Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sticking with snow

Date: April 28 and 29
Mileage: 14.2 and 13
April mileage: 745.1
Temperature: 47

This week was to be the first week of my re-entry into serious training. I had goals: ride tempo pace, put in longer mileage, sprint for real this time, attack the hills, go to the 24 Hours of Light and race the boys. On Monday, I planned to inaugurate my summer schedule with a tempo hill climb on the Eaglecrest road. But seven miles into the ride, my rear shifter cable snapped. I pulled over the side of the road to remove the dragging cable and assess how much I still wanted to climb a five-mile-long hill in my highest gear on back. As I threaded the broken cable through its housing, I saw it was frayed nearly throughout. I started to wonder if my cables had ever been switched out ... on a bike with somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 miles on it. I examined the brake cables and front shifter cable, also frayed in spots and nearly separated at the ends, held together in threads by the end cap. As I loosed the cable bolt on the derailleur, I noticed its cogs had been worn nearly smooth. No spikes were left to hold the chain. There are always little problems with my bike that I ignore and ignore. But when I add them all up, Roadie is one sick puppy.

So I took my bike into the only bike shop in town and told them I wanted all new cables and housing and a new rear derailleur and the wheels trued if they could get to it. They told me they were backlogged now at least two and a half weeks, maybe three weeks. Indeed, they had so many bikes stacked up in the shop that an entire wall of merchandise wasn't even accessible. Roadie is supposed to be my commuter, my base miles bike. I didn't want him gone for three weeks. I bought two shifter cables and a new bike lock - the shifter cables on the optimistic chance that I motivate to do my own repairs even when I know the rear derailleur is shot, and the new bike lock so I can feel more secure about riding my brand new mountain bike to work on the better chance that I don't motivate to fix Roadie very soon (threading cables is something I've only done once under the watchful eye of Geoff, and I'm concerned that I don't know how to properly tighten the cables, and also about the fact that I don't own a pair of wire cutters.)

Either way, Monday as a training day was shot. Today I had planned to go to the gym to restart my weight lifting routine, but when I woke up, the sun was beginning to burn through a bank of fog, and the outside thermometer read 33 degrees. That must mean there was a freeze last night, I thought, and the day looked to be clearing but still cool. You can't buy better spring snowbiking weather than that, and it seemed a shame to waste it.

So I dragged Pugsley up the Dan Moller Trail. The sun was already burning hot by the time I reached the trailhead, and the snow was starting to mush up in spots. But in the shade it was hard and fast, and so crinkled with the deep waves of snowmobile moguls that I felt like I was on a mash-potato-smeared roller coaster. The sun spots were greasy enough that I had to stand and drag my right foot on the ground like a ski/brake just to keep the front wheel from swerving all over the place. The muscle burn was real, and I remember thinking I didn't have to go to the gym to get a focused workout for my quads. I was bucked off the bike a couple of times but always giggling about it. The snow becomes less ideal every day, and still I have a hard time giving it up. It's my comfort zone, my release. It's hard to worry about repairs and tools and goals when you are just trying to hold a straight line down a slippery trail.

But, Wednesday, Wednesday I'll get on track with my training. What did I have on the schedule? More Pugsley?


  1. I'm not an economist....but I bet it would almost be cheaper to buy a new mid priced bike than to fix all the stuff wrong with your roadie.

    Get a new bike and let Geoff fix your old one when he gets back:-)

  2. Throw a pair of slicks on your karate monkey?

  3. The cable/wire can be cut with a number of tools. pliers, sidecutters. The housing can also be cut with sidecutters. I do my cables myself as its pretty intuitive (just a little slow for a rookie - hell it only needs doing every few years). If you dont have any sidecutters or pliers I'd go down to the local hardware store and get a pair...usually pretty cheap compared to bike specific tools. Any tool/part which is bike specific costs a premium. Whenever u can, get cartridge bearings (for wheels) from a bearing wholesaler (they can match to your existing bearings). if you have cone bearings maybe they need a clean and new grease!? should be done every couple of years.
    The rear derailleur is easily removed and replaced with an allen key. you don't even need to break the chain...just take off the cogs and put them on with the chain held in the right place...the other bikes are a good reference if you forget the way it threads thru. one or two solid mornings of Jill the Mechanic and you'll have it all sorted. You will be so chuffed with yourself too! tip you can never do cables up too tight-within reason ;)

  4. The whole cable and bike shop thing is just a sign to become less reliant on other people's help, and to teach yourself how to fix your own bikes. There's plenty of books available, and info online, about bicycle repairs. Pretty much everything on a bike is very simple to work on, with only a few specialized tools needed.

    If the cables were really bad enough to break that means you need to be checking your bikes more often, and doing more regular maintenance on them.

  5. You may even be able to replace the wheels in the rear derailer for less than a whole new one. Don't for get to check the opening in the housing when you cut them to keep them from destroying the cables with a sharp edge. A small round file to open up the housing is helpful.

  6. You contemplated having to use your top gear after a rear derailler cable snapped, so I'll point out that in cases like this, it may be possible, depending on where the break happened, to pull the cable out of the housing and tie it to the frame somewhere and hold the derailleur in a better gear as an emergency fix. There are even ways to sometimes join the cables in an emergency and carry on with shifting (done it!). I agree with the other posters that cable maintenance is not really that complicated and although it can be a pain, it's probably something you should be good at. A good understanding of it will serve you well when unexpected things happen out in the middle of nowhere. As someone who goes off to remote places alone, you really should be very good at improvising fixes. That starts with just learning about regular maintenance.

    I also want to say thanks for the photos (pretty much) every day. I don't get to see snow here much and I love to see it. To have such a beautiful scene with a bike, a girl's bike, wow, awesome! Thanks!

  7. And if you ever need advice on bike repair, ask. I'm sure there's a million guys who'd be delighted to help. One here.

  8. A well oiled machine is all well and good but... A bicycle left to its own devices, now there's a beast with real character. After all, how exciting would it be to write, "My cranks turned round and round for three hours and my gears shifted without incident."
    I much prefer, "The topper was the tire that finally crapped out 500 yards from home. Walking along the roadside in reverse stiletto road shoes gave the injured quad such a fit that The Cat just started to laugh. What a sight- some bleary eyed bastard, flat black bike slung across his back, limping along a back ass country road on a Tuesday afternoon."

    Btw, your movies inspired me to ride down our little hill one handed, a video cam in the other. I even posted the thing. No music though; I like the sound of the wind.

    Now go ahead and let these big strong men tell you how to care for your babies.

  9. I would strongly recommend you not use side cutters or a pliers to cut your brake and/or gear cables. You're likely to end up with a frayed mess. Get yourself a tool specifically suited for cutting that type of cable. It will cost a bit more than a side cutter, but it will work far better for this application, and for someone who wants to become more independent at fixing their own bikes, it's a useful tool to have in your box.

  10. "xed said...
    And if you ever need advice on bike repair, ask. I'm sure there's a million guys who'd be delighted to help. One here."

    He's just offering his "help" because he knows you're single again now !. You know how men are. ;)

  11. When you buy housing, it often comes off a spool. Get it cut to the length you want; they have to cut it anyway. In any case, make sure the ends of the housing are in good shape, perhaps with a file and an awl or nail. Cables don't even have to be cut---just coil the extra up and out of the way until "later".

    If you do get a new derailleur, be sure to adjust the limit screws properly. You don't want a new reason not to look after your bikes.

    Matt Newlin

  12. Jill, i have a friend that owns a LBS and he has a saying....nothing cures worn bike parts better then a new bike:-)

    Of course, he says that to me whenever I bring one of my bikes for work.

    I take care of simple stuff, but if i spend all my money on mail order parts...there won't be any LBS's left.


Feedback is always appreciated!