Boom And Bust

This week promised so much within the context of what I’ve been going through this last wee while. I knew it was time to get off my backside and re-introduce myself gradually into the fray, and when I checked the Windguru forecast on Sunday night, I even had a plan…

Ride into work on Monday with a light tail wind then leave the bike at work. Take the bus into work on Tuesday then ride the bike home. Groundhog Days: Wednesday and Thursday.

Great plan, lots of motivation, and really, a belief that while I knew I was only 75%, maybe 80% right, that was always going to be enough because I’d get the other 25% while I was on the road.

Oh dear…

There was a time a few months ago when I was would have got really uptight when things turned out the way they did. But that was before I had my abdomen sliced open by a surgeon’s knife so in reality, I just shrugged my shoulders, said to myself “c’est la vie: maybe this week wasn’t meant to be” and I’ll try again next week. The good news is that when it all fell apart, I managed to stay on the bike and no one got hurt. I took some photographs, sent the images to Neil, my mechanic at Fast Rider Cycles and he confirmed that this was as bad as he’d ever seen damage to a wheel.

This is the guts and gore story of what actually happened on Monday morning…

The LifeCycle bike had been laid up, albeit degreased and oiled, since the middle of January and on Sunday afternoon, I made some wee adjustments to ensure that it would be ready to hit the road at 5am on Monday morning. I altered the angle of the butterfly bars to give me a more upright posture which in turn would help to ease the pain on the scar. Pain may be only a four letter word but there’s no point in making it angry. After all, I still have over 13,000 miles to ride. I also whacked another few puffs of air into each tyre as I hate working into the wind on anything less than rock hard tyres: less rolling resistance.

Anyway, I was out there, ready to roll, at 5:10am on Monday morning and it did feel weird. The darkness was not, is not and has never been a problem. That’s what spotlights are for. I was a bit down on fitness, puffing a bit, but I just took it slower than I used to. The objective, after all, was to get bike and rider to the other end in one piece.

But it didn’t happen.

By the time I got to Newton Mearns, I thought “stuff this taking the shortest route malarkey” so I went the route I’ve been going since last summer. That usually bags me 21 or 22 depending how I approach the factory, directionwise. Nice, everything was nice. I was happy to be back, even if was only a one way trip.

Then when I get to Giffnock, there are three sets of lights, four if you include the pedestrian crossing (which is always on green at half six in the morning so you can basically ignore that set in this instance). But the final set of lights take almost two minutes to change so as I’m going through the two sets a hundred yards back down the road, I start counting and decide whether I’m going to chance the sync being right, or whether I’m going to hang a left just before Whole Foods and do a half mile rat run round the back of the houses. I’ve seen me getting overtaken by a bus before the Food store but still emerging in front of it a mile down the road. That’s competitive dad out to play again. Anyway on Monday, I went the rat run…

The road weaves through a housing scheme with parked cars on both sides then emerges onto a long straight before you hang a sharp right up a wee side road that leads over a wee culvert where the road is down to one car wide because the road surface is weak. And that’s when it happened…

The back wheel exploded.

When I say it exploded, what I mean is, the back wheel exploded, as in exploded. The sound was like a gun going off. No, forget that, make it a cannon that sounded like a big gun. In an instant, the bike was paralysed. And I was clipped on. The back wheel wasn’t turning anymore and the tyre was literally dragging on the road. My reaction, which I guess was about one second after the impact, was “oh fuck, that’s me”. Only once before have I ever had a tyre explode, and that was when I decided not to decelerate through the speed bumps going down Old Glasgow Road into Stewarton on the way home from work. That made a bit of a bang, but it had nothing on this.

What I couldn’t understand straight away, was why the wheel had locked up. I managed to bring the bike to a controlled stop, unclipping safely before I fell off, and then dismounted to have a good look. I knew it was a puncture, that much was obvious, but what I wasn’t prepared for was that this was a puncture that took the wheel with it. One third of the circumference of the rim was gone, and was hanging loose in the road. The entire tyre was blown clean off the wheel and had a three inch gash in the side wall. This wasn’t any old puncture: this was the Fukushima of blowouts.

New wheel: forty quid. Tyre: thirty quid. Tube: tenner. Labour to transfer the cassette off the stricken wheel and re-true the gears: another few beers. It wasn’t actually in the script to have a hundred pound blowout on the first proper day back but hey, shit happens. There are people worse off than me: there are kids with neuroblastoma.

So realising that this was basically terminal, I reassessed the week ahead there and then, or if I’m being truthfully honest, in the last mile to work as I dragged the bike to its final resting place for the day.

The week was basically in tatters. I’d set the bike up to ease the pain from the old war wound so I wasn’t about to jump on a mountain bike with its acute riding position. Nor was I about to ask Jane if I could borrow her bike and leave it at work overnight. Nope, this was a rescue job for the motor on Tuesday, then the bus Wednesday and Thursday. Today I was off. The bike went into Fast Rider Cycles for my trusty mechanic Neil to weave his magic and put it all back together again. I got the bike back today with a new wheel and a renewed spirit. But that particular bike’s in for a bit of a shock…

I’ve had the tourer for exactly a year and in that time it’s had 2 front chain rings, 2 rear derailleurs, 2 bottom brackets, 2 back wheels and 4 chains. And some recabling on the back. That’s some shift for a twelve month old bike. It’s been looked after as lovingly as any bike that I’ve ever had, having had a bath (well a jet wash actually) every week but the A77 has taken its toll. That’s down to the shit that East Renfrewshire and East Ayrshire leave on their roads.

So next week, Wednesday to be precise, I will take to the road on shiny new wheels. Neil convinced me some time back to invest in a Trek Domane 2 road bike, and having picked it up today, I can see why: it’s 10lb lighter than my tourer so those fancy Dan lycra boys had better watch out. The LifeCycle Man is gonna whip your ass this summer.

I can’t let the week pass however without a mention of the light at this time of year. I remember from last spring, even without trawling back through the blog, what a joy it is to leave the house in pitch black, ride through the dawn of a new day and arrive at work in daylight. I adore it. And with the clocks going forward in a couple of weeks, I’m going to get to do it time and time again for the next few weeks. God, it’s gonna be good to be back on two wheels. I’m only in the office twice next week, so I’m going to get the opportunity to take the old tourer in on Monday for a final winter spin, then go out and have a play on my new wheels on Tuesday as it’s my birthday, before taking the Trek into work on Wednesday. Even at this juncture, I’m fully expecting to shave five minutes off my commute time. Ten pounds of weight  is a lot to lug up and down those hills over a 20 mile commute. I think I’m gonna be a new man. Also, it says in the reviews that there’s a fancy gadget under the seat post that absorbs a lot of the shock from rough roads so I might actually get a smoother ride than I’ve been used to on these rubbishy, potholed roads.

Already the shenanigans of last Monday are but a distant memory. With a shiny new LifeCycle bike, a new attitude (albeit with a bit of a belly that needs shifted), I can hopefully say cheerio to the scariest episode of the journey so far…

Boom and Bust.

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