Any ride you can crawl away from.

I have been having more than my fair share of flat tires lately.  It’s not as if I’m actually aiming for the broken glass and nails and such so much as they are hunting me down.  And they must be stealth nails, because I rarely see them.

December 30th – Scheduled my last long ride for 2012.  Started off by asking Google to show me a bicycle route from Brisbane, California to Tiburon and back – a metric century. Why consult with Google Maps, you might ask?  Don’t I already know the way?

Well, yes.  However, the bicycle option for Google Maps has often suggested interesting routes I would not have otherwise considered.

This was not to be the case on this day.  In fact, as I perused the suggested route, I came across item #36: Turn left to stay on the Coastal Trail.  Take the stairs.

Take the stairs? Just what part of bicycle did Google not understand?  A friend suggested that perhaps it thought I was asking for a cyclocross route.  Other than those stairs, Google’s route was the same as I’d’ve taken without inquiry.

On the road by 9:00 because I wanted to get back before dark, everything went according to plan until I sauntered into Sausalito.  Started out on the Mill Valley-Sausalito path and suddenly there was a lot more friction in the road than I liked. Looking down, I could see that the recumbent’s front wheel was in the process of going flat.

Damn.  Another one.

Pulled over and pulled out the fix-it kit, which included both patches and a spare tube.  I decided on the spare because that would be faster.  I could patch the old tube when I got home.

Back on the road — Yes!! Much better!  Cranked the velocity up to about 20 mph to take advantage of the flat path and windless day.  Went about a mile and then …

thump thump thump thump …

Before I could finish the thought, What the hell is that thumping?  POW!

The front tire failed explosively and I went tumbling, as my father would say, “asshole over appetite.”  The asphalt rose to slap me in the face and I blocked it with my right hand.


Whose idea was it to make asphalt out of such rough material?

Sliding several feet on hands and rump, all I could do was grit my teeth.  When the sliding stopped, I waited on all fours like a dog for the first wave of intense pain to pass.  After about three centuries, it did, and I picked myself up off the road.  Other cyclists were starting to gather.

“You okay?” they seemed to ask in unison.

Hmm.  Was I okay?  Quick check for broken bones and bleeding.  Seems I was able to protect all my favorite organs.  “I’m fine.  I think the bike is broken, though.”

Aside from the tire, the rear derailer lever was broken off.  That’s going to be fun.

Having assured them that I wasn’t going to pass out nor bleed to death, the other cyclists went their way, and I pulled out the fix-it kit again.

The new inner tube failed at the valve stem weld.  So now I have to patch the old inner tube, anyway.  Maybe I should write a letter of complaint to the tube manufacturer?  Would it do me any good?  Didn’t seem likely.

I had intended to meet a friend for lunch in Tiburon.  After explaining my delay by cell phone, we changed the lunch to Mill Valley.  Riding there, I discovered I could only change the cassette gears with great difficulty.  Effectively, I was stuck using the three gears available on the chainrings.

I needed to accomplish two things: Expedite the trip home and avoid the slog up the hill from Sausalito to the Golden Gate Bridge.  Fortunately, both of these were attainable by taking the ferry from Sausalito to San Francisco.  From there, it was relatively flat to Brisbane.

Except for one hill.  Third Street to Bayshore, near Candlestick.  I decided on an alternate route going around Candlestick Park, which was longer by a mile or so, but much flatter.

Little did I know that the 49’s had a game that day.  Hey, I’m not a football fan.  I hope they won and all that, but there I was, navigating around the aftergame traffic, police barriers, street vendors, and drunken fans on three gears.

Life is good!


Knowing When to Jump.

Yesterday (June 2) I woke up to read the news about a deadly bicycle verses car crash in Matamoros, Mexico. A drunk, sleepy driver plowed into a group of bicyclists who were participating in a 34-kilometer race, killing one and injuring at least 10 others, and someone actually took a picture at the moment of impact. Bicycles and young, healthy athletes are flying everywhere.

After taking a moment to reflect on the tragedy, I couldn’t help but also reflect on the suddenness of it. In one heartbeat, these people are enjoying a sunny spring day in northern Mexico, out for a competitive bike ride. They have planned, trained and lived for this moment for the last several days, weeks or months. And in the next heartbeat, they are colliding with a ton and a half of steel, glass and composites with enough kinetic energy to throw a dozen human bodies tens of feet into the air.

Life seems filled with sudden changes lately. Things that happen without apparent warning that change our lives unrecognizably. The empires fall, mountains explode, computers become central to our daily lives, a woman and a black man are serious contenders for the White House, the Century of the Automobile sputters to an end with unaffordable energy prices.

Some natural historians say that the world’s major changes happen slowly over unimaginable lengths of time. Some say they happen suddenly and episodically, citing violent upheavals that isolate populations and destroy others.

The other day, I was moving five-gallen bottles of water from the front porch to the kitchen. I had a firm grip on the bottle. I have done this task more times than I can remember without incident. Without any warning, the bottle slipped from my hands. It didn’t slide out of my hands. I didn’t slowly lose my grip. One moment, I was holding, the bottle, and the next I wasn’t. I still have no idea why it popped out of my hands, but my only thought after realizing that I was no longer holding 45 pounds of water was to get my feet out of the way.

Sometimes it seams like the best skill one can learn during a lifetime is knowing when to jump.