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 canâ€™t wait.
I Briefly Consider Myself an Accomplished Downhiller
Iâ€™ve started attacking the climb on my commute each morning. Itâ€™s about four miles, 1500 feet of climbing. Iâ€™m trying to re-learn to ride at threshold. Itâ€™s a painful skill, but incredibly valuable if youâ€™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 wasnâ€™t long â€˜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, thatâ€™s pretty danged fast.
I said to myself, â€œI should write a blog entry about how Iâ€™ve learned to be a fast, fearless descender on the road. Iâ€™ll find a self-deprecating angle, but will nevertheless make it clear that Iâ€™m a force to be reckoned with.â€
All Hell Breaks Loose
Thatâ€™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, â€œIâ€™m going down.â€
But I didnâ€™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 water bottles, 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 youâ€™re off the bike, the break in the downtube merely looks like a crack. When youâ€™re on the bike, thereâ€™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
Iâ€™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-Iâ€™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.