Monday, June 19, 2006

Don't Push Your Foot on the Heartbrake

The Poor Man's Truing Stand

Worked all day Saturday (5:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.), so by the time I got home to go for a roll, I was already pretty thrashed. (Friday was a long day too.)

Got started with fair ambitions, but I'd swear the bike was making more noise than it normally does. A good bike rides silent; every bike has its own collection of little creaks and tings and clicks.

For a while I've been bothered by a noise coming from the back wheel. (You can time the period of a noise and figure out which part of the bike goes around at that rate.) I've been blaming it on the brakes, maybe something loose that rattles every time the wheel comes around, but that wasn't fixing it. Now I could swear there was an extra sound, like the first, but a second.

It's funny how things like this can get to you psychologically when you're riding. Your muscles may be just as strong, but a little crosswind or a Clif bar wrapper crinkling in your pocket or a strap flapping in the wind can wear on you, particularly when you're tired, and your performance starts to drop. A distraction, a flaw, makes you feel like you have to work harder to get where you're going.

So I knew I wasn't going as far as I'd meant to. I stopped a few times to see what was really loose. (Uh, you are correct: I could have done this weeks ago when I first began to notice the noise. Some days you feel good, and you just want to ride. Frustratingly, the sound wouldn't happen for me except when I was on the bike, riding along somewhere flat and at least moderately quiet.) I spun the rear wheel to see if it was hitting the brake pad on its way around.

Found a spot with a tiny rub, and then I started checking the spokes. Ah. Then I knew what was making the sound. One spoke was quite loose. Another had just started to loosen.

I tightened both with my fingers, as far as I could, and rode on. Now I also knew the wheel wasn't perfectly true, and I had some sense how much extra I was working each time the wheel went around. (It was mostly true; tightening the spokes had actually thrown it a little further off true temporarily.)

Got about as far as I was going and stopped for rejuvenation. When I got home, I turned the bike over and had a more serious conversation with the rear wheel and a spoke wrench. (Spokes are threaded from the outside of the rim, so you have to remember to turn the wrench in the opposite direction from usual--clockwise loosens, counterclockwise tightens. Does anyone anymore know the words deasil and widdershins?)

Got that wheel hummin'. No loose spokes, and the wheel whizzed past the brakes with just the right amount of clearance. No wheel is ever perfectly true, but I was closer than I had been.

Proof in eating: When I got on the bike, no more ting, ting, ting, every time the rear wheel went around. Almost as good as the silent noise a freshly greased chain makes.

Sunday I was armed to ride for miles. Got 10 miles up a hill, then turned around to head back to the flatlands for an endurance run. Weather perfect. Sunblock on. Bike silent. Great riding.

Until about 10 miles into the endurance run, when I noticed a little squishiness on my turns. Checked and, sure enough, the wheel I'd just tuned now had a flat tire. It's the karmic cycle of two steps forward and two steps back: What goes around goes flat.

Found a gas station with free air, and made it home before the tire went completely south. (First rule of fixing flats: Don't take out the nail until you're ready to stop and repair. While it's there, you've got a stopper in the hole.) I'd been out 40 miles at this point, shy of what I'd been hoping for, but enough to sleep the sleep of the just that night.

Got a couple of fresh inner tubes tonight, which means I'll be rolling again and in fine shape before the Tour de France starts. In case they need any alternates.

No comments: