Monday, July 13, 2009
There I lay, in the deep weeds along the roadside. My back was screaming, my legs were burning, my friends had left me, the mountain was laughing and worst of all I had lost the last of my teeth. As I stared at the sky, sharp breaths whistling from my maw, I thought about how I ended up backside down and rubber up.
I had been doing just fine with winter riding and felt pretty strong in January. It promised to be a good season. After that, though, things somehow just started going downhill instead of up. I don’t know if my will started fading first or if it was the wheel problems that cut the legs out from under me. I do know, however, that my collection of wheelsets was quickly whittled down to nil.
All through the early spring, the spokes of my rear wheels started snapping like last fall’s left-over twigs. Ride after ride was cut short by rims rubbing breaks and nipples tumbling about loose in the rim. It didn’t even matter if I had just taken the wheel to the shop the day previous- next ride, SNAP! There goes another one. Fifty and sixty mile rides to exhaustion had been cut to ten milers or less. I lost count of the number of times I hobbled home, spokes taped to one and other. (Yes, it got so bad that I carried a roll of black tape along with my spoke wrench.).
On one occasion, I was tooling along just fine with a small group of fast riders and one visiting outlaw when I was gripped with the fear. We stopped to check my wheel and the sucker was wobbly as a WVU undergad on Saturday night. It had more loose screws than a psych professor. By the time I got home, I had wrenched the wheel to within an inch of its life and had reached an equilibrium point with three spokes out and taped to their neighbor. It was at about that time that I started loosing teeth.
The first time was on a group ride up Snake hill and across Preston County, Appalachian wonderland. I was down to my deep dish carbon Hed wheels, not at all suited for this type of ride other than the fact that they were intact. I did alright up the first incline, but later, a strained look down and back revealed that I was one cog down from my normal. Next thing you know, pop-goes-the-tubular, and I’m laying on my back in a soft thatch of high marsh grass. All that was left was a call for evac while my fellow riders soldiered on ( soon to become a recurring theme). What’sthat saying- If it wasn’t for bad luck…
And so it went all spring, each ride was punctuated by some mechanical mishap. With each passing week of down-time the rear cassette got smaller and smaller and the hills got bigger and bigger. Pretty soon, thinking about riding wasn’t too exciting. It’s kinda hard to smile without any teeth.
That brings us to the beginning of our story. I had finally gotten a new set of wheels after much tribulation. (The acquisition of those seemingly benign little hoops is a story unto itself. I’ll leave that for some other day.) I caught wind of a group ride through my old mountain stomping grounds. Before I knew it my bike had me hot on an intercept course.
At the bottom of Mud Pike, some tikes screamed, Look! There goes another bike.” I knew I was close. Once in the mountains, I took a short cut through a hellish stretch of gravel. I reached the pavement and, as luck would have it, there were The Grimpeurs. Well I guess it was more the opposite of luck. For a few miles I grimly hung on, desperately clawing at my bottom gear. Finally, I had no where else to go but down, literally. I begged the last of my nursemaids to leave me for dead. As soon as he was out of visual range I rolled into the ditch.
And that’s how I got where I am today. Do they make a 37 tooth? Better yet, maybe I can put my 39 tooth front ring on the back.