Author Archives: john
The sun was low in the sky on what had been a brilliantly cool desert day. We were on our second of three straight 60-plus-milers, and a welcome tail wind blew out of the north. We always gladly traded warmth for speed.
We were descending from a 6800 foot pass on Interstate 15 headed for Beaver, Utah, where our beds were. We were tired. Traffic sped by at 75 mph, the limit had been 80 mph moments earlier before we got into the canyon. On the steepest downhill portion I was holding my own at 39 mph. It felt exhilarating.
On a flat stretch five miles from Beaver, I felt something strange under my bottom, that for once wasn’t pain. It was like the feeling you get when a car hydroplanes in heavy rain. I looked down and could see the rear wheel wobbling between the forks. I had broken a spoke.
The last time that had happened to me I had remembered a sharp report, like a rifle shot. Apparently the highway noise had muffled that. A bad break, but really a lucky one. Often when a spoke breaks it takes a few of it’s neighbors among with it, and the results can get ugly. Particularly if it had happened a few minutes earlier at 39 mph. I refused to think much about that.
I had also never thought much about bike spokes. They were always just there, spinning around, behaving themselves. As a kid, I remember cleaning them so they sparkled, just like new bikes the week after Christmas.
Later in the motel I did some internet research. As I was soon to learn, spokes are the sine qua non of the bicycle. First and foremost spokes support my hefty derriere, all my luggage and occasionally more than 10 pounds of water I carried. As importantly they translate torque from my pedals and chain to the wheels which makes the bike go.
Sometimes more importantly, they translate the braking resistance from my levers on the handlebars to the tires to make the bike stop. The rub comes in when one of these guys breaks, and they will break, particularly on a bike weighted down in what is called “touring configuration.” That means overloaded. It’s just impossible to predict when they will break, sort of like earthquakes.
But you don’t just put on spokes and ride away. Not only is installation tricky, but they each have to be tensioned just right, to do their enormously important tasks. That’s why as I type, we’re waiting at a truck stop for the 4:20 pm shuttle to Cedar City where they’re bike shops. When your well being is on the line, let the professionals take over.
To be continued. Continue reading
The morning desert was chilly. The clouds that had brought rain to us, and flash floods to southern Utah, had passed, and we were left with just a partial overcast. A sky full of LPF’s I called it (PG-13 definition: … Continue reading
The day started off poorly. I wasn’t feeling very well, kind of like I might be coming down with something, and my timing was terrible. We had numerous chores before biking, and a 50-mile day, so told myself to “suck … Continue reading
I left Kansas City almost 50 years ago, and I’ve never looked back. At the time I couldn’t get out fast enough, and fortunately for readers, the space limits of this blog prevent discussing those details.
“New Mexico’s not gonna work.” “Why?” Mike asked. “Way too far between motels, altitude’s gonna screw up our daily mileage until we get used to it and it’s too far between motels. Like sometimes a hundred miles or more.” “Okay, … Continue reading
Well we made our first-stage (eastern) objective, despite two days of threatening skies and intermittent rain. We were greeted by friendly faces, the first home cooked meal in four weeks and my wife Marilyn, who showed up to surprise me. … Continue reading
Ken and Clare Hall, my brother-in-law and his wife, have been an integral part of my life for a long time. And not only are they family, they’re close friends as well. One of those nice twists of fate that … Continue reading
Ever since we left New York, crossing the Appalachian Mountains had been a big milestone. We knew the range had nothing like the height or reputation of its western siblings, but this gnarly, weatherbeaten series of ridges was intimidating. And … Continue reading
The lightening flashed and the thunder boomed. There was still some space between the two, and it wasn’t raining yet, so we kept on moving. Then the wind started blowing. In the lee of the houses there was a false … Continue reading