The back way out of my apartment complex is a steep gravel and dirt hill that leads down to a paved, curbless street of a well-to-do subdivision. That street is downhill, this one less steep but quite long. The little traffic in the area means I get the opportunity to fly down that hill, which ends in a 90 degree right turn I need to make. Last year, I attempted to record this initial stretch with an iPod touch strapped to the handlebars of my bike. Here is the Ed Wood-ian results.
Now, this was recorded on a bulky mountain bike with big, underinflated tires and the ubiquitous and completely unnecessary shocks on the front forks. Plus, since this was not too long into my commuting on bike, I was riding the brakes a lot of the way down. Suffice it to say, this video doesn’t convey the sense of speed, nor does it accurately portray the possible top speed I can reach on this hill now that I have a much lighter, faster bike. Nor does it convey the added confidence I have as a rider with a little more experience under my belt and a helmet on my head.
It was on Thursday last week that I headed down this hill, happy-go-fucking-lucky as ever. Sure, it was cold as shit, but I was bundled up well and I had my newly rigged pannier filled with my fishing gear and I was looking forward to stopping at the local pond.
Feeling cocky, I started my ride as usual. With no traffic in sight, I scooted into the oncoming lane going downhill so I could cut the corner tighter and turn into the proper lane at the bottom of the hill. As it happened – as it was supposed to happen – things did not go according to this plan and I completely lost the angle on my turn. This was pure rider error. I went screaming through the apex without having braked nearly enough and was forced onto the shoulder of the road in the oncoming lane after making my turn.
Now, I don’t know if this area is unincorporated or not, but the roads do give that impression. There are no traffic lines or markings, no curbs, no actual “shoulder,” either, just grass, rocks, miscellaneous debris and a drainage ditch.
As I went careening off my course and started heading towards that drainage ditch, the idea of dumping my bike into the stagnant puddles and loose gravel seemed rather unappealing, so I did everything in my power to keep the bike upright on the loose terrain I suddenly found myself in, and, to my credit, I did just that. I didn’t have to lay it down, didn’t go flying over the handlebars, didn’t end up in a ditch.
I did, however, manage to hit a rock. The impact was hard and loud. I felt the jarring transfer from my front tire, up the carbon fork, through the handlebars into my hands and all the way up my arms into my shoulders. I knew that it was bad, but my immediate concern was that I had a flat and would have to head back home and wake up the wife to drive me to work.
After making it up to the stop sign before my next turn, I have my front tire a squeeze and noticed it was holding air. I didn’t hear any hissing and all seemed well. I went about my merry way, assuming I had dodged a bullet. After my next turn is a long, primarily flat stretch before another steep hill up to the next intersection and stop sign. It was here that I first noticed things didn’t feel great in my front wheel. It was riding, but looking down I could see it clearly wasn’t true. There was also a noticeable bump in the ride repeating at regular intervals. This when I started swearing aloud on my ride.
I rode past the pond, not in the mood to fish and knowing I might need the time in case there was some sort of catastrophic hardware failure on the rest of my ride. Feeling pot committed at this point, though, I pressed on, hoping the damage was minor and repairable.
I arrived at work about 10 minutes ahead of my start time, but there was already a customer waiting to pick up, so I started right in before getting a chance to make my coffee, eat my yogurt or even change my clothes. The morning went on at that pace until lunchtime. When it became apparent I would not have any work during my coworker’s lunch hour, I began to inspect the damage closely. My findings were not good.
3 or 4 banged up spokes and a rim that was cracked on both sides at one of the spoke nipples.
I suddenly felt grateful I made it the rest of the way to work without the rim completely failing and sustaining damage to my fork…or to me, for that matter.
So now I am impatiently awaiting the paltry check Kane County was supposed to send me for my 7 days of jury duty in March that I should have received 2 weeks ago so I can replace the wheel, as, apparently, disc brake wheels like mine are not nearly as easy to find and not nearly as cheap to replace as a standard wheel, of course.
So not only am I pissed off at myself for fucking up my bike, but I am really bummed about not being able to ride it, too. It’s pretty great.