Thursday, December 25, 2014

Dec 25 (Day 359) - Bike problems strike - more stuff breaks!

First, 'Happy Holidays' or whatever the correct term is these days. Hopefully everyone is having some nice family time! Second, thanks for all the nice notes and words of encouragement in the last day or so. It's nice to know everyone is behind me!

As you all know, I am really beat up at the moment, and the weather the last few days has not helped my physical or mental condition one iota. Today, however, was a completely different story. There was not a cloud in the sky when I started riding this morning. There was a slight south wind that built all day and topped out at 20 MPH in the in afternoon. In short, these were certainly the best riding conditions I have experienced in the past 5 weeks. I have been really disappointed with the weather during this stretch, so today's ideal riding weather was the best Christmas gift I could have received. The original plan for today was to ride ~92 miles from Hearne, TX to Corsicana. This would have positioned me roughly 60 miles south of White Rock Lake and the continuing Little gull (which was present this Christmas morning). As I will describe, major alterations to this plan were required.

The view today

With the wind and sun at my back, the first ~65 miles of the ride melted away. Temperatures started at around 40C and rose into the mid-50s; These conditions were absolutely pristine for riding. The ride rolled up and down shallow hills along relatively quiet rural roads with wide shoulders. The holiday ensured that roads were quiet, and the constant "whoooosing" of headwinds I endured the last two days had finally abated. It was literally perfect. I was thinking that this ride would surely make the Top 10 of year, particularly considering the juxtaposition with the previous few days. The disaster struck.

With one casual flick of my wrist, the cable the controls my rear derailleur snapped. My bike has 3 gear rings on the front crank and 9 gears on the rear cassette. This means I normally have 27 gears available (3 times 9). I do not always use all 27. On today's ride I might have used ~12 of the gears . When tension on the cable that controls the rear shifter is lost, only the smallest gear is available. This means I had only 3 gears available after the cable snap (3 times 1). Actually though, I only had 2 since the highest gear of the remaining 3 is one I haven't used once all year. This was going to be a big problem as the rolling hills required constant gear shifting. As I know next to nothing about how to fix bikes, I would have to get the bike to a shop to sort this out. Only problem was that this happened in Wortham, TX - 70 miles from the nearest bike shop. The only solution was going to be try to tough out this 70-mile ride on effectively two gears. 

Had this happened on either of the last two days, it would have been an insurmountable problem. I needed to constantly switch gears with the howling headwinds and rolling hills. However, with wind at my back today, I decided I would put the hammer down, really push myself, and see what distance I could make towards civilization and associated bike stores. Riding a huge wave of adrenaline, I was able to ride the 23 miles to my slated destination of Corsicana. With the wind still blowing strongly, I decided to push on, still effectively gearless, to reach Ennis, 21 miles beyond Corsicana. These 44 miles required dipping deep into the anaerobic realm, a muscle function that bike touring rarely requires. Since I had only two gears, I had to keep cranking as hard as I could on them; I couldn't drop into lower gears to relax and save energy. The result of being stuck in these "high-speed" gears was that I was flying down the interstate service road at ~18-25 MPH. I have reached these speeds often this year, but not for such sustained distances with hills. I was gassed when I finally did arrive in Ennis. 

112 miles after all the screwing around

I am going to try to adjust the rear derailleur tonight so as to lock-in the 3 most useful gears for tomorrow. I am fully confident that I can reach the Little gull spot sometime in the afternoon even I must ride on only the same 2 gears that I did today. My plan is to deal with the gull, then deal with the bike. It should be an easy fix for a shop, but the gull is much more pressing right now. I will say that I wasn't really that upset when this happened. I consider myself incredibly lucky when it comes to the health of the bike this year. Something like this was bound to happen at some point in the year. The timing really could not have been better, and, with only 2 days to ride to reach a major city, the problem will get fixed with relatively little effort. Compared to breaking a wheel in an accident in West Texas, this was a walk in the park. 


  1. Wow What an amazing attitude! But, really, surely there is a reader/birder/biker close enough to loan you their bike while you go for the Little Gull?! Best wishes ... yes, and "Happy Holidays"!

  2. If I was home in Dallas, I would bring a rear dérailleur cable and replace yours Merry Xmas or whatever. Bummer.

  3. Move the rear derailleur to the gear ring you want, wedge a pebble between the derailleur and the seat stay, then wrap it with tape to keep it in place.

  4. Another top 5 list
    "things I should of done before this trip to make it more run more smoothly"
    1. learn basic bike maintenance
    This could encourage future attempts. Although I doubt anyone will surpass what you've done.