A couple of weeks ago, I had a strange thing happen. I was just riding along; downshifted the rear derailleur, and WHAM! Chain skidded off the big cog and into the spokes.
So, I get off, and think “Wow, that was random,” and I unbend the bent derailleur and get on with my business. Shifting was a little sketchy after that, but I assumed it was because of the bent derailleur. I friction-shift, and my setup is fairly tolerant of things being pretty messed up, so I didn’t think much of it. I ordered a new chain and derailleur a few days ago, and figured I’d install them when I take the studded tires off for spring.
Well spring never came. On Saturday’s ride, the shifting got really sketchy. I could ride in the big ring, or the granny ring, but not the middle ring. In the middle ring, the chain just skidded all over the place when I pedaled.
So, I bailed on my ride and limped back home. I installed my new chain and rear derailleur a bit early.
Here it is. It’s the Microshift / Nashbar rear derailleur. $30. A bargain at twice the price.
Oh, sweet Calamity! Middle ring still doesn’t work. I guess it wasn’t the chain or derailleur after all. “So what,” I thinks to myself, “I still have a granny ring and a big ring, so everything will be fine.” And fine it was, for a while.
I made it as far as the Conodoguinet Creek without incident. About two miles out from the coffee shop, the granny ring lost its mojo, too. So, it was me and the big ring the rest of the way to the coffee shop.
I met the Sloth, had some coffees, and begged a ride home.
An informal survey of people who know about such things revealed that my problem was caused by worn-out chain rings. So, I ordered some new ones. When they arrive, I will have replaced the chain, chain rings, and rear derailleur. I’m wondering if maybe I shouldn’t renew the cassette while I’m at it.
These are the chain rings that I totally ground to dust with my mighty force of my epic awesomeness. Looks like I’ll be spending some quality time in the garage with wrenches and tools and whatnot. Maybe it will be springtime when I have the bike put back together.
Here is a map chronicling my epic journey to the coffee shop with a half-working bicycle:
…When we last saw our hero, he was flat on his back, snoozing peaceably in the forest, wondering how he would ever summon the strength to ride his bicycle all the way back home, over hill and dale…
Morning found me in my tent. When I crawled out to attend to biological necessities, I noticed that my legs were a little sore, but not so bad as I expected after yesterday’s epic battle against the hills.
Maybe today would not be such a disaster after all.
I boiled some water for coffee, and soon the other bike hobos were up and about.
Before there is any breakfast, or any packing up of camping gear, or any conversation, there must be coffee.
I made Starbucks Via (instant) coffee, and it was pretty much OK. Sloth had some sort of drip filter, and made real coffee. I believe the bike hobo was also rocking the Starbucks instant.
I had a ton of cardio to do today, so I threw gastrointestinal caution to the wind, and ate two whole packets of instant oatmeal for breakfast. Shortly thereafter, someone started cooking bacon, and caused me to reconsider my entire nutritional regimen.
After breakfast, we broke camp, strapped all our junk onto our bicycles and made ready for departure.
We bid a tearful adieu to the bike hobo, and headed back to Harrisburg. Or at least we headed in a northerly direction. We hadn’t actually bothered to chart much of a course.
We looked at the google maps app on our phones, and hoped / guessed, that PA route 94 would give us a direct, flattish way home.
94 turned out to be a fairly major road, with no trees to shade us from the wicked day star. The hills were less traumatic than the ones the day before, but the traffic was horrific. We considered abandoning the road due to traffic, but kept plodding on. I do not recommend riding your bike on PA94, unless you have nerves of steel, and can hold a razor-sharp line. I don’t have any pictures of this part of the ride, because I was too busy trying to hold my line to mess with the camera. It wasn’t a great route, but we survived. We got off 94 somewhere outside of Dillsburg.
It was hot outside. The sun was roasting us alive, and we were almost out of water. We tracked down a gas station, where we refilled our bottles with water, and our bellies with Gatorade and ice cream.
I was starting to crack, but we only had 15 miles to go, and we were almost back to familiar roads. So, we powered on. We stopped for one last rest stop / photo op just outside Mechanicsburg.
We arrived back at our starting point to discover that Mrs. Sloth had locked Mr. Sloth out of the house. I was sympathetic, but I had my own Mrs. waiting for me at home — with food. So, I took my leave. On the drive back to my house I pondered the day’s adventure.
We had made it, and the Man with the Hammer did not totally destroy me like he did the day before. I attribute this to the following factors:
- Shorter route with fewer hills
- I ate a powergel every 10 miles whether I wanted one or not
- The Wendy’s Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger I had for lunch.
Sloth and I loaded up our bikes, and joined him for the weekend. The plan was to ride to Codorus State Park as a trio, spend the night, and then part ways. The bikehobo would head south, back to Virginia, while Sloth and I would make our way back to Harrisburg.
The plan was for about 53 hilly miles to the park; my longest and hilliest ride ever; loaded down with camping gear. I was a little bit apprehensive about the difficulty of the route, but I had (barely) survived a 50-miler a few weeks ago. So, I assumed I would manage one way or the other.
I did not want to meet the Man With The Hammer out there in the middle of nowhere, loaded down with camping gear, and with two other people waiting for me. So, I provisioned myself with Power Gels, dried apricots, and other sugary sundries.
I joined company with my traveling companions at Sloth’s house Saturday morning. We posed for a picture, and headed off in search of adventure.
We rolled pleasantly through Camp Hill, and Lemoyne, but when we tried to leave New Cumberland, Route J had a detour due to a missing bridge.
The detour routed us over Resser’s Summit. Reeser’s Summit (as the name suggests) is a monstrous climb. Sloth and I got off to push, but our strange companion rode up the whole mountain with a compact double and a 60 pound touring load; making us look bad.
It was a strenuous ascent, even on foot. I ate some dried fruit. The Man with the Hammer would not get me today!
After our several miles of rolling terrain, we came to Goldsboro, where we had a spectacular view of the Three Mile Island Power Plant.
We decided we needed some lunch, and stopped at a pizza shop called Antonio’s. The pizza was pretty good, and they were cool with letting a bunch of bike weirdo’s sweat all over the place. They even let us refill our water bottles. Very nice.
Bellies full of cheesy goodness, we soldiered on — over rolling hills, past corn fields, and under the occasional shade tree.
Somewhere around York, I neglected to eat. By the time we reached Glen Rock, I was starting to feel lightheaded. The road pitched up to the clouds, and then plunged back down. This cycle repeated itself for miles.
Space and time began to run in melting ripples.
I climbed. I descended.
I climbed. I descended. He was coming for me.
I traveled through multiple dimensions of transcendental realities.
At the top of the hill, my companions determined that, due to some navigational confusion, the route was now 62 miles instead of the 53 we thought. The fabric of space-time was expanding to swallow me whole.
I was going to have my first metric century, whether I wanted one or not. Rockville road rose, and rose up, to kiss the face of the Sun. I was off the bike and pushing. At the top, we had to turn onto an even steeper road, and climb some more.
I turned, looked up Nafe Sawmill Road, and…
Oh God no!
There he was!
I tried to sit down along the road for a rest, but it was too late.
The Hammer dropped.
I was flat on my back in the freshly-mowed grass looking up at the clouds. Sunshine on my cheeks.
I remember thinking that this would be a beautiful place to die.
I closed my eyes.
I opened my eyes.
I got up, sucked down a powergel or two, and started riding.
Fructose in my veins, the pedals began to turn. Slowly, the road started moving beneath my wheels.
It was getting dark, but the last climb found us at the entrance to the campground.
By the time I got off my bike, I had my Metric Century.
We pitched our tents, made our dinners, sat around the campfire, told stories, and carried on for a few hours. It wasn’t very long before we all decided to call it a night.
I lay on my Therm-a-rest with a feeling of accomplishment at having finally gotten a metric century under my belt. I drifted off to sleep wondering how in the world I was ever going to ride my bike all the way back home in the morning.
I thought it might be nice to ride to the park and read a book. So, I loaded up my handlebar bag with my Kindle and a snack, and rode the 8 miles over to Adam Ricci Park. I found myself a nice bench, had a snack, and read some Sophocles (I’m still working my way through the Harvard Classics.)
I finished reading Oedipus and was feeling good, so I decided to ride on down to City Island before diving into Euripides. A bike ride is a nice way to clear your head between Greek Tragedies.
I got to City Island, but the whole park was full of noisy people, because there was a baseball game underway.
I can’t read the classics while the drooling masses are whooping it up, so I decided to cross the river and find a quiet park bench. Riverfront park was crowded, too, so I decided to just keep on going to Fort Hunter, and make a nice long day of it.
I didn’t bring along much of anything for lunch, so I stopped at a gas station, and scrounged up what I could.
I ate my strange lunch, and sat there looking across the river. My Garmin said I had come about 23 miles already. My all time longest ride is just shy of 50. I was still feeling pretty good at this point, so I decided to go for a few more miles and try to break my record.
I pointed the bike East, and rode up to Boyd’s Big Tree Conservation Area.
About half way up the climb (and, coincidentally, at mile 25), was the nastiest, most overgrown cemetery I have ever seen.
The whole place gave me the heebie-jeebies, but I was exhausted, hot, and sweaty, so I sat down to rest – just outside the cemetery gate where the ghosts couldn’t get me.
I sat there for a while, but didn’t really feel any less exhausted, so I decided to get on with it. I had the 25 miles I needed, so I pointed the bike towards home.
Everything was ok until around the 40-mile mark where the road climbs up from the river. This is when things got miserable. I pushed down on the pedals, but the bike didn’t want to go. It was like pedaling through molasses. I had the presence of mind to realize that I was bonking, but my brain was getting muddled enough that I didn’t think to stop at a gas station to buy more food.
I geared down and spun; that worked for a while. Then I got off and pushed. That worked, too.
I eventually made it home, got some food and water in me, and sat down with my spiritual adviser to think about what went wrong.
My Garmin tells me I burned 5,000 calories on this ride. I’m guessing I ate maybe 1,000. So, I bonked.
I need to remember to eat and drink more next time, I guess. I’m going to have to figure this food business out if I want to go on rides much longer than 50 miles.
Suggestions are welcome.
On the plus side, I made it home under my own steam, and set a PR for longest ride in a day and one for most miles in a month.
I was on vacation for the last several days, so I didn’t get a lot of riding in. I did get to spend some time dicking around with bike parts, though.
One of the strange noises coming from the Cross-Check turned out to be a very loose spoke. I tried to true the wheel up, but wasn’t having much luck.
Turns out the rim was shot.
So, I took the wheel off the Karate Monkey and put it on the Cross-Check. This is a no bullshit, 48-spoke, Phil Wood, Zombie Apocalypse wheel. The Cross-Check gets more miles than any of my other bikes, and it deserves to wear the bling.
That took care of the Cross-Check, but now I had a mountain bike with no rear wheel. I could either build my old road hub into a new wheel, or buy a new mountain wheel.
I decided to go with a new wheel, but it felt stupid to not upgrade to disc brakes while doing it, so – discs on the rear end of the Monkey.
In the interests of symmetry, I put discs on the front, too.