Saturday, March 19, 2011

Two Spokes Short of a Full Wheel

Any cyclist who has been at the sport for awhile knows that a pre-ride safety checklist is important. Even a good "once-over" will save you a lot of trouble down the road. Here's a good example:

Pre-Ride Safety Inspection
Before each ride, perform a safety check of your bicycle. This only needs to take a minute or two, but will help prevent avoidable accidents.

Check the tires for proper inflation (marked on the side of the tire). Check the tire treads for excessive wear or other damage, such as embedded glass or other objects.
Check the brakes. Spin the wheels to check for rubbing and then apply the brakes to ensure they stop the bike smoothly and evenly. Check the brake pads for excessive wear.
Check the cables and housing to make sure there is no fraying or splitting.
Check the wheel quick release levers to ensure they are secure.
Check for any loose parts or other mechanical problems.
Do a slow-speed ride and inspect bicycle, brakes, and shifting before you leave your drivewa

You should also make sure you have ALL of your cycling gear, including your helmet. Two of our riders didn't do that today. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Jim, Mike, Ken, and a new rider, Peter, joined me for today's beautiful ride. Our expectations were high as this was the first dry day in many. Last week's scheduled ride was a rainout. So we were overdue for our EFC Cycling Club ride.

As we gathered in the parking lot and prepared for our pre-ride devotional and prayer, Mike exclaimed, "Oh! I can't believe I forgot it!"

"Forgot what?", we all asked.

"My helmet."

Sure enough, the man was helmetless. He decided he would drive home and since he lives just a block or two from today's route, he would meet up with us a few miles into our ride. We shared our devotional and prayed for the ride then headed out under a bright sun.

Our destination was the Snohomish Bakery & Café in downtown Snohomish. It's a favorite among cyclists. We rode along the Samammish River Trail and past UW Bothell's campus. Within a few minutes, riding north along 35th in north Bothell, we met up with Mike. "Nice hat!" we all shouted.

With helmet on head, Mike joined our ride and we continued north into Mill Creek and up to Seattle Hill Road. Seattle Hill Road has a wonderful sweeping descent down into the Snohomish Valley. The Cascade mountain range was visible in the distance. The wind was blowing from the north, but the sun was bright and I had warmed up sufficiently from the early miles. As we crossed Highway 9 and neared the town of Snohomish I saw a bright blue road sign that read, "FOOD". I knew our Snohomish Bakery stop wasn't far away.

We turned onto 1st Street and suddenly Jim picked up the pace. I hadn't seen Jim ride this fast all day. Ken commented that it was as if the horse could smell the barn. Snohomish Bakery & Café was in sight and Jim knew it. Or maybe he smelled it. Or maybe it was that sixth sense that all cyclists have: pastry detection.

We parked the bikes outside, gathered around the bakery counter and placed our orders. Jim and I would share a cinnamon roll large enough to feed four but just right for two hungry cyclists. As we chatted around the table talking about upcoming rides, past victories, and future events, Ken piped up that he really wasn't riding well today. He felt sluggish. I quizzed him to see if he was sick or just experiencing "early season deficiencies."

"How do you feel at Spin Class?"
"Fine, just great.", he said.
"Have you been sick at all?"
"No, been feeling fine all week."
"Then it's your bike. Check the brakes. It wouldn't be the first time a rider has complained about feeling sluggish only to discover their brakes have been rubbing for the last 40 miles.", I replied.

We exited the café and Ken examined his bike. Sure enough, as his wheel spun, it hit his brakes and eventually slowed to a stop. Almost like I've done this before, huh? Riding with the brakes on is like pulling a cinder block behind your bike. It's a drag.

We biked up the street to Snohomish Bicycles and Ken handed his bike to the mechanic. The mechanic showed Ken the bad news. He had two broken spokes. The wheel was way out of true. That's why it was hitting his brakes.

Remember that pre-ride checklist I mentioned? That's why you check your bike. Riding with two broken spokes is like riding with a square wheel. And dragging a cinder block.

As we left the bike shop with Ken's remedied wheel, he was a new man. Like weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He rode anew. Jim pulled alongside of me and said, "Maybe Ken should give us a head start." Sure enough, within five minutes, Ken was easily 200 yards out in front of us. I finally caught him at the next intersection and asked him how he felt.


So next time you head out for a ride, do yourself a favor. Make sure you have your helmet. And make sure your wheel has all it's spokes.

You don't want to be the rider who's "two spokes short of a full wheel."

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