Saturday, March 10, 2007

Texas Hell Week day 3: An epic day of disaster!

Well things were clearly going too swimmingly thus far. I think I cursed myself by commenting on how mishap-free the road trip was. This morning I was noting how my chain has been skipping quite a bit due to a sticky link. I made another attempt to loosen it up, using the trick of pushing the pin through a bit then pushing it back in. This didn't work any better than the numerous other times I'd tried it, but if I left it pushed through just a bit past center, it stopped sticking so much. So, off we went for the first day on the bike.
__The route was about 58 miles through rolling countryside. It reminded me a lot of eastern Oregon, except with lots of cactii, more litter and dead things by the side of the road, and vultures. I broke off from my drafting duties for Smurfette and chatted a bit with a nice fellow from Bend, OR, before dropping back. It's a good thing we stuck together, because at about 20 miles my chain broke and arced through the air like a flying snake, creating the world's greatest chainstain. Fortunately I thought to bring along my chain tool, so with Sascha's third hand I was able to take out the offending link. But alas, the pin was in at a slight angle, so it wouldn't push back straight. Out with that link too. Finally, two links short of a full deck we were on the road again. The shortened chain didn't like wrapping around the biggest cogs, and the tension pulled the jockey wheels into the spokes when I was in the biggest cog. Nevertheless, we were moving along again.
__But wait, it gets better. At about 35 miles we were coming up a hill and I shifted into the smallest cog. The derailler jammed firmly into the spokes, bent the derailleur hanger (again!), bent the pulley cage, knocked the wheel out of true, popped the tire somehow, and jammed everything up nicely. There were a bunch of people gathered around this particular point at the top of the hill, and mutterings of 'ooh, that sucks' could be heard all around. People were very helpful, but in spite of efforts to bend and cajole various parts into some sort of alignment, it was not to be. Finally, I pulled the derailleur off entirely, took out a few links and set it up as a single speed. This all sounds very simple when you read about it in magazines and bike maintenance manuals. While I was doing bike surgery, Sascha was changing my tire, and something along the lines of 'ooh, this sucks' came from her general direction. Turns out that the tire was shredded pretty badly. I brought along some patches, so with a few of them and running a lower pressure, everything seemed to hold together surprisingly well. Finally, we were off again.
__But wait, it gets better! Although the tire held, the drivetrain keep seizing up. At first I thought the hub was slipping in the dropouts, because there would be extreme chain tension when this happened. After this happened a few more times I figured out that the chain was shifting into a larger cog, creating the extreme tension that would seize everything up. At this point Sascha dialed information on my phone which, amazingly, worked, and I talked to a 'bike shop in Fredericksburg' while she went back to the point of initial failure to retrieve some extra links from the ground. It didn't sound promising when I was told there wouldn't be a mechanic until Tuesday, but when I heard they just sold merchandise, including leathers, I wondered if I'd gotten a different kind of bike shop. Perhaps they misheard me when I verified that I was talking to a bicycle shop, but they said they were. Finally we realized it was pointless to stop every few meters to shift the chain back into a smaller cog or otherwise beat a dead bike, so Sascha went ahead to get the car and rescue me. In the meantime, I tried adding back a link so the chain would sit in a bigger cog, but then it just shifted randomly into whatever gear it chose until finally the chain broke again, lying on the pavement like the various other roadkill along the roads. Finally my Taurean stubbornness was defeated, and I found a shady spot to contemplate my situation whilst the buzzards circled over me until Sascha came back.
__For good measure, when she finally came back with the car she missed me entirely even though I wasn't far from the road and waving at her. I was in the shade, though, so my Category 6 kit served as camouflage. On the other hand, she brought the good news that I was indeed not talking to 'bicycle shop' on the phone, and the local bike shop even had road bikes for rent in my size! We stopped there on the way home, organized a Specialized Allez Elite, which didn't suck too bad. Plus, I'd be able to ride again tomorrow, which saved spring training. Yay! Things could have been much worse, really, so although it sucks to be me, I'm not feeling too frustrated at the end of the day. Nothing like this has happened to me thus far in my cycling life, and since I'm usually the guy saying 'ooh, that sucks' and trying to help, I figured it was my turn. A good mocha at the Java Hut, a hot shower, and everything was all better.
__Tomorrow: ghetto bike does 'Fred's Ride.'