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.
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.
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.