I like to pride myself on getting maximum life out of componentry. I ride hard, dig deep but then at the end of the day can often be found with an old toothbrush, tube of white lithium grease and the intense look upon my scowl usually associated with those guys who can build a model ship in a bottle. Undoing the days damages upon my bike, if you will.
Maybe this makes sense to some of you- after all, bikes are expensive. Components have a finite amount of usage expectation before they fail. Fastidious care of said pieces and bits makes sense. Except, of course, that this logic extends even to bikes that aren’t even mine.
Test bikes, demo units, the steeds of friends- leave me alone with any of them long enough and there’s a good possibility a bearing is going to get greased, a loose spoke tightened.
Bike companies are often mystified as to how they are returned from MBT test sessions in better condition than they were sent. It’s a sickness but certainly a victimless crime.
This all brings me to a few weeks ago. I partook in an early morning ride at a place my crew and I affectionately labeled “the playground” due to its abundant natural and man-made obstacles: big sweeping berms, massive barrel and log rolls, steep punchy climbs and even steeper drop-off style descents.
The ride itself wasn’t too remarkable other than the fact that I managed to take a pretty hard digger almost immediately on one of the sketchier log rolls. It was fairly blind on the far side and offered just enough distance between the stick-pile and the top of the log’s surface to catch and hold a chain ring for a solid second or two.
I teetered for a moment and then pushed myself over only to have the front wheel catch the sticks on the other side and turn sharply rather than roll freely down- pitched, as it were, over the bars. Witnesses to the scene said I rolled gracefully upon the terra firma before coming to a restful stop at the base of a small sapling. My wrists don’t remember it that way at all.
The next moment of consideration arrived when we were done shredding for the day and I removed my helmet upon bike load up. Much to my surprise, one of the top vents was obstructed by what appeared to be a yellow and black marble. Upon closer examination, and forgive the scientifically accurate nature of my description, it turned out to be the rather large ass of some sort of spider that had apparently had its web disturbed by my lid passing through and decided to simply hitch a ride on my melon for the rest of the day.
After fighting off the obligatorily heebie-jeebies, I freed the stowaway gently in appreciation for his having not bitten me on the scalp and headed off in the direction of home.
About 15-miles later, cruising along some county back roads on account of a construction detour on US Rt 20, I heard what could only be described as a DJ getting a little wicked on the turntables. Hmm, I thought, I don’t remember there having been a remix done of this song.
Then a little while I heard the scratching again. It was a little much for my taste but it might have worked for the crowd who wants to dance at the nightclub but still get up for work the next morning. In fact the whole thing would have very easily been dismiss-able were it not for the fact that the DJ and his scratching carried right on over into the next song that came on the radio.
With the type of reaction time usually associated with tortoises and sloth, I checked the rear-view. Sure enough, somehow the back end of my bike had freed itself from the rack and was being dragged, sideways, along the highway. What I perceived as DJ Jazzy Jeff’s comeback tour was in fact the knobbies on my rear tire succumbing to incredible friction associated with being dragged down the asphalt for 10-minutes by a 3,800 pound SUV.
I pulled over, fearing the worst. The air hung heavy with the smell of burnt rubber but somehow the rim looked fine. In fact the mountain bike’s tire, though severely and unevenly worn bald, was still holding air.
Disaster averted, I swore a few dozen times, reattached the bike to the rack and headed for home. After the adrenaline subsided, I came to realize that my fastidious nature in caring for my bike’s rear tire for three long seasons had all been undone in a matter of minutes. I spent the next few days online shopping well aware of the reality that 26” wheels are going the way the of the dinosaur and the dodo in a hurry. Fortunately I happened upon a fresh CST Heathen in stock that looked to meet all of my criteria in a trail-bike tire.
It had certainly been a day of weirdness but one that could easily have ended with far more costly bike damages all factors considering. I guess the moral of the story is that sometimes your efforts can greatly extend the life of a component. Other times you get distracted by spiders and forget to tighten the rear strap on the bike rack.
And more importantly, I wonder what DJ Jazzy Jeff is up to these days.
Clif Pro Team racer Hannah Finchamp has joined the MBT staff and debuts a feature packed with helpful lessons learned the hard way.
Nicholas Weisman LaFrance has discovered the zen-like experience that is riding with exactly 0mm of suspension. For an encore, perhaps he can teach us how to ride with a cactus in our chamois.
Spencer T Smith returns one mountain bike richer and a whole lot wiser. He takes us along on his debut cruise.