride, between some ornate building that was probably an 18th-century casino and the ornately gated beach, I heard the sound of metal clanking, as if something big had fallen off my bike. I stopped, saw nothing on the road, and tried to go on. But the bike sure felt funny. It was riding really soft, as if my back tire were really low. So I checked that, and it sure seemed full of air, hard as a rock. The brakes seemed to work, the bike rolled ok. So we pushed on, although I was quite a bit slower than usual and a bit wobbly. Soon, the very loud (so loud that I can still feel it in my ear almost 2 days later) sound of a blowout told me that the air pressure had been just fine. But now it wasn't.

A better look at the bike this time revealed a full break in the frame at the right chain stay. So, that metallic sound was the frame breaking. And the blowout? Well, the soft frame made the rear brake pads go wonky and run the tire. A little brake pad pressure outside a tire with 80+ pounds of pressure inside will soon allow the air to force its way out, very quickly, with a loud gunshot sound and 5-inch tears in both tire and tube.

We are prepared wth many spare parts and a small tool set, but a broken frame is something we can't fix by the side of the road. (A blown out tire is something we can deal wth, and have dealt with in the past, of course). Luckily, due to the pleasant cycling conditions on these islands, we were pretty sure the Lido had bike shops. Ad sure enough, after pushing the fully loaded bikes a bit, mine with a useless rear tire, we were pointed in the general direction of one by one of the many people here who know a lot more English than we know Italian. After passing the place by once, we doubled back and found it, and were directed to someone who could weld, or so we hoped, several miles south, along the main road.

So, pushing the bikes some more, away from town and into an industrial area, showing passers-by the small piece of paper with the name of the shop that may or may not be able to help us, we eventually came to a small store with hardware and marine supplies with the right name on the front. They called a very friendly young guy from the back who was skeptical at first, but, after he realized that the frame was steel, not aluminum, agreed to try to weld it. He took the bike to the shop in back, us not knowing if this would take 10 minutes or all day, and even whether I'd ever see my bike again. He returned in 15 minutes max, with a smile on his face, and the bike with welded frame in hand. Total cost for the repair? 10 Euros. A potentially trip-ending mishap turned out well.

Replacing the tire (we carry two spare folding tires) and tube went well, with lots of interest, and some help, from the store's customers. Soon we were on our way, headed south to the next ferry, only having been set back a couple of hours as it turned out.

The second island is quiet Pellestrina with colorful houses, a thriving fishing industry, and a tall seawall along the outer beach for its entire 7-mile length. Once we got to the south end, assured that we would actually make it to our planned stay across one more inlet to Chioggia that night, we took a break at a waterfront cafe in the very pleasant village. We had a great 5th floor walk up room in Chioggia with view of the old town, the active fishing fleet and the southern lagoon entrance. A nice walk through the lively fish market there before taking off in the early morning, and we are back on our planned itinerary, assuming all continues to hold together, or can be welded, I guess.

How can a bike frame just break like this? There appeared to be a lot of rust at the break, so possibly water got inside the frame and rust at the low spot eventually weakened it. We are in touch with Bike Friday about this situation and obviously concerned that the same could happen t Kathy's bike, or the other side of mine, for that matter. Meanwhile, we push on, and so far so good.

Additional photos below
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Chioggia clock tower.Chioggia clock tower.
Chioggia clock tower.

The clock dates to 1386. Supposedly the oldest clock tower in the world. The clock was made to be visible to fishermen out on the water.

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