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.

No Name Tour: Day 22 – We Approach the Rockies

It was a goof thing we grabbed the hotel last night as the pleasant forecast turned into a thunderstorm. The park where we would have camped was already wet from a sprinkler system. We fit 3 in a room with Corey sleeping in his sleeping bag on the floor.

The morning began with a quick bite in our room. When I retrieved my bike out of its hiding place I found that the front brake was grabbing. Mark worked on it for 30 minutes and got it functioning again.

We headed off into another light headwind. The forecast called for tailwinds. Just like last summer’s tour. Local weather forecasts out here are very unreliable.

The first 15 miles had us rolling through high desert.

Pretty arid out there

The air is dry making me constantly thirsty.

We rode 15 miles then turned south off-route to locate a proper breakfast in the town of Fowler. Sadly, the town eatery was closed so we settled for Subway.

After an ATM stop, we stayed off Route and headed toward Pueblo on US 50 (Arlington Boulevard and New York Avenue to my DC area friends). It was a busy truck route but the paved shoulder was about ten feet wide with a two foot rumble strip. We were safe but for someone pulling a horse trailer with his pickup. He swerved toward the shoulder as he passed me and earned the first bird flip of the tour.

The Mule broke 53,000 miles today

Approaching Pueblo we saw two super long unit (all one cargo) cold trains. The last few miles it felt like all the water in my body was evaporating.

Coal train headed east in the BNSF

Once in town I caught up with Mark and Corey who stopped at the Great Divide bike shop. I purchased some long fingered gloves for the mountain descents in the days ahead.

We were going to eat at a Mexican restaurant across the street but it had no windows and, therefore, no way for us to keep an eye on our bikes.

Must be pretty old

So I stopped a passing letter carrier and asked her about local eateries. She was incredibly helpful and sent us downtown. We ended up at Bingos, a hamburger joint. I had a cheese burger and fries and a vanilla shake that really hit the spot.

I noticed that once again my brakes were grabbing so we headed back to the bike shop. One of my brake pads in front was unevenly worn and gripping the rim. The back one was having troubles too. The mechanic fixed them both, I hope, for good.

While there he also replaced my chain and cassette (the gears in the back). My chain had stretched the length of a full link in two months. Corey’s chai was also worn but he had an unusual drivetrain. My chain cost $25; the chain the store had in stock for his bike cost $100. The owner offered it to Corey at a generous discount but Corey wouldn’t bite. He is mighty thrifty.

We rode a few blocks to a motel that I thought was gross. Cigarette butts everywhere. The laundry room smelled of mold. Cars in the parking area looked beat up. The room was nice and inexpensive. Corey and Mark has tried to hook up with a Warmshowers host but couldn’t close the deal do they took a room at the hotel. We said our goodbyes. They head north on the TransAm tomorrow. I head west in the Western Express.

I found a hotel north of town that is pretty nice. The only choice for dinner is the Mexican restaurant next store so that’s where dinner will be.

Tomorrow, assuming my bike behaves, I’m doing a climb over a 9,000 foot mountain. (I’m at around 4,700 feet now.) it should be challenging.

I am now a day ahead of schedule. I planned a rest day for Pueblo but I’m not particularly tired. I’ll save it for a bad weather day.

Many thanks to Mark and Corey for keeping me company. I’ll have to rethink solo touring after my experience with them. I wish them safe travels and great adventures through the Rockies and beyond.

Miles today: 57.5

Tour miles: 1369