Saturday, September 22, 2012

Destiny Meets Her Match

Mark wins for most thematic lunch
Where would I be without my bike friends? Probably stuck somewhere in the woods north of Sinking Spring PA.  Or worse, at work drowning in mountain of emails. Let me elaborate...

It started early in the week with idle banter of playing "hooky" to ride Blue Marsh on a Friday. It was an entertaining thought but when a couple of Friday meetings cancelled, it became a real possibility. By Thursday night we had six responsible dads shifting gears into full delinquent mode.

Blue Marsh is one of the bigger rides in this area. It's a respectable 23 miles with a lot of ups, downs, and stream crossings. And it's lake loop so there is no bail out option, you have to be "all in." This and the fact you're doing it with five buddies gives the ride a mildly epic feel. Mere mention of the word epic brings out the seven year old in any red-blooded mountain biker, and as we know seven year olds don't always exhibit the best judgement when they get over-excited.

My lack of judgement shifted onto the big ring Thursday night as I was checking out the bike (tire pressures, chain lube, etc) and I noticed the rear brake dragging just a little. The thought of even a little brake drag for a 23 mile loop was disconcerting so I did what you never do before a big ride. I started fiddling around with the bike (in this case adjusting the calipers). And I went to bed and then I got up and I started fiddling with the bike again, this time cycling the hydraulic brake pistons while the bike was upside down. I should have known better but obviously two espressos had not cut the fog enough to bring out my better judgement, and now I had hydraulic brakes with air in them and rear brake power was severely compromised.

But now it was time to leave so I did what any self respecting seven year old would do with defective equipment on the morning of an epic. I loaded up the bike and I eagerly headed off for my 23 mile appointment with Destiny.

Destiny plays her third card
Well it turns out that Destiny is a crafty and patient lady. She had 23 miles to work with so she cradled me gently in her arms for nearly an hour. She did this so that I would feel safe and confident. She did it for 10 miles so I would be fully committed. And then she played her cards, three of them, in rapid succession...

First she bent my derailleur hanger and let me limp along with grinding gears for a couple miles. Then she loosened the bearing assembly in the rear hub just a tiny bit. She thought I would not notice, but I did. With some fiddling I fixed the hub and got the derailleur barely functional. But Destiny was not finished with me, oh no. At mile 11 Destiny sucked the rear brake spreader-spring into my brake rotor. The wheel ground to a halt with the horrible screech of metal on metal.

The trailside scene at mile 11 was a highlight of the ride. Imagine three guys (that's six hands) in there fiddling with the bike, disassembling the brake, bending springs, examining pads, and reassembling it again. My 51 year old eyes were struggling with the close-in detail work. Mike asked if we had a forty-year-old in the group, and Andy chimed in with "I had Lasik surgery!" Somehow with Andy's sharp eyes and Mark's technical know-how we got it back together with only one part left over (the spreader spring) and we were off.  Now the nearly useless rear brake would be totally useless with 12 miles of swooping downhills and waterbars to go.
Tangent: A waterbar is an abrupt 1-2' drop partway down a steep downhill trail. It forces water off to the side of the trail to reduce erosion. The last thing you want to do when going downhill over a waterbar is to use your front brake...which of course was the only brake I had thanks to Lady Destiny.
I became a better rider during the last 12 miles. I had to. I learned to shift my weight back and to generally use less brake. I learned to let'r fly. I made a mental note to add spare pads and some readers to my camelback before the next ride. And I managed to find "my happy place" (a skill I learned from D2M) on some of those long uphill grinds and the short punch-you-in-the-gut steeps.

Somehow I finished the ride without going over the handlebars. We rolled into the parking lot exhausted and triumphant. We headed to Ganly's Pub for well deserved beers and California Chicken Cheesesteaks and arrived home just in time to saddle up again for the Friday Happy Hour Ride. That my friends is commitment!

Our second ride of the day was mercifully short and not as painful as I expected, and our commitment was rewarded in spades when Don made his second annual pilgrimage from southern Vermont to join the Friday Happy Hour Ride and Jesse rolled in on her Spot Longboard with a batch of fresh baked vegan wheat germ muffins. This truly was a day packed full of bike rides, bike friends, bike food, and bike stories.

Destiny had met her match!


"I just like stuff that works"
     -- BobG comment during trailside bike component discussion


  1. ...and we're all looking forward to the next BM ride!

  2. we're all looking forward to the next BM ride!