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Published: March 3rd 2006
New Frame, Same Bike...
My Singlespeed returns to life.
Baby, it’s cold outside.
My pregnant wife is huddled up under the quilt with the dog to watch a John Cusack romantic comedy that she’s already seen a dozen times. Meanwhile out in the garage, I’m holding my hands atop a space heater so decrepit that I can actually hold my hands atop it without burning them off, hoping that my fingers will thaw enough to thread a new shifter cable.
In the flickering fluorescent light my breath puffs up in clouds, and I step warily past the patch of ice in front of the double doors. I doublewrap my handlebars: new tape for this season atop white tape gone grimy from last season. This year I’m going with black tape, hoping that it won’t show the miles nearly as much. In the cold I curse my frugalness: a $1 roll of electrical tape is not a bargain if it’s too cold to stick to anything.
There’s a promise in the cold air. Like the first blooms pushing their way out of the flower beds, I prepare my bikes for the season ahead, confident that I’ll learn from all my past mistakes.
Not even seven miles into
There are a few things more important than bikes...
my first 200 kilometer brevet of the season, and my rear wheel froze up on me. I’d been a minute or two late starting behind the couple dozen other fellow foolhardy randonneurs who braved an almost-freezing morning, a 30% chance of precipitation and 25mph wind gusts in the northern Shenandoah valley. I had almost caught up to the main group on my way up an easy hill when my pedals stopped moving, my rear wheel seized up. I hopped off, hoping for the easy answer to my solution: a loose quick release shifting forward in horizontal dropouts. But alas my touring bike has vertical dropouts, and the wheel was still firmly gripped by the quick release skewer. I pulled the wheel out and confirmed that it wasn’t spinning at all upon the axle. Spying the only rider to start behind me coming up the hill, I waved him down with my lame wheel and asked, “Do you have any cone wrenches?”
Cone wrenches. Who the heck needs cone wrenches? Riding around town, I leave them at home, I need them so rarely. Sure, I carry a little tool kit with a selection of allen wrenches, but I rarely need
to dissassemble my hubs. Sure, I pack cone wrenches for long tours, but I hadn’t packed them for a 200k brevet. Hearing my fellow randonneur’s reply in the negative, “Nope, no cone wrenches,” I wished I had remembered the basic tenet of randonneuring: self-support. If your rear wheel locks up, you’ve got to have the tools with you to deal with it. No outside assistance, except at designated checkpoints.
I walked across the road to a working farmhouse (distinguishable from the non-working farmhouse next to it by the battered work truck), spied a burly, young father in front of the TV and knocked on the door. Chuck opened up his basement to me, and for half an hour I struggled to repair my rear wheel with a set of pliers and a pair of wirecutters. When I was unable to fix my wheel, Chuck offered to drive me into town to a bike shop listed in the phone book. But of course, the bike shop wasn’t open at 9 AM, although the ATV shop next door to it was. Once again though, I wasn’t able to find the right tools for the job, and although I thought I had
the repair done right, a quarter mile down the road my rear wheel locked up again, proving that I was wrong.
So, I unlocked the quick release skewer and walked back to the start. Five miles of pushing my bike, five miles of walking in hard-soled bike shoes made for walking five yards at a time. And of course, a phone call home to relay my plight revealed that Jennifer was having contractions, six weeks prior to our baby’s due date.
So I got back to the car, drove the four hours home, and the contractions faded. With a part on order from the bike shop, I think I know what went wrong with my bike, but not why. The cassette body worked itself loose, and then jammed up the driveside rear wheel bearings. Of course, I didn’t have a 10mm allen wrench with me on the road (who needs anything bigger than a 6mm in most cases?). I bought another cone wrench for my saddlebag, and I’ve added a few more tools to my packing list. I’m not getting left behind again…
Tot: 0.077s; Tpl: 0.044s; cc: 8; qc: 23; dbt: 0.0132s; 1; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.2mb