Friday, August 29, 2008

Broken spokes, 3 flat tires (on the same ride!), and rim strips

A couple of weekends ago, I was tooling down the road on my trusty turquoise Schwinn Tempo. My weekend routes tend to be a bit longer, and I was a fairly good distance away from home when I heard a sound. Kind of a rhythmic clanking and scraping.

It didn't sound bad, so I figured it was something fairly minor that I could just pull away from the wheel or chainring and ride away. I pulled over onto the shoulder and without dismounting, took a quick look at my drivetrain and wheels.

Initially, I saw nothing. But the irritating noise persisted.

This time I stopped, dismounted and looked carefully. Sure enough, a spoke nipple fractured and the newly liberated spoke was happily slapping against my chain and seatstays. Since my rear wheel now resembled a warped hula-hoop, the rim was also rhythmically scraping against my brake pads. Argh.

I was at least 25 miles from home. Could I actually continue to ride this thing? I wrapped the loose spoke around a sound one, opened up the brake caliper quick release and wobbled down the road. It actually didn't ride too horribly, and I carefully completed my ride without further incident.

The bike sat for a week or so before I got around to tinkering with it. Fortunately, I've recently added a truing stand to my mostly working collection of bike tools. My previous method of wheel truing consisted of spinning my wheels on the bike and guesstimating the location and amount of wobble using my brake pads, then making adjustments with a spoke wrench. Works in a pinch, but not a precision truing method by any means.

Now I actually had a reason to try out my new stand! After removing and measuring the old spoke, I hit my LBS up for a couple of spares (just in case). Good thing, too, because as I was tightening spokes two other spoke nipples fractured as I ended replacing three spokes instead of one. But the wheel trued up just fine. I reassembled the wheel and reinstalled, anticipating my next ride.

Back on the same bike next weekend, admiring my handiwork. Doing my regular out-and-back fitness ride, about four miles out and a different, familiar, and unwelcome sound.

Ssssssssssss....... crap!

The crap! part always happens after I hear the first noise.

My rear tire was rapidly deflating. Oh well, these things happen. I happened to be carrying an extra tube in my saddlebag, quickly switched it out, reinflated, and I was on my way. Out to the turn around point, then back toward town.

Sssssssssss.....damn! Not again!

Now all I was left with was a patch kit about 6 miles out of town. I grabbed the cell phone out of my jersey pocket and phoned the wife. While she was on her way, I found that my tube had a small puncture in it, used my patch kit and it seemed to hold. My wife suggested I throw the bike in the bed of the truck and just drive home, but I was determined to finish my ride. She drove down the road a mile or so, pulled off on a side road, and waited. As I passed her, I gave her the thumbs up.

Another mile or so down the road and...

Sssssssssssss...%#$*! (expletive deleted)

You've got to be kidding me. As my wife pulled up behind me, with her best "I told you so" grin, I conceded defeat and tossed the bike in the back of the truck. We had other places to go and things to do. While we were out, I began to wonder why my wheels were flatting with alarming regularity. I did remember to install a new rim strip after I repaired the spokes.

Maybe that was the problem. I used a thin, rubber rim strip. Maybe it slid away from the spoke holes, exposing them and pinching the tire. Each time I changed my tire on my previous ride, I had to reposition the strip to make sure it adequately covered the spoke holes. Plus, I had checked the tire very carefully inside and out. No glass, tacks, nails, thorns, Jackalope antlers, or other sharp objects sticking through the tread or the inside of the casing.
I managed to convince the wife to stop by a sporting goods store and I picked up a roll of Velox rim tape. When I had a chance to change the tube (again), I checked my patching work (it held), and there was another small pinch in another area. Tape, tube, tire, and back on the bike.
Yes, it worked. A short shakedown cruise, then a longer ride.

Moral of the story: even with a well stocked saddlebag, carry a cell phone. And no more rubber rim strips! Lesson learned.

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