Friday, July 18, 2008

It's Funny How Things Happen

Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.

~Ray Bradbury

Is this a risky thing we are doing? Some days I wonder!

Two days ago just near the end of the day Sonia and I were approaching a stop sign within about 1 mile of our destination. We were going to wait for Alison and Gus to catch up so we could ride into town together. As Sonia tried to unclip from her pedal she got her heel wedged between the bike frame and against the rear tire, causing the wheel to lock up. The bike skidded, I was able to keep it upright, but the rear tire wore completely through in a matter of seconds. There was a loud bang just as I brought the bike to a stop (see previous photo posts for a picture).

There we were outside of Iron River with a huge gash in the tire and no way to repair it (I didn't bring a spare tire on the trip. I've never needed one!). The incident occurred, however, in front of a house, the first one we had seen for some time. The noise was so loud it brought out Sheldon, a young man, and his young daughter, LeiLani. When he heard the sound he thought it was a gun shot (it was loud!).

Just then Alison and Gus rolled up. We all looked at the tire in amazement. We were also unsure of what to do next. Luckily, Sheldon had a bike in his yard that he didn't need and said we could take the tire. It was a bit too big, but we were able to put in on the rim anyway. This would allow us to push the bike into town without damaging the rim.

Alison and Gus went on and Sonia and I walked the bike into town -- again, lucky that it was only a little over a mile away to the motel.

When we got to the hotel I called the local bike shop in the hope that someone might answer (it was nearly 8 PM at this point). A woman did answer but said that she didn't have the size tire that I needed. The next closest bike shop was 50 miles away. Alison and I decided to walk down to Subway to pick up sandwiches and contemplate our next step.

When we got back to the motel the desk clerk told us that the woman from the bike shop called to say that she did have a tire our size and we could come by in the morning to pick it up. Our first stroke of luck!

The next morning Alison and I rode her bike to the shop to pick up the tire. On the way there I noticed a clicking noise from her bike. It was coming from the front brake (one side was rubbing the tire rim; it had been doing this for a couple of days). We thought that since we were going to a bike shop we would have the mechanic check that sound out as well.

The Bike Shop, the name of the bike shop, was in the basement of an elderly woman's house. Her husband ran the shop for thirty years before his death about 11 years ago. A local man, Paul, who was retired when the owner died, decided he would help out for a while. He has been there ever since.

He looked at the front brake and did some adjustments. I told him that it seemed like the rim had a small dent. He took the wheel off to inspect it. It was a good thing we did. As it turned out, my tire exploding would be the smallest of the problems we would face that day.

When he took the tire and tube off the wheel, we could see that the rim was cracked on the inside. The crack ran several inches in three separate places on the rim. Paul had only seen this type of rim failure on a bike that had been run hard into curbs or holes, and never in a heavy-duty double walled rim such as this. It appeared that the rim had a defect in it that just finally got bad enough for us to notice it (the bike, as you faithful readers will know, was purchased in March and only had the miles from the trip across Oregon, some training miles, and what we have done so far across the US).

So, we now had a tire for my bike but no rim for Alison's! Again, luckily, he had a rim that would fit, but not a heavy duty one. We decided to have him put it on so we could at least get on the road.

When we got back to the motel, I called Sherman at Coventry Cycles in Oregon (where we bought the bike). He agreed that the cracked rim was probably from a defect. I asked him to call the bike company, Rans, and see if he could get them to send a rim overnight to our next stop (Escanaba, Michigan). He called us back about an hour later and said the rim was on its way.

As we rode through the humid Michigan afternoon, a thunderstorm imminent and much desired, I thought about this chain of events. Here's how it could have gone:
  • Sonia clips out without getting her heel wedged
  • My tire does not blow up
  • We don't discover the cracked rim on Alison's front wheel
  • We continue on, screaming down some very steep hills today (there were some 40 mph hills today, by the way!)
  • Alison's rim fails, the front tire collapses, and...

Now, some people would ascribe this to luck. Others would give some divine cause or a specific alignment of planets or stars. I would be on the side of random chance and coincidence. Whatever the reason, if Sonia had not gotten her heel jammed (and at the time I was very mad at her; I had told her and Gus several times not to unclip their feet that way) we could have had a much more serious, trip ending, injury causing incident!

So, we again live to ride another day.

~ Dan


Beverly Titus said...

Isn't it amazing how the Universe watches over us and protects us? You were listening (to the click in Alison's front brake) when the Universe spoke to you that there was trouble ahead if that rim wasn't fixed. I'm so happy you listened! I'm loving your blog since I'm planning to ride from Niagara Falls to Albany, NY in September (that pales beside what you are doing).

Anonymous said...

That's amazing. Looks like someone was watching out for you all ;) I am so glad everyone is safe. Love the pics! Chandra

wombat064 said...

Hey Guys.
Sounds like your all still having fun. I'd say the crack in the front rim wasa defect as it was a heavy duty item and I'm presuming you havn't been abusing it.
Did Sonia's foot go between the frame and the tyre or directly into the spokes ? Either way she is a very lucky young lady.
Keep pedalling you are an inspiration to so many of us.

gus:) said...

Hi JC its Gus i hope i can call you agian the next Town or City. your friend, Gus

rachel said...

I'm really glad you guys are safe. Also glad the old guy caught the problem! You've really had more than your share of mechanical problems....hope the bike manufacturer is not a sponsor because I'd be giving them a little dose of whoopa-- at this point!! There must be added stress on your bikes with two riders. Tell Sonia not to feel bad - I couldn't get my foot out of the clip last week and Hannah and I took our first crash on our tandem. Right in the middle of the hill with our neighbor in the car behind us. We're both sporting bruised elbows and egos! Dumb clips! Hannah and Rob home tonight - it's been too quiet around here!


Anonymous said...

Everything happens for a reason! So happy to hear you guys are hangin' in there! We are all so amazed and absolutely encouraged to get off our butts and ride!
Take care :)

Kerri P- Walla Walla

Anonymous said...

Dan, Your last entry was at 4:16 am. Considering that you're probably in the Eastern time zone now, that's when I went to bed!! All agree that an unfortunate event turned out to be a benefit for you. Please give Sonia an extra hug from all of us!! We love you all. Mom and Dad

Mickey Mouse said...

"Please keep your head, hands, and feet inside the ride car at all times." -- ancient Disney proverb

I hope you guys checked the other wheel for stress fractures. Keep safe and rolling! Rob