Tick, Tick, Bang

After yesterday’s trip to the bike doctor, I was ready to test out the adjustments that were made to my bike.  I woke up and read the Sunday half of the Sunday paper. (We get the good stuff like the funnies and two crossword puzzles on Saturday.)  Then I read a few pages of a new book called Ride Somewhere Far, (written by family friend Claire Bangser).  There I was sitting on my deck reading a book all about getting off your ass and exploring the world by bicycle. And the weather was superb. Then it occurred to me, maybe I should ride somewhere far today.

Unless I get everything set up the night before, it takes me a while to get rolling. First, I put on the new fenders I bought for Little Nellie.  Then I lubed her chain. Then I took out the garbage. And fed the birds. After an hour, I put my fanny on my bike and rolled down the street. My plan was to ride to Great Falls Maryland and, depending how I felt, ride on to White’s Ferry where I would take a cable ferry across the Potomac and ride home. It would be a little over 100 miles.

As I pedaled down the road, I noticed right away that the ticking noise from my front derailleur had returned.  I am pretty sure there is nothing too dreadful wrong with my bike, but the ticking is really annoying. I rode to the drug store to drop off a prescription. The pharmacy wasn’t opened. I headed north on the Mount Vernon Trail, drug free.

On nice summer weekend days, the Mount Vernon Trail can become every bit as pleasant as the New Jersey Turnpike on the day before Thanksgiving, only the MVT is more crowded.  Today wasn’t so bad.  You could tell that the occasional cyclists were among us. The wool socks and frogs gave this guy away.

Wool socks and clogs are de rigeur this year

After I passed Mr. Footwear, I put my camera away, only to come upon a bicycle with a cockatoo in a cage on its rear rack. The rider didn’t look like Robert Blake so I forgot about taking a picture and passed him by. I got stuck behind a couple of young women who had the decency to dress well and ride at a decent pace.

Much improved fashion

Along the river north of the airport, I spotted a clear threat to homeland security in the river. Washington was under attack by an outrigger canoe.

We’re doomed!!

I was all set to dial 911 when I noticed that the canoe was clearly not being used with hostile intent. Apparently these folks were just out getting some exercise and training for the King Kamehameha Games in Kailua Kona on the big island of Hawaii. Chaka, bra!

Never mind. Just some harmless waterborne lobbyists

By this point it had become clear that, although my ticking friend was still with me, the skipping of the chain on the rear cogs was pretty much gone. So Brad the mechanic is batting 500. (In his defense, he told me that the ticking could easily return after he tightened the bolts on my chainrings, and that only then would he recommend more expensive remedies.) 

I crossed over the 14th Street Bridge into DC and danced with the tour buses.  I do wish we could get rid of these things. They belch diesel fumes and radiate heat while spewing out touroids who wander about disoriented. An elevated tramway would be so much nicer. Get on that Congress!

Eventually, I came to the Capital Crescent Trail where I found another glut of fair weather cyclists. I have a new rule: you can’t use the trails around DC on nice days in July unless you ride your bike on them in subfreezing temperatures in February.  So it is written so it will be! (Ramses was my great to the 10 power grandpop,)

I stopped at a Fletcher’s Boathouse to re-load my waterbottles and decide which route to take to Great Falls, paved roads or the unpaved C&O Canal towpath. I chose the towpath because I haven’t ridden it in months, and because it is a beautiful ride.

A few miles later, 18 miles from home,



The sound of the explosion was so loud that I thought it came from my front wheel. Alas, it came from the rear tire, a tire that I had replaced a puncture on only two weeks ago with lots of tyvek material for booting.

For the uninitiated, when you get a puncture in your tire, some material passes through the tire and penetrates the tube, wherein lies the air that makes your tire pneumatic.  When your take the offending material out, you end up with a hole in the tire casing. My rear tire is riddled with these holes and one hole is particularly long and jagged.  As you bounce along the tire flexes. As your tire flexes, it bites the tube.  If it has jagged edges, it bites a hole in the tube. If it bites a hole in the tube, the tube complains by saying, “:BANG! “ To prevent this from happening you need some material, called a boot, to cover the hole. I used Tyvek at the recommendation of my cycling mad ophthalmologist.  As we now know, Tyvek is overrated.

I replaced the tube and put a patch over the jagged gash in my tire. Then I put a Tyvek boot over that.  I decided that riding further from home on the towpath was probably not a formula for a fun Sunday, so I turned around and headed home.

Of course, the ride home went off without a hitch. I didn’t see any cockatoos or wool socks and frogs or outrigger canoes. It was uninspiring, but the chicks were nice. (I add that only because as I write this my wife and daughter are watching Olympic waterpolo and oohing and aahing over the hot polo players.)

When I got home, I ordered three tires (two for Little Nellie and one for Big Nellie). Some day this week I need to buy some glue for my patch kit and another tube. And sign up for some fall rides. You wouldn’t want those tires to go to waste now, would you?

6 thoughts on “Tick, Tick, Bang

  1. If only I could have completed the ride! It was a sort of trial run for the Bikes and Beer ride that some of the Coffee Clubbers are doing in a couple of weeks. I've done it several times before, but never on Little Nellie.

  2. The one that caused the blow out was about the width of my pinkie. Primo Comets ride nice but they cut easily, even with kevlar. So I'm going back to Schwalbe Marathons even though they are a bitch to install.

  3. I had the Comets on my BF and had a flat my second or third ride. Switched to the Schwalbe Marathons. Have ridden 5 weeks in New Zealand, 2 weeks around the Olympic Peninsula in my home state of Washington, plus countless more miles without a single flat or cut in the tires. I'll only use the Comets as emergency spares when the Schwalbes eventually wear out (who knows when that will be).

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