Saturday, March 2, 2013

Friday's Been Sucking Lately

What's it been?  Two weeks?  Two weeks since I committed myself to a commute twice as long as before.  Two weeks of riding to and fro West Des Moines.  Two weeks of snow.  I knew as soon as I agreed to take the job that the drought would end.  Been tested by cold, wind and snow yet I prevailed.  Now equipment.  I work at 5400 University Ave, West Des Moines.

Getting to work has not been the issue.  Nobody out when I ride so sharing the road is safe.  I take the trail to 63rd and Grand then Ashworth all the way from 8th St to 50th.  42 blocks.  If the trail is covered with unrideable snow or snow that slows me down to single digits then I head downtown, High, Ingersoll Grand to 8th finally Ashworth.  Nice 4 lane.  Getting home is another story.

On good days I catch the Clive Greenbelt at 128th and trail it all the way to Mullets.  An easy 1/2 mile of street action is all the remains from there.  But Clive does not clear the snow from the trail.  I had to become creative.  Westown Pkwy to 50th and following Wildman's advice, Pleasant to 45th, turn right on Woodland and take that to 28th, turn right again and left on Ashworth.  By that time Ashworth has calmed down.  This is now my route.  Nobody has honked.  Nobody has pushed me off the road.  Nobody has thrown bottles at me.  Faster than the Greenbelt.

My first Friday I literally followed his advice and found Vine to get to Valley Junction so I could get on the trail.  "It will be cleared," Craig Ulhman assured me.  Nope.  Two miles of relatively deep snow (for a bicycle) that had been trampled on.  Worst condition for a skinny tire bike, 700x35.  Even the 26 studded tires would have trouble.  The problem is that the tires cannot find the surface.  When they do they soon hit a spot that someone's foot or track crushed the snow down and the rear tire gets hung up.  It's like riding on sand.  Slow, energy taxing.  6 mph at redline.  Fortunately the city had it plowed at the Raccoon River bridge.  I stopped at Mullets for a break.  Mary and the kids joined and we had dinner.

Rested and refueled I threw a leg over Red and headed home.  Something was not right.  Front flat!  WTF?!?!??  Glass?  Sabotage?  Sidewall gash?  Sharp ice?  Hard to see what is below the snow.  Could be anything.  Fuck it.  Ride the bitch home and fix it after the snow melts off the bike and warms up.  That was two days later.  Nice to have spare bicycles.  Two patches for two separate punctures fixed that flat.  I put another 130 miles on it since Sunday.

This week I noticed that the rear wheel was slightly out of true.  It hit the brake pads.  But I just adjusted the brake cables.  Flintstone action not good in winter.  I like the ability to through myself over the bars if necessary.  But whenever I got home from the hour+ commute home I just put the bike away.  Readjust cable later.  True the wheel later.  I did check for broken spokes.  None found.  The red bike had only had 1 broken spoke in its 12K miles.  I disconnected the rear brake.  80% of stopping power comes from the front anyway and mine are great.  just one more month and red goes offline and gets rebuilt.  New brakes on the list.  The wheel goes in for bearings.  New cassette, chain and now shifters.  One more month.

Now back on Ashworth.  Favorable crosswind.  Cars not an issue.  I begin the countdown to 8th St.  20 more blocks form 28th.  14 from 22nd.  My speed is around 20 mph.  Hauling ass.  Almost there.  I can almost see my turn.  3 blocks to go!  Gonna make it!  survived the "busy" street in pre-rush hour.  Then I notice that the ride quality has greatly diminished.  Rough now.  Pull over.  Rear tire completely flat.  Time to walk.

Get on the sidewalk.  Might as well take the time to see what caused it.  I found a bit of wire almost dead center between the two "B"s of the Bontrager icon on the hub.  Now I found the reason.  Keep walking.  If it would have been in the morning I might have been tempted to finish the commute by riding on it.  But the tire has only 700 miles on it.  I can walk.  Rasmussen's is near.  I take this time to return a missed phone call.  Joe Hildreth wanted to know if they had slaves in pre-Soviet Russia.  Strange question and totally out of the blue.  I doubt they did since socially they were 200 or 300 years behind the rest of Europa and in economic matters.  Almost feudal with plenty of peasants to exploit and little industrialization.

On Grand a decision had to be made.  Originally I planned to stop at Rassey's and purchase a tube and fix it there myself borrowing a floor pump.  Then I remembered that I had CO2, levers and a patch kit.  I could stop and fix it at Charlie's Filling Station instead and enjoy a cool, crisp refreshing beer.  What could possibly be the harm in that.  Charlie's wins!  I stationed myself in the smoking lounge.

There is a problem with patching a tube with CO2.  That problem is find the puncture in the tube.  The wire was thinner than a staple.  Despite my amazing lungs I could not inflate the tube enough to find the hole.  I lacked a new tube and lacked a second cartridge.  I had to go to Rasmussen's for a tube.  I also purchased a new mini-pump.  I think it is rated to 160 psi.  I only needed 80 but did not want to kill my arm pumping the bastard.  I even got a discount.  Total was $32.  The pump alone was $40.  I left a happy customer.

I was not a happy bicycle owner.  The flat was important only because it revealed that the rear wheel was toast. The braking surface was separating from the rim.  It looked like I took a screw driver and bent the lip of the rim back.  It looked like I dropped 100' and landed on a curb.  Dangerous.  However, this was not the cause of the flat.  The tire was not damaged.  And the tire remained beaded on the way home.

With the battery icon on red I called the Bicycle Collective.  I did not have the funds for a proper wheel replacement.  I just need a 9 speed 700C wheel to get me through to Spring when the Red Phoenix will be put away until i decide to repair it.  Let's see, winter 2011/12 and 2012/13 since last rebuild.  Yes, service time.  Just a month or two more.  Brad had a new one.  Remove the cassette and place it on new freehub and I bought Red some more time!  This was completed after 8pm.  Sorry Brad, I like your late hours UNLESS I want to ride with you earlier.  Where else in DSM can someone find a bike shop open after 8pm?  Yeah I could have done it immediately.  I should have done it at Rassey's when I was there.  But I had a wife and kids to feed thus lacked the time.  Besides, I needed to think about it.

Look at that gap!  Time bomb.  Catastrophic wheel failure has always been a nightmare for me.  I would have not noticed this if  it was not for the flat.

So I said farewell to an old friend.  I do realize that it was a third tier wheel in the Bontrager/Trek line up but it was sexy.  12000+ miles with only one broken spoke.  I may have had the freehub replaced twice.  It had seen action in every winter since 2007/08.  I wanted to keep it.  Hang it on the shed..  Clean it up and place it on the wall as an art project.  Honor it for selfless service to the bitter frozen end.  Mary said no.

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