The Mule cracks me up

When I go on bike tours I try to think of everything that could go wrong and plan accordingly. I carry a kevlar spoke in case one of my spokes breaks. I bring along a folded tire in case I have a catastrophic tire failure. There are, however, some problems that you can’t do much about. Number one is a break in your frame or fork. Theorerially, if your frame and fork are made out of steel, you can find a welder to repair it.

Yeah right.

Basically, if your frame or fork breaks, your tour is over.

Another tour killer is a broken rim. On my 2005 tour, I felt something fishy going on with the rear wheel of my recumbent. I limped into the town of Frostburg, Maryland and got very lucky. I found a bike shop, one that had not yet even opened for business, that had a wheel builder. The manager found a rim in the basement (they didn’t even have their stock displays finished in the store) and built me a rim overnight.

That wheel eventually failed but it got me through the tour and several thousand miles more.

I replaced it with a Velocity Dyad rim which is still on the bike,

I haven’t looked closely at a rim in a long time. I can tell when the sidewalls of a rim are worn out when the start cupping. The concavity grabs brake pads. Because of this I knew that The Mule needed a new front wheel. When I dropped it off at Bikes at Vienna I told Beth the mechanic to replace it. She recently returned from bike mechanic school and was eager to test out her wheel building skills,

Whenever she gets a bike she looks it over closely. She knows that I’m going to ride thousands of miles on the bike so I appreciate her attention to detail. A day after I dropped it off she contacted me and said I needed a new rear wheel too.

Hmm. I hadn’t noticed any problems.

I told her to go ahead and build another one.

I picked up the bike yesterday. It has two shiny, new, Beth-built Velocity Dyad rims.

She kept the old rims for show and tell. Here’s what my rear rim looked like.

The rim on my #specializedsequoia touring bike. Kinda glad it held together during my tour last year
Let’s put 40 pounds of gear on that bad boy and ride to Maine. NOT.

This kind of damage doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it probably takes a good 10,000 miles of loaded touring. It doesn’t help that I’ve hit hundreds of potholes, tar patches, and root heaves during the time this rim was on my bike. I’m willing to guess these cracks were in place during the last part of my 2022 tour. Now imagine you’re riding along on this wheel with 40 pounds of gear and you hit a bump or a pothole. Eek. It’s safe to say that a catastrophic wheel failure while descending a mountain pass at 35 miles per hour would ruin your whole day.

Incidentally, as I mentioned, Beth is meticulous. After she built the wheel she had someone else check it over. My job is to put the bike through its paces to stress test the wheels in the next week or so. I already did a 7-mile test ride. So far. so good.

Meanwhile, Beth is giving the CrossCheck it’s winter physical. I already know t needs a new front wheel.

4 thoughts on “The Mule cracks me up

  1. Yeah, I’d say that rim is (over)due for retirement. I guess if you’re going to kill a rim it’s better if it happens all at once so you see it, like my friend who had a drill bit go through his carbon fiber rim in New York. $1000+ later and he was back on the tour the next day. I’m happy with my Velocity rims. Back in the day, it was the Weinmann Concave rim. I think I’ll go inspect my rims now.

  2. Well spotted, Beth!

    I’ve worn through a few rims, had one crack similar to what you’re showing though nowhere near so dramatically, and had a few hubs die when a chunk broke out of the flange between spokes. I’ve also had a couple rear hubs fail when the ratchet pawls broke abruptly, leading me to that awful “Look Ma- no power!” moment.

  3. Your bike is like you. Things go wrong due to age and wear and tear and you bring it in to the experts. With the bike you swap out parts. With you you just have to hope that the parts don’t wear out.

  4. 1. Proper planning and preparation can prevent some problems during a long bike tour.
    2. Break in the frame or fork can end your tour as it’s difficult to find a welder for repairs.
    3. Broken rims can be an issue in the middle of the tour, requiring immediate attention from a bike shop and eventually replacement.
    4. A damaged rim can be caused by long-distance touring that includes potholes, tar patches, and root heaves.
    5. Choosing a reliable bike mechanic who is meticulous is important to avoid any potential wheel failure during a ride.

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