When Bikes Want to Stay Home

04.17.2006 | 5:25 pm

Most people don’t know this, but bikes have personalities. And as everyone knows, an important part of having a personality is having moods. Usually, most bikes are in the mood to go out for a ride, which works out great, considering they’re bikes and all.

Once in a while, though, your bike wants to stay home. It can let you know that it would just rather hang out in the garage or on the rack by doing one or more of the following:

  • Having a mysterious flat tire.  You know there was air in the tire when you rode yesterday, but now it’s flat. So now what are you going to do?
  • Just put more air in the tire? That’s asking for trouble; the tire will probably go flat during the ride.
  • Try to fix the flat? The problem is, with a flat like this, the culprit (tiny thorn or shard of glass, probably) is going to be so small that you won’t find it, and then you’ll get another flat during the ride.
  • Stay home and abandon the ride? Yep.
  • I am aware that I have just created a nested bullet list. I feel I should apologize.
  • Convincing your helmet / bike shoes / glasses / lube or other essential bike component to hide. Your bike knows it’s difficult for it to hide itself, but it knows that if it is able to persuade enough of your ride-related stuff to disappear, there’s a good chance you’ll lose your bike riding window of opportunity.
  • Changing the weather. Not many people know this, but bikes control the weather. Usually, they just leave it alone, when forced, but they’ll make it rain, or be unbearably hot, or — if they really don’t want to go out — bring on the rain, followed by freezing temperatures. Black ice, anyone?
  • Suddenly looking unappealing. If your bike really doesn’t want to go out, it will make itself look frumpy, essentially trying to get you to take a different bike out. “Don’t ride me,” it’s saying. “Wouldn’t you rather go out on the fixie, anyway?” The danger in doing this, bikes know, is that if they do it often, they run the risk of being sold or — worse — garaged forever.
  • Discombobulation

    Of course, if you really want to go out riding, you’re going to ignore your bike’s petulance and head out anyway.

    And that’s when the bike’s really going to make your life miserable.

    I shall provide examples.

    A few weeks ago, a friend and I met to go mountain biking. He showed up twenty minutes late, frustrated and out of breath. His tires had both been flat, and the kevlar bead on his tires had been surly beyond all reason about going back on the rim. Finally, though, after bullying his tires into compliance, he was ready to go.

    Except his helmet had vanished.

    But he came anyway.

    After riding for about five minutes, his chain dropped to the inside of the cassette, jamming between the cassette and the hub. Chain suck. Bad.

    We spent about five minutes coaxing the chain free. I recommended he stay off the granny gear, and we continued on.

    Or rather, I should say we continued on for about twenty feet, after which his bike got chainsuck again, the likes of which I had never previously seen. Working together for twenty minutes, we were still unable to ever get the chain out.

    I believed, at that moment, that the chain and hub had become bonded at the atomic level. Fused.

    Eventually, we broke the chain, and — by doing a tug-of-war between the bike and chain, managed to separate the two.

    And by then, I needed to get home.


    Mr. Jones Does Not Admit Defeat

    Last week, back in Utah, I saw another bike that was not in the mood to go out. Riding with a group of about six of us (including A-List Fat Cyclist Commenter BotchedExperiment, about whom I will talk tomorrow), Kenny was out front, as usual. Even though he was riding technical, steep singletrack on his singlespeed.

    And then his left crank fell off.

    No warning, no cause. It just fell off. Plop.

    Of course, everyone in the group was very sympathetic and offered our support, mostly in the form of witty remarks about what a great upgrade those expensive new carbon cranks were turning out to be.

    Kenny went to work, trying to figure out why the crank fell off, and how to put it back on.

    No dice.

    Kenny started coming up with more imaginative fixes, including:

    • Hitting the (carbon fiber!) cranks with a rock.
    • Wrapping tape around the crank bolt, then pounding the crank arm over it, hoping the jamming effect would make the crank stay on.
    • Doing the same as above, but with grass. No, I’m not kidding.
    • Just putting the crank in his jersey pocket and finishing the ride one-legged.

    Here’s the thing. Kenny could have easily bailed at a number of different places. But he didn’t. Kenny was not even willing to consider letting that bike get the best of him.

    Kenny even tried to put a positive spin on it: “It’s kind of fun! It makes the ride totally different!”

    Uh-huh. Anything you say, Mr. Jones.

    Still, he did finish the ride — in fact, there was general concern for a little while that Kenny might finish first even with just one crank.

    Sure, Kenny suffered. But in the end, his bike learned a valuable lesson: Next time it wants to stay home, it’s going to need to come up with something a little more debilitating.


    1. Comment by Unknown | 04.17.2006 | 5:55 pm

      those were really pretty cranks. just beautiful.
      shame about their fragile nature.

    2. Comment by Kenny | 04.17.2006 | 6:10 pm

      It turns out that the problem was most likely caused by over tightening the bolt when I initially installed my cranks.  I believe bontrager uses the same bolt on all thier cranks, aluminum,steal or carbon.  Anyway, apart from scratching my very light and very beautiful cranks, my bike and myself are ready for the next ride.

    3. Comment by jim | 04.17.2006 | 6:21 pm

      Last year I rode a barrowed steed that had long lost its desire to travel.  It was at least 15 years old and constantly gave me problems.  The worst was when it decided to rebel during an event or race.  The chain would always slip just when I was getting into a groove.
      My new bike thankfully has not given me much trouble.

    4. Comment by Unknown | 04.17.2006 | 6:39 pm

      You forgot the most effective fix (I think it lasted 3 revolutions): jamming a stick throuth the crank arm and into the bottom bracket and then pounding it in with another (larger) stick.
      The concern about getting beat by a one-legged Kenny weighed especially heavily on me, and it was well founded. On the flats, I was in the red trying to keep up, and when we got back to the cars, I was disturbed at how soon he came bobbing up.

    5. Comment by Unknown | 04.17.2006 | 6:49 pm

      not only did kenny show up distressingly soon, but he had crabbed his single crank on a rock or root, gone over the bars, injured himself, and still reached the cars almost at the same time as the rest of us.
      i hate kenny. someone should kill him.

    6. Comment by barry1021 | 04.17.2006 | 7:12 pm

      Kenny, do not be so naive!!! This was obviously sabotage of a serious nature by your so called friends who are jealous of your riding ability. To prove it, I was able to partially intercept an email between Dug and Botched which read….
      ……told you that we should do BOTH cranks, but NO-O-O-O, you said one was enou…….
      Sorry that was all I was able to intercept but you get the point. You are in danger.

      And then FC tries a blatant coverup by writing about the incident as if it were accidental. Please!!I would spend more time on this, but I am running off to a speech at the local college entitled "Molar Madness–How the Government Controls your Thoughts VIA Transmissions Into Your Brain Through Your Fillings". I knew it!!

    7. Comment by Unknown | 04.17.2006 | 7:43 pm

      Barry, I would have no qualms about sabotaging a fellow cyclist, however I would never sabotage Kenny.  George Hincapie, yes. Jan Ulrich, yes. Fatty, yes. Kenny, NO.
      Kenny looks like he was machined from hardened steel with extra generous portions of material left around the arms, shoulders and chest.

    8. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 04.17.2006 | 8:25 pm

      My old road bike became the designated fixie when I entered a relationship with a shiny new road bike about 3 years back.  When I next sat astride the fixie, she (yes, she – where do you think those mood swings come from?) had adjusted the pedal alignment so the balls of my feet were hitting the cranks.  I moved my cleats and then she developed an oscillating pedal that wound up my knee.  New pedals fixed that, then the bottom bracket worked loose.  Italian thread is hard to find in the 21st century.  Ebay fixed that.
      Since then I’ve had no trouble at all… if you ignore 3 punctures in the last 4 rides.  Fiesty red beast, that fixie.

    9. Comment by Joshua | 04.17.2006 | 9:18 pm

      I have seen those days.  I always carry three tubes with me, weather mountain or road.  So one morning last fall I got up for my commute to work.  Went to the garage and saw that I had a flat on the rear.  No prob, i’ll just pump it up and go.  get it up to desired psi, pull on the pump head and blam!  the core of the presta stem rips out.  ok, no biggy, i change it with one of my spares.  start my ride.  its raining, of course, seattle (east side technically).  half way through the ride, i get a flat.  i’m a little worried, change it with one of my spares.  continue on with my commute.  guess what happened then?  another flat!!!!  three in a single ride!!!  now i get to walk the last couple of miles, in cycling shoes, to my office, in the rain.  she (my bike)  really did not want to be ridden that day.  so far she has been pretty well behaved though, i think she’s just anxious about the summer, so i think i’ll have less issues for a while. :)

    10. Comment by Unknown | 04.17.2006 | 9:23 pm

      and George Hincapie’s bike thought to itself "I really wanted to stay home today; to hell with the ‘classic!’" and considered how to convince George who was the boss . . .

    11. Comment by Unknown | 04.17.2006 | 10:00 pm

      I’m still going to brag about the fact that I beat Kenny to the car.  
      Rick S

    12. Comment by Unknown | 04.17.2006 | 10:27 pm

      Fork, me?  Fork, me?
      No fork, you!
      Hincapie’s Bike

    13. Comment by Unknown | 04.17.2006 | 10:43 pm

      Now that I’m done channeling Hincapie’s bike (pronunced "Mad-Won" not "Ma-doe-nah") I have thoughts.  The usual unindicted conspirator in this mess is normally a tire.  In the last 9 months, I’ve had three four flat rides, two three flat rides a 5 and a 6 flat rides.  In the two most extreme cases the tire carcasses split mid-ride, and the trusty fix – the folded dollar bill – didn’t help.  Neither did the spare length of tire I carry for booting.  Clearly, the bike didn’t want to ride.  So if you see a Mr. Kenda (a known fiend) or Mr. Conti in your travels, feel free to give them a good kick.
      As for your mechanical problems Kenny, "Carbon" is an italian substance made of Parma ham, eggs, fettucine, reduced cream, a dash of garlic, black pepper and salt, and braised in hot olive oil until black.  Hence "Carbonara."   Everybody knows that once fettucine is cooked al dente, it’s structural matrixs is disturbed and it loses all torsional rigidity, becoming prone to catastrophic failure.  That is why nobody likes riding a carbon framed bike in the rain, especially in warm climates.  The only thing to have carbonara on, is your fork.
      On the other hand, a thick layer of fettucine makes a tremendously comfortable seat cover, second only to cooked lasagne.  As a bonus, if you have a bit of olive oil left over it works well as a lubricant for Campagnolo components.  (Campagnolo components, of course, are made from the wool of Merino sheep raised on the northern slopes of Mt. Ventoux, and only above 1905 meters of elevation.)  

    14. Comment by Unknown | 04.17.2006 | 10:57 pm

      dug – did the bolt shear off??  It sounds like your cranks are still fine.  I’ve carbon cranks on ebay for cheap and have been tempted, but am paranoid about catastrophic failure coming down a rock garden or off a jump, resulting in death or mutilation.  Heck, my carbon bars still make me anxious, despite their obvious beauty…
      Al – HILARIOUS!

    15. Comment by Christina | 04.18.2006 | 12:05 am

      Yeah, the bike knows.  And the bike tells the rest of the garage membership what to do.
      My son’s BMX bike had a flat on Sat morning.  Our family of 4 was all packed up and ready to go to the track.  3 out of the 4 of us are planning to ride the track.  We ignore the message of the flat.  Foolish, foolish humans we are.
      We’re 15 minutes out and my husband realizes he forgot his helmet.  We go back home and get it.  We’re about to leave again, and my daughter and son "accidentally" disconnect her helmet’s styrofoam liner so it’s now useless.  We get a different, old helmet out of the garage.  We head out again.  25 minutes on the road, and it starts drizzling.  The closer we get, the more it rains.  Unlike some other kinds of cycling, BMX tracks completely CLOSE when it’s too wet.  We get there after 45 mins of driving, and sure enough the track is closed.  For rain.  But also because a giant bulldozer was on the hills tearing it up for a renovation.  A couple cops sat in their car next to the track as if to say, "Don’t even think about it." 
      The bike knew all along.  The helmets tried to say so too, even my daughter’s Disney Princess Helmet, but we all ignored the messages.
      -beast mom

    16. Comment by Kelly | 04.18.2006 | 1:57 am

      I must applaud Kenny’s failure to admit defeat. Or is it resilience to admitting defeat? Shame in admitting defeat?

      Don’t admit it, Kenny. Ever. Just take your bike home and have a
      stern talking to it using a wagging finger and disapproving look. Raise
      an eyebrow if you have to and shake your head at it. One well-placed
      sigh would be good, but don’t overdo that part. Then shake your head
      and walk away letting it think about how it’s let you down.

    17. Comment by Unknown | 04.18.2006 | 3:21 am

      Yeah, I think my bike went past not wanting to ride yesterday and into the realm of hatred for its owner.  It was cleaning up my fixie and swapping the tires yesterday in preparation for an easy 3 hour ride, the last hour of which was to be with my girlfriend before eating a nice Easter dinner.  While cleaning the chain my bike decided to attempt to sever the tip of my left thumb.  My thumb got sucked into the cog and it crushed the bone and cut about halfway though, just below the thumbnail.  Needless to say my girlfriend got to come to the emergency room instead of going riding.  At least we made it to dinner.  I hope you’re happy bike.

    18. Comment by Dodger | 04.18.2006 | 5:15 am

      nothing to do with todays entry but how do you place a picture in the blog and not just on the album?  I’ve seen you do it a few times and the Help section is no help at all.

    19. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 04.18.2006 | 6:18 am

      Kenny, You’ve unearthed the major problem with Fibre de Carbone, you can’t re-attach components with a rock.  Now aluminium, on the other hand, can take quite a pounding with wood, rocks or even just lay the bike on it’s side and jump on it.

    20. Comment by Zed | 04.18.2006 | 5:01 pm

      Perhaps this was really Kenny’s subtle way of letting you guys know he could use a new multi-tool for his upcoming birthday. Sly, kenny, very sly.

    21. Comment by uncadan8 | 04.18.2006 | 6:58 pm

      Caloi – either that or duct tape, some twine, paperclips, and a few toothpicks.
      My bike is calling my name now. Must go.

    22. Comment by Mark | 04.19.2006 | 5:53 am

      I have had my bike decide it no longer wanted to be out riding.  It broke the chain, crumpled the derailuer, and once it figured out it could still be riden as a single speed, it flatted its front tire.


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