Fixed it at last

I am mechanically inept. In fact, when it comes to anything handy involving my hands, I am not only useless but a danger to myself. A few months ago while chopping a small piece of a tree trunk, I ended up in the ER with blood running down my face. The tree trunk objected to the axe and attacked me. Rude!

I woke up today with sore legs, the result of riding every day for a week. A few weeks ago I noted that riding daily was making me stronger. Lately, however, I’ve been feeling very fatigued from my rides. Yesterday I found out why.

One of the pads on my rear rim brakes was not releasing from the rim. This is the exact problem I had more than once on my bike tour last summer. In order to go my usual pace I was putting out much more effort than normal. In a way, it’s the opposite of a tailwind. Just as a tailwind convinces you that you are Greg LeMond, a rubbing brake pad makes you feel like Uncle Fester.

Thankfully, the interwebs have beaucoup bike repair videos. I watched four and decided I should be able to fix the brakes with plenty of patience. I also needed a day off the saddle so I figured my foray into brake mechanics would chew up an hour or so.

I put the bike up on my repair stand. Then I checked to make sure the brake cable had proper tension. I did this by squeezing the brake lever. It didn’t bottom out against the handlebar. All was good

Then I spun the rear wheel and saw that, like yesterday, the left pad wasn’t releasing from the rim. I decided to try releasing the tension on the spring on that side of the brakes. The spring makes the pad retract. The adjustment mechanism is a teeny screw. From one of the videos I learned how this works. You tighten the screw, the screw presses harder against the end of the tensioning spring, and this pulls the pad away from the rim. I tried this yesterday and nothing much happened. It was very frustrating to do this on the side of the road.

When I looked really closely at the spring, Both the tensioning spring and the adjusting screw are black and they sit in the shadow of my rear bag. It’s easy to miss where the two come in contact. In this case, when I looked very closely I could see that the end of the spring had moved away from the adjusting screw. When I turned the screw it was missing the spring entirely. AHA!

I backed the screw out and used a flat head screw driver to re-position the end of the spring. Then I re-tighted the adjusting screw. It pushed on the spring and the pad retracted from the rim.

The end of the spring is the little black wire pointing down.

Normally fixing bikes follows the same rule as writing computer programs. Whatever time you think it will take is an order of magnitude shorter than it actually does. If you think it will take a day to write a program, it ends up taking a week. A week means a month, and so on.

Rather than take the hour that I expected,this bike repair took all of one minute. It took far longer to set up and take down the work stand than it did to fix the bike.

This brake issue drove me nuts all last summer. I had my brakes adjusted four times between Pueblo Colorado and Carson City Nevada. Now I know what the problem was.

Tomorrow, I hit the road like an April fool. Maybe I even get a tailwind.

Errandonnee Part Deux

Yesterday I took the day off from bicycling to go to the March for Our Lives in DC. We drove and took Metro for a number of reasons and it worked out remarkably well.

Today, I got back in the saddle with an old friend, Little Nellie. Little Nellie is my Bike Friday New World Tourist. She has a hair over 19,000 miles on her. I recently put a new large chainring, cassette, rear wheel, rear tire, rear tube, and chain on her.

Errand No. 5: Non-store Errand, a test ride to make sure all the new stuff was working properly.

Destination: Around the neighborhood

Observation: I was half expecting my rear tire to explode because it was so hard to install and the wire bead was slightly bent. So I rode over a couple of potholes to stress it. To my chagrin, I found that the shifting was messed up. The chain was jumping over the big sprocket and getting jammed between the cassette and the spokes. On the opposite end of the cassette, the chain was making unpleasant noises. Be careful what you wish for; you might end up with something worse.


So the first errand resulted in a second errand.

Errand No. 6: Store

Destination: Spokes Etc. At Belle View, my local bike shop

Observation: If I ever move, I will make sure I have a good local bike shop nearby. Spokes has been my go to shop for over 25 years. More often than not (like today, for instance), they do minor repairs while you wait. The Spokes mechanic (Sean, I think) figured out what was wrong within seconds. The new hub of my rear wheel is sized for an 11-speed cassette. My cassette has only nine speeds. He installed a proper spacer and tweaked things a little. In five minutes I was on the road again. Bicycles are so much more fun when they are in proper working order.


Spokes Service Area. Note: neither mechanic is Sean. He is bashful. 

The fix was so good that I took off and rode another 16 1/2 miles for a total of  24. Total miles so far in the Errandonnee: 58 1/2


Tropical Depressions Are Well Named

During my recent ramble to Key West, I spent nearly a week dealing with a tropical depression. This was a storm off the east coast of Florida that cranked rain and wind at me. The wind was coming from the east and northeast. It carried with it fine grains of sand. By the time I got to Key West, my 24-speed bike would not shift into the big ring, making it a 16-speed.

I managed to make it home without difficulty. At the first opportunity I took the bike to a local bike shop. They worked on it and told me it was ready. Not even close. It shifted into the big ring on the work stand but not on the road. And the shifters required real elbow grease to actuate.

So I gave it back to them. While I was there they made three different adjustments to the shifting. None worked. In fact, the last adjustment made the chain rub on the derailer when I shifted into the (lowest) granny gear. They told me they’d work on it some more.

(Side note: last night I reviewed my ride by going through the maps I used. The map segment from Florida was impregnated with tiny grains of sand. The pages of the maps were almost glued together.)

Having already paid for the repair, I am not surprised that they showed little urgency in getting to it. I called on Sunday. “It’s in the workstand.” I told them I’d call on Monday. It wasn’t ready. So I called today. It still wasn’t ready.

“I’m coming to get the bike.”

“We’ll play around with it some more.”

In the half hour it took me to drive there, they managed to get the darned thing working. They sprayed the shifters and cables with lube, essentially flushing out the sand that the depression had injected into the works.  It’s  not perfect but it’s greatly improved. Once winter does its thing, I’ll probably start fresh with new shifters and cables and housings.

I really can’t blame them for the difficulty. (Although I am less than thrilled that they called me and told me the bike was ready when it was not.) Local bike shops around here don’t have a lot of experience with bikes that have been sandblasted. I had similar experiences with this sort of thing on my 2003 and 2005 tours. They were both on the GAP Trail in Pennsylvania on rainy days. The limestone grit on the trail became a kind of cement when mixed with the rain water. My 2003 tour ended when I lost my brakes and my shifting. My 2005 tour was saved by Nate, a mechanic at Volpattti’s Bike Shop in Washington, Pa. (A bike mechanic at a trailside shop in West Newton wouldn’t even look at the bike.)

With my bike and my ribs (thankfully) nearly healed, I am back to normal. I am trying not to eat too much junk. I like the fact that my clothes grew while I was away. I’be neen doing some day rides.

Tonight I do some volunteering. I have a stack of books and magazines piled up for reading once the World Series is over. I bought a gym pass at our local rec center so I think some (very cautious) weight training lies ahead. And I am probably going to apply for an Irish passport soon. (Not for any high minded reason. I can. So I’m gonna. Any readers who complain about it will be hit over the head with Nana’s sheleighly.)

And then there is the planning for next year’s tour. My current thinking is to ride to the Pacific Northwest. There are so many other places in the U.S. I’d like to ride. The Natchez Trace. Route 66. Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Katy Trail. The National Parks of Utah. Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. Bar Harbor. If you connect these dots you get a 10,000 mile bike tour. Hmmm…..

And on a final note, the Southernmost Point buoy that was damaged by hurricane Irma is back in shape.