Biking to “Work” with a Bang

I was feeling proud of myself after yesterday’s bike maintenance trifecta. Today promised to be the first warm, summer-like weather of the year so I was ready to take The Mule for a peaceful celebration of Bike to Work Day out in the country.

When I’m not riding it, I hang The Mule by its front wheel. When I took it down this morning, the front wheel, inflated to 80 psi yesterday, didn’t thud when it hit the floor. I squeezed the tire and found it to be soft. Odd. The valve seemed to be slightly open so I assumed that was the problem.

Using a floor pump I raised the pressure in the tire back to 80 psi. As I leaned over to pull the pump head off the valve, the tire exploded!

Dang.

I removed the tire from the rim and took one look at the tube. It had a three-inch tear in it. Using a new tube, I had the thing back in working order in five minutes.

There was no way to tell whether the explosion was caused by a damaged rim. a bad tire bead (the part that seats under the lip of the rim), or a doofus improperly installing the tube.

Rather than take a chance that the thing would explode again. I decidded to switch to my CrossCheck for today’s ride.

I drove to Indian Head, Maryland where I have done several event rides. I kept the cue sheet from one year’s rides. This sheet included a 60-mile ride on one side and a 43-miler on the other. I was feeling crabby about the tire explosion. Also, it’s been a couple of weeks since I rode a conventional (non-recumbent) bike. So I chose the 43-mile route.

After three mostly downhill miles, my legs started to feel un-bent. The roads had very little traffic. The busier roads had wide paved shoulders. The smaller roads were little more than country lanes. Nearly every road was lined with trees so I rode almost entirely in the shade.

My only incident with traffic came about six miles into the ride. I was riding up a small hill on a shoulderless country road when a big black pick up truck came up behind me. The driver decided to pass. Just as his rear bumper passed my front wheel, a white SUV came over the hill from the opposite direction. I was certain they’d collide head on but instead the pick up veered hard to the right, directly in front of me.

Dang.

Except for that one incident of vehicular madness, I was having a rather blissful go of things. I could hear the wind in the trees, the birds singing, the frogs croaking. Laundry was drying on the line. Creeks were burbling (or maybe they were gurgling.) Lord how I have missed the open road.

During the first ten minutes of the ride, I felt a twinge of pain across my lower back. Just my lumbago checking in. It decided to take the rest of the day off.

The route had three hills of some difficulty. The third was Rose Hill, an infamous 1.5 mile slog that gets steeper in the middle. The shoulder is a six inch ditch filled with litter (Icehouse beer appears to be popular.) and mud. I did this ride with my friend Kirstin a few years ago. She did not like Rose Hill at all.

The new pedals on my CrossCheck served me well. Rather than mashing down on them as I climbed, I imagined I was riding clipless pedals and concentrated on unweighting each foot at the bottom of the pedaling stroke. Not only did this help me get up the hill but my feet didn’t feel all beat up when I got to the top.

The last ten miles after Rose Hill were a snap. I’m pretty sure I could have comfortably ridden much farther but I decided to quit while I was ahead. There will be many more solo rides in the boonies.

I think my next excursion will be to Virginia hunt country or Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

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