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Tuesday, July 08, 2014


I rode my bike to work, and it was behaving a little oddly. I'd just replaced the chain, crank and cassette, then done that Century on the trail between Ottawa and Iola. I noticed on the trail in some of the gears it'd let me crank a few turns and then spring loose, like it wanted to change gears. I figured this was an adjustment issue and I'd take the bike back by Velo+ where I'd had all that done. I figured you replace the whole drivetrain of the bike, not to weird for something to be a little tweaky.

But on the way to work Monday morning, it was acting really weird. Like the sproing thing happened a lot, but also when I'd shift the biggest gear on the cassette, a rasping sound would happen like the bike was gasping for breath. Only in that gear, but I've never, ever heard a bike do that before.

So I messaged the shop and was told, bring it on in. Which I did by riding my bike out there after work. Way out of my way, a lot of the reason I've done the bulk of my bike business with Midwest Cyclery the past few years, they're on the way home from work. They're not the only shop that fits that description, but I've had such an overwhelmingly positive experience doing business there, I really don't think much about the other shops I could hit without going far out of the way.

But Velo+ has a lot going for it. It'd be my obvious choice if it were in Midtown or Waldo, and they're good enough to be worth the trip out to Lenexa sometimes. I used to ride out to Heartland on Tuesday nights for a bible study, and that's further out of the way (along the same routes), so I busted my butt to get to the shop by closing. It's only ten miles, really that shouldn't take an hour even for me, but it's ten miles through the heart of darkness that is Johnson County, Kansas. The bicycle infrastructure in JoCo is awesome where it exists, but where it doesn't, wow.

Since so few cyclists use bikes for transportation in this area, riders tend to stick to side streets and let the available roads and paths dictate their route. That doesn't work if you have a destination to make. I went down to 91st to get across 169 Highway, the 87th Street exchange that crosses both it and I-35 was designed, as far as I can tell, to be used for figure eight auto racing. One of the few places in town I'll actually take to the sidewalk and play pedestrian, and even then it's a nervy crossing.

91st ends at Quivira putting you at the bottom of a hump bridge with 40 mile per hour traffic for four lanes with concrete walls holding things nice and tight, so it's not much better. I gauged the traffic and decided that at other times of day I wouldn't have a problem riding in the lane here, but not at 5:45 on a Monday night. I took the sidewalk. Which led to an incredibly awkward descent through a maze designed, I think, to specifically punish anyone on a bike. Pedestrians, wheelchairs, motorized scooters will do fine on this, but I was tempted to throw my bike over the railing and then walk down and pick it up.

Oh, the mechanical issues, by the way, not as much on the ay to the shop. I found a twig sticking through my derailleur, probably picked up on the trail the other day, and when I removed it that grinding, rasping noise went away like a daily newspaper. The sproingy thing still happened, but not as much.

So I finally make it into the bike shop which I think should have technically closed its doors in my face, and what do you know but David can't get the bike to duplicate the issue. He even takes it for a test ride in the parking lot to try. Nothing. He asks me if it's when I'm shifting up or down into the gears it happens in and I honestly don't know, so he assigns me the homework of figuring that out. Unlikely, but possible, it's the spring in the derailleur gone bad. More likely, it's cables/housing gone sticky, which would be fine with me since I'd love to get another spacer under my handlebars and cable length has been the sole limitation the past couple of years.

David also noticed my brakes were soft. At least he thought they were soft, I just thought they were brakes. They stop me when I squeeze them, even in pretty crazy situations, and I weigh 275 lbs, my bike ways 42 without bags, and last I checked my standard issue bags weigh another 27. If you're into counting grams, dude, thats 156,000 grams. You wanna sell me some high performance part that will shave 400 grams off that 156,000 gram curb weight? Blow it out ass and then decontaminate the scale you use for selling drugs because that's the only venue where grams count for what you think they do.

David said I had long pull cables and short pull brakes, or maybe it was the other way around, but he suggested V brakes for me. I'd thought of upgrading to Paul touring/tandem cantilevers, there's brand awesomeness there and all that, but he was like, '$20 a wheel, cheap V's beat any canti's no matter the brand on them. It's a matter of mechanical advantage.'

I'm a skeptic, born that way, and David could tell I guess, so he grabbed a bike off the floor, said, 'Tell you what, this is about your size, go try it out. Have fun throwing yourself over the handlebars.'

He said it so glibly, I don't think he really thought it was possible. I know I didn't, or else I wouldn't have skidded the tires on my first pass, then doubled down on speed and grabbed a big handful of brakes. I thought if the back wheel came up I could let go, but by the time I realized the back wheel was coming up, I was fucking airborne. I thought, my collar bone! my helmet! David asked me if I was ready to get up and I wasn't even ready to take a full breath. Ouch.

He said, 'Don't worry about the bike,' and I was like, No worries, last thing on my mind was your bike.

A broken collarbone would be the hardest injury I'd likely come back from. My wife's brain injury inspired me to buy a super expensive MIPS-equipped helmet and after thinking of my body, the next thought was that I'd trashed my expensive lid.

My shoulder broke my fall, though. I can't find any sign of trauma on the helmet, but my shoulder is fucking useless. I have a big knot on my right thigh where I think I caught the handlebars, too. David offered me a ride home and I took a test ride in the parking lot to see and I think I might have been able to make it. But no guarantee, and if I got a mile away from the shop and wanted bailed out, I'd be phoning people and waiting. This was an offered ride, so I took it and I think that was smart.

Ice, drugs from the wife's last dental appointment, and personal grit allowed me to go to work today. I almost went for an x-Ray to make sure but it was too busy at work and based on what it feels like to breathe deeply, my best guess is if I broke anything it was ribs, and I don't know they can do much but tell me not to breathe so hard the next couple of weeks if that's the case.

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