“I may be a living legend but that sure don’t help when I’ve got to change a flat tire.”
– Roy Orbison
The hill ahead curved around, leaving the peak out of site. Forty miles into the ride, I powered up my legs and pushed to reach the top, winding my way around before pulling over into a driveway at the top to look back and see how far back D was. He was nowhere in sight. Missed phone calls and several minutes of nonsense later, I turned around and headed back to find him in a trailer park parking lot, attempting to change his flat tire. I don’t know exactly how long it took us to do the change, closer to an hour than to a half hour, though.
The cool air numbed our fingers as we fumbled to get the tire tread over the rim. It felt like hours and extremely futile. We would look back at that process and blame it for the reason we would stop 20 miles short of our goal and resort having Steeltoe Jones come pick us up.
This ride was supposed to take us from Rochester to Syracuse in time to see the Marching Band State Championships. I wrote about this ride in October of 2012 before and how it was a prime example of never underestimating how challenging a century ride can be. Each one takes planning and patience and mental toughness. We went in with far too much bravado and far too little concern and we wound up failing as a result.
This weekend’s rides were supposed to be relatively simple and straightforward. It would mark another weekend of back-to-back centuries with the goal of reaching 125 miles on day one and 100 on day two. Instead, I found myself fixing more tires (I hate fixing tires) and utilizing my amazing wife for rescue missions and supply runs.
Saturday’s ride issues actually began Tuesday. On Tuesday, while trying to bike to a meeting in North Liberty, I got a flat tire. I changed it and ended up cutting the ride short to get to the meeting on time. The next day, checking to make sure the tire was still good, I noticed significant wear on my back tire and so I brought it into the bike shop for a quick changeover; I ride far too many miles to let crappy tread sit for too long.
I utilize Pinhead locks for both of my bikes. I started using these when I moved to Philly because of concerns about bike theft. The only issue with these locks is they need to be tightened down like crazy or they will slip, causing your wheel to move down and lock up. As I left the bike shop, that’s exactly what happened, the tire lodged itself up against the right side of the bike frame. I adjusted the wheel and re-tightened the pinhead but this would happen four more times.
So, when I got home, I changed out the pinhead for the spare that I had, thinking the current pinhead was frayed or stripped or otherwise compromised. The new pinhead tightened just fine and I was on my way. However, I noticed this annoying and very disturbing clicking sound and vibration while I pedaled. It sounded almost like the chain was catching somewhere along the way. The feeling would happen randomly and in any gear.
The whole sensation was quite disconcerting because I thought I was going to snap the chain at any moment.
I have quite a history with interesting and unique chain mishaps. This one happened while popping out of the saddle to climb a hill on Loop road on Kent State Campus, almost knocking me off the bike as the pedals came to jolting halt with me trying to sprint the hill (left). This happened on my first day in Philadelphia, attempting to bike to work for the first time in the city when a semi cut me off and as I tried to get out of the way, the chain jammed, slipped off, and wrapped itself elegantly around and around (middle). This last one happened on a previous weekend adventure that I’ve written about where I was climbing a hill and the chain broke apart (right). These experiences had me all wired up and expecting the worst. The night before Saturday’s ride, I readjusted the pinhead lock and cleaned and oiled the chain, hoping that would fix whatever the issue was.
When I set out around 4:30 Saturday morning, I was greeted by the clickety clack and a grinding, jarring sensation in my pedals. I tried to count how many strokes it took before it happened, but I could not discern the pattern. As I pedaled, I began modifying the route in my head, thinking it would definitely be worth the time to swing by the bike shop and get it checked out before finishing the ride. Luckily, my ride was already planned out to bring me back to Iowa City around mile 75 before heading on to the north and swinging back down again to get up to 125 miles.
I turned west after Washington on Route 1, biking along Route 92 when my front tire went flat again. I tried to get cheeky and not change it but rather pump it up a bit and keep going. I figured that it might have been some sort of slow leak. That didn’t hold up, though, and 45 miles into the ride, the tire was completely flat and I was out of CO2. I called my wife and she immediately drove out to get me.
I threw my bike on the rack and she dropped me off at the bike shop where the dude immediately put it in the stand and fixed the front tire (a pinched tube cause I put it on wrong Tuesday) and started in on my clicky problem. We troubleshooted for three hours, ruling out gear adjustment issues, pedal issues, and chain issues. In fact, we changed the chain (something I was going to need to do in a week anyway) and still the clicking continued. He finally concluded the only logical option left was an issue with the bottom bracket. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a proper replacement on hand and so with reassurances that it would not affect me in any way safety wise, I left the shop with the clickety clack still clicking along.
Given this 3-hour interruption, I turned the hopefully 125 mile ride into 100 and then did what any sensible person would do after 12 hours of nonsense, I ate a giant piece of chicken, took a swig of chocolate milk, and bought a new car.
Sunday’s ride started out with me in a zombie state. I woke up and groggily went about my normal routine, taking far too long meandering my way through grabbing all the supplies and loading up the bike. I wouldn’t leave until 4:45 when I was supposed to be out the door by 4. This is something that I will need to improve on once the Big Ride comes. No time to take my time, as it were.
I took a little bit of time to get into a groove at the beginning of the ride. My bum was quite sore and a focal point of my attention for at least 30 miles before something else would distract me.
I started heading west after the first 30 miles and got to West Liberty by 8 am. Going over some obnoxious grossout roads, I found myself with yet another flat tire, the third of the week. I reached into my saddle bag for a tube and my CO2 cannister and remembered as I reached for it that I had never replenished the canisters after Saturday’s nonsense. So now I’m 18 miles out of Iowa City with a flat and no way to change it. I checked Google for any shop anywhere that could be of use that was within walking distance. I found only one “Sporting Goods” store and they were actually only for billiards now. Everything else was nonexistent or miles and miles away.
I turned towards my house thinking about the 18-mile walk ahead of me.
I had texted my wife about my lack of preparedness and stupidity and infuriation with tires and rubber in general and she offered to come bring me what I needed. So, for the second time in as many days, the wife comes to my rescue. I was in West Liberty for about an hour before I could get pedaling again.
Bridge Over Nonsense Waters
One thing that seemed like a mainstay for long rides was issues with the road. The first ever Pups Fest in 2012 where D and Reverend and I pedaled to Valley View 35 miles from Kent and back, we were on the bike path and came upon an under-construction bridge that forced us to climb through brambles and trees and such to get to the other side and back on the path. The Cedar Point ride with D saw us climbing over mounds of gravel and dirt on a construction site to get to the usable road on the other side. RTYD II with D and G had us sidetracked with a circular detour and so we had to walk through a construction site as well to get back on track.
And here again on Sunday are signs for a bridge out ahead. No detours were offered so I just kept going on my trajectory, waiting to see if a detour would be offered closer to the downed bridge. No such luck. I spent a few futile minutes by the blocked off road searching for alternate routes. But, I live in Iowa and alternate routes means dirt/gravel roads and I’m not about to do that for miles and miles if I don’t have to. Instead, I headed toward the parallel railroad tracks and walked those until I got to the end of the downed bridge, climbed through some brush and got back on the road and back on track.
I have lamented about the wind so often in these posts that wind should maybe be capitalized and treated like a proper noun. Sunday’s ride was glorious for the wind. A westerly wind meant an epic tailwind allowing me to push my pace over 20 mph for nearly a 20-mile stretch along Historic Route 6. Fingers crossed (because that totally works and is a completely viable way to get what you want) that I get a westerly wind for the Big Ride.
One fun part of Sunday’s ride was the fact that I would get to spend some 30 miles or so along the Mississippi on the bike trails that run along the river; a river famous only for having a name used as a measure of time.
However, once I got to the trail, I found myself not enjoying it at all. The river isn’t all that majestic or pretty with its deep, muddy brown color. The trail was currently occupied by some family event ride. By itself, that’s a great idea. In practice, it’s a terrible experience. The trail is swarming with kids who are still unsure of the concept of just keeping the front wheel straight, instead twisting the handle bars this way and that. Add in the moms and dads who haven’t biked in six years and you have me going at a snail’s pace waiting to pass people and coming to dead stops as this mom or that kid weaves their way into my lane, almost colliding with me.
Additionally, the trail was flooded in several spots, meaning I had to come to a crawl to get through the water. Then, I had to turn around into the headwind and head back. Overall, the part of the trip I was looking forward to the most was a bit of a dud.
Heaven on Earth
The best part of the weekend that was full of bike strife and missed opportunities and lazy preparation? A visit to Texas Roadhouse, where every bike ride should end. I recounted the story of our visit to Roadhouse post-RTYD I where D downed a 32oz. prime rib. I did not do any such feat on this trip, but still had a grand old time stuffing my face alongside my wife.
Great Cycle Challenge
I have officially lost my place as 1st in Iowa in terms of miles for the Great Cycle Challenge. I also don’t see me being able to catch up in the remaining days because I can’t put up as many weekday miles as the current 1st place rider. I’m still going to try as the month winds down, but my chances are looking bleak.
However, as of 6/20/17, I reached my goal of 1,000 miles for the month. This challenge has inspired me to beat my own personal record of number of miles in a month by 100+ miles and there’s still a third of the month left. In that same vein, over the weekend, I surpassed my personal record for number of miles in a year. In 2015, I biked 4,180 miles. As of 6/20/17, I am at 4,282 miles with 6 months left in the year.
Over the past few days, I accrued some changes in equipment for the bike. First, I switched my handlebar tape with the old tape that was peeling off in great swathes. I went with Fizik Performance Bar Tape. When thinking about color, I thought of sticking with the straight black, but instead, I decided to go with Breast Cancer Ribbon Pink. I am doing this cycle challenge in the fight against kids cancer but I am also personally riding for my family’s history with breast cancer.
Also, my dad’s favorite color is pink. Pick the reason, it doesn’t really matter.
I was bracing for quite a clash between the purple paint of the bike and the pink tape but upon further review, I think the combination looks pretty sweet. The tape is so much softer and springy than my original bar tape. I am not sure if that will translate to less tingling in my hands as the miles rack up, but it does feel much better to the touch.
I also received a jersey from the Great Cycle Challenge for hitting the $500 donation mark. I like the orange and blue jersey a lot and have worn it as often as possible, including three of the last four century rides I have completed over the past two weeks. Before receiving this awesome jersey from the Great Cycle Challenge, I owned two legit jerseys, so this is a welcome addition to the collection.
Big Ride Training Update
Each week, my goals and plans change slightly as I aim to complete the Big Ride in July. As of right now, my following weekends are scheduled to look something like this:
- Saturday – I want to do anywhere between 125-150 miles. I will probably do some sort of circuit near Iowa City to complete this ride
- Sunday – I want to do a minimum of 150 miles on this trip. I am considering shooting for a dry run of Day 1 of the Big Ride, which would be about 170 miles. My wife has to be game to drive two and a half hours to come get me if I decide to go through with this. If I don’t do a dry run, I’ll find another circuit to get in 150 miles.
- I will try to do back-to-back 150-mile trips. I may try for an overnight, biking to Cedar Falls and staying with friends overnight and then leaving in the morning to head home.
- Same as July 1
- This is the weekend before the Big Ride. I am not sure what my strategy will be here. As I think about it now, I am planning on a 50 mile ride each day. Keep the legs churning, but nothing over the top. I may do some pack overload training or something similar to make the miles more challenging and get me used to another potential issue that may arise on the Big Ride. I may also do some headwind and crosswind challenges on this weekend. Then no biking on Monday and a quick turnaround to early-morning Tuesday departure.