I did not intend to write today. After all, I wrote entries both for this blog and for Random Reviewer yesterday.
But something happened this morning, and it just can’t wait.
I Briefly Consider Myself an Accomplished Downhiller
I’ve started attacking the climb on my commute each morning. It’s about four miles, 1500 feet of climbing. I’m trying to re-learn to ride at threshold. It’s a painful skill, but incredibly valuable if you’re going to race.
Today, the climb went well. I suffered the whole way up, but did not crack. I was pleased; how could I not be?
Feeling good, I hit the downhill hard and fast, and it wasn’t long ‘til I was spun out. I looked at my speedometer: 52.2mph. Considering that I was wearing a bike messenger bag and was not in any kind of tuck, that’s pretty danged fast.
I said to myself, “I should write a blog entry about how I’ve learned to be a fast, fearless descender on the road. I’ll find a self-deprecating angle, but will nevertheless make it clear that I’m a force to be reckoned with.”
All Hell Breaks Loose
That’s when the bike started shaking side to side. No, not shimmying. Not wobbling. Shaking. Shaking hard.
I went for the brakes and slowed the bike down a bit.
The shaking continued. In fact, it got worse.
I kept braking. The bike was now shaking so hard that both the water bottles were flung from their cages.
I remember very clearly saying aloud, “I’m going down.”
But I didn’t. I managed to bring the bike to a stop. Even at slow speed, though, the bike kept shaking.
I sat on the guardrail, adrenaline making me completely unfit to ride.
I looked over at my bike. This is what I saw:
OK. Well, that explains things.
A wave of nausea hit me as I realized exactly how close to dying I had just come: My downtube had snapped at 50mph.
Wait a second, I think I need to emphasize that a little more strongly:
My downtube snapped at 50mph.
How to Ride a Bike with a Broken Downtube
I went and collected my waterbottles, sat down on the guardrail, and thought for a moment. I was eight miles into a twenty mile commute. I had a broken downtube. What should I do?
Gingerly, I climbed back onto the bike. To my pleasure and relief, it held my weight. May as well finish that ride into work.
Here are some observations I have about riding a road bike with a broken downtube:
- When you’re off the bike, the break in the downtube merely looks like a crack. When you’re on the bike, there’s a gap of about 3/4 inch.
- A road bike with a broken downtube steers very much like a boat.
- A road bike with a broken downtube is very vertically compliant. Really absorbs the road vibration, bumps, everything. It feels just like a full-suspension mountain bike, really.
- Looking down at a big jagged gap in your downtube is not confidence-inspiring. I rode the rest of the commute at about 10mph. This affected my average speed significantly.
Goodbye, Old Friend
I’ve had that Ibis Ti Road for nine years. I planned to keep it forever. I still might, but more in a hanging-in-the-garage way than in a ride-it-til-I’m-old-and-gray way.
On the positive side, I now have the best possible reason to buy a new road bike. The shopping has already begun. Suggestions are welcome.
PS: Note to road bike manufacturers: There has never been a better time to step forward and get actively involved with the Fat Cyclist blog.