Saturday, April 13, 2013

Lumps and bumps

The turn onto Mountain House is a major milestone. Followed by a 2-mile downhill. Only 7 miles and 4 small-ish climbs left before Hopland! I'm planning the stop there, thinking about a bean and cheese burrito.

On the first uptick after the descent I start pushing on the pedals. A weird, loud pop comes from the vicinity of the rear hub, followed by a scraping sound. 

Never heard that before. It's not good. 

I get off the bike and the rider behind me comes up to help. The rear wheel is wedged against the left brake pad. The scraping sound happens when the rear wheel spins (even when the drivetrain is not involved). We can't find it but I am convinced it's a busted spoke.

Never had that before.

Because that rider stopped, the problem gets the rational treatment it deserves. Not just me kicking the bike with emotional force. Tossing it into a pasture. He opens the rear brake. The wheel turns, with a huge wobble and a scraping noise. What he says next is more helpful than stopping or opening the brake. "Well, you've got a lot of spokes."

The touring wheels on the Waterford, the ones from Peter White Cycles, each have 32 double-butted Wheelsmith spokes. They're over-engineered, especially for a lighter rider.

He means that regardless of how it looks this isn't a mortal injury. The bike is rideable. That's good because the one thing missing from my tool kit is a spare spoke. Not a steel spoke, not a Kevlar spoke. Nada on the spoke front. Never having broken a spoke, as you might imagine spare spokes and spoke wrenches are not on the list of things worth their weight to carry on a 400k. Or a ride of any length.

The wheel wobbles mightily and is compromised. But by riding gently and religiously avoiding potholes it carries me to Hopland. On the way I'm thinking I don't know how to get home from Hopland.

Instead of doing a little dance at the turnaround and seeking food and drink, I ask Keith (sitting there minding his own tasks) what he knows about wheel truing. We met a couple of hours ago in Cloverdale. 

Thanks to the Bike Exchange program I do actually know what needs to happen. Never done it in the field though. Where the wheel stays on the bike. Where you either tape the rogue spoke down or pull it out. Where you figure out how the little plastic tire lever on your multi tool does actually function as a spoke wrench. One you'd want to use only in emergencies.

Incredibly nice Keith helps out. I tape the spoke to its neighbor with duct tape. Identify the spokes on either side that need lefty-loosey, righty-tighty. He uses the lame little tool to do that. He doesn't even say anything bad about me taking this photo. 

The wheel still wobbles, but less now. When I finally set off in a southerly direction down 101, another cyclist comes up from behind and says "when you get home you might want to take a look at your rear wheel. It's wobbling pretty badly for some reason." Then he zooms off into the distance, adding insult to injury!

So I go a little slower on the way back. Through some of the most gorgeous landscapes anywhere on the planet. Highway 128, the Alexander Valley. Chalk Hill. With a tailwind: 18, 21, 24 miles per hour. And a rear wheel that sort of sashays.

The sun is going down. Rob said at the start that most of us should expect to be in the dark on Chalk Hill Road. A personal goal was to do slightly better than that. 

Twilight on Chalk Hill.
Beat it by 15 minutes. That's the way it should be: dusk in gorgeous wine country, darkness in Santa Rosa.

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