Monday, March 24, 2008

Six Miles Out, and...

After great training ride with the IBC team on Saturday, I was psyched to get away late afternoon for some trail riding goodness on Sunday. I've heard stories about how summer weekend traffic down to the Cape can be, but I didn't expect the traffic I encountered Easter Sunday. Miles and miles of parking lot down Rt 3. The drive down took 50% longer than normal, and I regretted not heading north to ski instead.

I brought geared bike, as legs were feeling Saturday's fun-filled hillfest ride, where we hit the likes of Justice Hill (both ways) and Princeton Center at well above threshold pace. A singlespeed would have multiplied the suffer factor, and I was really looking for 3hrs of endurance pace riding, not mashing 40rpm up steep climbs.

Conditions were fabulous. The ground doesn't freeze on the Cape, and the coarse sandy mix drains extremely well. Not a hint of mud, cloudless skies, and mild temps. I hit the Trail of Tears system in West Barnstable, eventually heading out across Great Hill Rd into the Maple Swamp Conservation Area. These trails are less manicured and frequented by dirt bikes. The 50mph winds we had a couple days earlier brought down much debris. I kept having close calls with sticks in spokes and thought to myself "I shouldn't be riding in this area today." You see, the next morning I had to drop that bike off at FedEx for shipment to Arizona. I fly out there April 1. This thought no more than crossed my mind, and it happened. Those dreadful sounds of metal into metal, grinding, snapping, and clamorings of component death. After the bike skidded to a stop, I freaked at the sight. First thought was my AZ trip, second was the two hour walk back to my car.

The chain, cable, cable housing where FUBAR. The derailleur was sheared clean in half. All said components were wedge tightly into spaces they didn't belong. The worst damage was derailleur hanger. It is not replaceable and was curled over into the cogs. It is thick titanium and would be a chore to bend back without suitable tools on the trail.

I worked on the bike for 30 minutes, setting the chainline up straight in something like a 32t by 17t to singlespeed back to car. It failed imediately. Chain would drop to smaller cogs and then just hop over teeth with slightest pedal pressure. I tried a tighter ratio with 22t ring. No deal. Broke chain (with tool) a third time, now out of master pins, and set up 22t ring by 11t cog. There were no smaller rings or cogs for the chain to jump to. Do you know what the stupid chain did next? It jumped UP to the 12t cog, when clearly the chain wasn't long enough for that many teeth. It was so tight I could not turn the crank by hand. Imagine the forces on bearings, cassette body, etc. I struggled to get it back down to 11t cog, and it barely had any slack there. But again, as soon as I pedaled, it jump back up. The huge chain line offset and ramped cog teeth were behind this. Well, if the chain wanted to be there, then there it was going to stay.

Even though the bike was hard to pedal (way harder than my singlespeed due to binding chain), it was functional. I decided to ride back through woods. Riding was real work now, and with all the angst built up from long drive and damaged bike, I found my legs. I ended up hammering for two more hours on that kluge fix. After a while, my thoughts drifted away from what I was actually riding and how many hours I would have to work on the bike when I got home. I enjoyed what I salvaged from that ride, finding more trails I hadn't ridden on two prior visits there. I went in with gears to pamper my legs and ended up hammering a singlespeed. I started to run out of daylight and stopped riding with 2.5hrs on the computer.

On the way there, I thought no way could the commute back be any worse. I was wrong. Way wrong. At one point on Rt 3, it took me nearly an hour to go from exit 12 to exit 14. The drive back took almost 2x longer than normal. So I spent >4.5hrs in the car to ride 2.5hrs that did hundreds of dollars damage to a bike I had to ship in 12 hours. The next time I get on that bike, I'll be doing a 107 mile loop in remote desert. I'll dwell on that until the ride is over.


Colin R said...

Oh man, stay OFF Rte 3 when you're heading to Otis/ToT for riding. I don't understand how that gets so bad, but I've never had a good experience.

I went to Otis on Easter Sunday by way of Rt 24 (Route) and it was 75 mph all the way. Slightly longer if you're going to ToT but so much better!

Hill Junkie said...

Colin, thanks for the tip. I'll give Rt 24 a try next time. It really won't add much distance, since I am coming down Rt 3 through Lowell anyway and can take 128 around to 24. I've been alternating between ToT and Otis, so it looks like Otis next time. My Garmin Edge 705 just came in today...