Big Nellie Update

On Thursday evening, I was riding Big Nellie, my long wheel base recumbent, home from a social event in DC, when the front fork (the part that holds the wheel to the steering mechanism) snapped off. The bike is a Tour Easy which was made by a company called Easy Racers. Easy Racers apparently went under a few years ago. Many of the components on this rather exotic looking machine are standard bike parts made by companies like Shimano and Grip Shifter. Alas, the fork is not one of them.

I posted a picture of my fractured friend online and tagged Bikes@Vienna, the shop where I bought the bike 20 years and over 43,000 miles ago. To my surprise, Tim, the shop owner, said he might have a replacement fork. I drove Big Nellie out to Vienna and dropped it off.

The next day I heard back from Tim and one of his mechanics. The forks they have are not the right size so Tim advised that I send an email to the man who last owned Easy Racers and cross my fingers.

I followed his advice but also sent emails to several well known (to me anyway) recumbent dealers all over the country. One immediately responded with a “no.” A few hours passed when I received an email from Peter at Bicycle Man in Alfred Station, New York. (I am a native of upstate New Your and had to look this up on a map. It’s between Elmira and Buffalo.)

Lo and behold he had a few original Easy Racer forks. After a couple of phone conversations made unproductive by my rank ignorance of bike components, Peter offered to call Tim and iron out a solution. As it turns out, the fork is incompatible with my stem and headset (parts that connect the fork to the handlebars) but that can be remedied by replacing the latter two components which are standard bike parts.

As I write, my new fork is on its way from upstate New York to Northern Virginia. I won’t see the completed bike for several weeks because this is the peak time for bike repairs, a situaiton exacerbated by the pandemic.

The bike also needs a new middle chainring, which was damaged during my crash somehow. And, since I haven’t done any maintenance on the bike in years, there is a laundry list of other repairs. For example, the Grip Shifters lost their tackiness a long time ago, an issue I have been remedying with hockey tape. And since the bike is in for work anyway, I am getting a new chain and cassette (rear gears). The chain is pricey because this bike uses three chains linked in one long loop.

I am not replacing the bar end plugs. I have plenty of wine corks which had a little panache.

So thanks to the interwebs and the brotherhood of recumbent bike dealers, I believe I’ll have Big Nellie back on the road in time for some riding later this summer.

When you get to a fork in the road, break it

This last week or so I’ve been getting out and about, almost like the before times. My daughter and I took in our first Nats baseball game since September 2019. The Nats were kind enough to reward our presence with a win.

On Wednesday, I returned to the ballyard alone for a day game. They won again. My seats were less than ideal. Half the stands were in shade. Sadly, I was not and my legs were fried by the strong summer sun even though temperatures stayed quite comfortable. My sunburn was not for naught; the Nats won again.

Section 317, Row A.

Thursday began with my first trip to a diner in over a year. Later in the day, I attended my first post-pandemic #bikedc social event with the return of Third Thursday Happy Hour. In an exchange on social media, my friend Miles mocked my recumbent. Big Nellie was offended and insisted on being ridden to the get-together. About 20 people assembled at the snack bar at the golf course in East Potomac Park. I haven’t seen so many golfers in one place in my entire life. It was crazy.

The bike crowd was in a good mood and the conversation flowed along with the beer. I did not partake of the brews because of last Saturday’s tummy issues. After a couple of hours I rode home.

All was going splendidly. About seven miles into the ride, the Mount Vernon Trail has a small curve to go around a wooded wet area next to the river. At the peak of the curve, on a slight incline, all was well. I banked Big Nellie to the left to continue down the incline. As my front wheel hit a sizeable bump from a tree root, I began my lean to the right to negotiate the next turn.

And then I crashed.

It happened before I could react. I realized before my right side hit the pavement that my hands, still on the handlebar grips, were in an odd place, off to the left instead of directly in front of me. I landed on the pavement. Ow. My right shoulder, hip, and elbow took the force of the fall. (Just scrapes. No broken bones.) I managed to scoot myself off the trail and onto the grass to avoid being run over.

The pain seemed to intensify as I stood and tried to upright my bike. Then I realized what had happened; both blades of my fork had incurred catastrophic failure. I had to drag the bike to the grass because the front wheel would no longer roll.

No bueno. Over 43,000 miles of wear and tear.

A runner saw the crash and came along to see if I was okay. I said “I want my mommy.”

Okay, I lied about that.

His name was Rob and he carried my bike about 200 yards to a parking area. Thanks, Rob.

Rob. Dead Bike Carrier Extraordinaire

My wife and daughter came to my aid and we drove the last 8 miles home.

I posted pix on the Internet and tagged Bikes@Vienna, the shop where I bought the bike, hoping rather desperately that he could help with a repair. The bike’s manufacturer is no longer in business and the fork is a rather exotic part. It has unusually long trail, which means it situates the front wheel well in front of the frame.

To my astonishment, Tim, the owner of the shop, texted me back saying that he may have a replacement fork.

This morning I rode The Mule to my first Friday Coffee Club since March 2020. My motivation was to see my friend Lis who has been overseas for most of the last couple of years. Lis and I didn’t get to talk much but I did manage to chat with several other people. The weather cooperated splendidly, dry and slightly warm with a soft, cool breeze.

On the ride home I managed to negotiate the curve of doom without incident. The Mule abides.

This afternoon I took Big Nellie out to Bikes@Vienna. Dr. TIm and his able assistant Igor (actually she’s Beth and somewhat disappointingly doesn’t have a hunchback) will take things apart and see what can be done.

My fingers are crossed that Big Nellie can be saved from the recumbent graveyard.

The Long Weekend Goes Long

My plan was to do a long solo hike in Shenandoah National Park on Friday. Mission accomplished. Saturday was devoted to baseball and fireworks. We got both in the game. The Nationals went up 3-0 without making an out in the bottom of the first inning. The first pitch of the game was hit for a home run. The second just missed and ended up being a double. A few pitches later another home run. Yikes.

The game ended up being a 9-3 win for the good guys but Strasburg, the starting pitcher, got hurt in the process. There is a rumor in town that the Nationals are going to replace the curly W on their caps with a red cross.

Perhaps the best part about the game is the fact that the morning’s rain stopped earlier enough so that the start was delayed by only 15 minutes. The downside was that I didn’t get to hang out with Normie “Woodrow” McCloud. I’ll see her later in the week.

Later in the day we drove to a friends house for a cookout and fireworks. The skies opened up and it rained impressively. The water in the underpass of the Memorial Bridge was up to the center of the wheels of the cars. Rain in DC this summer has been very entertaining.

Today I woke up and procrastinated. I decided to salvage the day by riding Big Nellie to Bikes at Vienna to buy some gloves and tires. It’s about a 23 mile ride from my house. After shopping I thought, why not just ride out the W&OD trail for a while.

So I did,

I ended up in Leesburg and wondered whether the rains had closed Whites Ferry, a cable operated ferry across the Potomac River. To quote a favorite children’s book, “There was just one thing to do.”

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I rode to White’s Ferry and managed to sneak on the back of a trip. The river was very high and muddy. An osprey passed overhead with fish in its talons. A great blue heron seussed by at about 15 feet. As we cabled across, I discussed the condition of the C&O canal with a Marine triathlete. She said she had ridden it a few days ago and it was a muddy mess. I decided to stay off the towpath. Good thing too, I could see huge puddles of muddy water as I passed.

The road to Poolesville was hilly but surprisingly devoid of traffic. I was expecting a pulse of cars from the next ferry crossing. It never came. This was a little disconcerting.

After a stop for ice cream and liquids in Poolesville I turned for home. My legs were quite tired having yet to adapt to riding my recumbent. River Road is a roller coaster of long downhills – always a blast on my recumbent – and long uphills – not so much.

The breeze from riding maskes the heat of the sun. I stopped a few times en route to get my bearings. It was a lot hotter than I thought.

There was just one thing to do.

Pedal, pedal.

I mentally broke down the rest of the ride. It’s five miles to this intersection. Three to this landmark. Four to that hill.

As I rode through DC, I endured tourists. I always remind myself that I want to be treated well when I visit a town I am unfamiliar with so I supressed the urge to spew unkind words.

I plugged along and soon reached my neighborhood with 99.5  miles on the odometer. There was just one thing to do: I rode around the block until I saw 100.

When I dismounted, I felt a sense of invigoration. Actually, that’s a lie. I was tired. I was hot. I was done. Put a fork in me.

Tomorrow is car mechanic day. I will ride only about 6 1/2 miles.

A Monday goes short.