Close, but no cigar

I felt great when I rolled into Greenwater, the point geographically farthest from the start of Saturday’s 200k brevet. I got my card stamped inside the store, reloaded my water bottles with the unnatural blue sports drink, and chomped away on a slab of vanilla ice cream surrounded by two, chewy chocolate chip cookies. I reckoned the remaining forty, mostly downhill miles would be easily doable within the five hours of time remaining. All the steady winter riding had finally paid off. I’d complete my first ever brevet.


As I was pushing the bike back towards the road, I heard a pssht pssht noise coming from the rear wheel. Given how … seasonal the weather had been all morning, I attributed this to road sludge. Squirts of blue from the water bottle didn’t help. Loosening the brake actually made it sound worse. Strange. With the bike seat held up, I gave the pedal a spin. The tire was waaaay out of true: a spoke bolt had sheared off.

I seriously considered riding it some more on the theory that it couldn’t get that much more broken, and if it didn’t, I’d be that much closer to finishing. However, I didn’t want déjà vu. Also, Greenwater’s general store was the last facility for about 20 miles, and the “town” itself well within the cell phone dead zone. Thus began a conversation like this:

Janet: [no doubt seeing the Caller ID as “pay phone” or “idiot”] Hello?

Me: Can I ask for a huuuuuuge favor?

So as part of the agreement, I profess my idiocy:

  • When I noticed the rim was worn on my beefy wheels, I put my spare wheel on so I could ride to and from work while the replacement was being built.
  • The replacement was delivered Thursday. I should have put the replacement on then. However, after a rough week at work, it was easy to rationalize “I’ll do it Sunday, while I’m cleaning the bike up anyway.”
  • As this book notes, 24-spoke rear wheels (such as the spare) are unsuitable for randonneuring, especially if the rider is over 120.5 pounds, and/or over the age of 30, and/or riding on imperfect roadways (uphill, in the rain), and/or of questionable sanity.
  • I wasn’t carrying any spare spokes. (I just invested in a pair of FiberFix emergency spokes like John told me to months ago.)

While I waited, I listened to some other drama that put my situation into perspective:

Clayton and his friend Vince spent Saturday snowmobiling. Clayton, possibly under the influential goading of Bud Weiser, got a little too wild with his sled, flipping it over and disabling the vehicle. Vince went back to get the pickup. While backing it up, he broke its steering column.

Vince abandoned the truck in the middle of the forest road, then towed Clayton’s sled to wherever they initially started. They enlisted the help of “some dude” who gave them a ride to the general store where they could call a tow truck… only, there was some miscommunication and “Some Dude” didn’t wait for them. They were agitated at the prospect of their snowmobiles being parted out on eBay.

Their calls to the towing company were complicated by them:

  • not having enough spare change. (They declined my offer of my phone card.)
  • not asking about local geography, as in “We’re in Greenwater, the closest city is Enumclaw. E-N-U-M-C-L-A-W.”
  • Vince trying to haggle price with the tow truck dispatcher. “How much credit do I get with an AAA card? If the meter’s running, then just meet us at the truck. It’s on Forest Road 70.” (Personally, for the extra $3, I’d just have them meet me at the store where there are toilets, food and drinks.)

Other thoughts:I have a lot of fun checking out the other randonneurs’ bikes as they’re very pragmatic: fenders with mud flaps, a handlebar or seat bag for sundries, and frequently a hub-based generator system.

The weather was manageable: rainy, but not as cold as some thought.   (Maybe low 40s?)  I wore a long sleeve wool jersey underneath my rain jacket, wool socks, beefy windproof spandex pants (over bike shorts), full-fingered gloves, and rain booties. The only thing I was kind of missing was the head beanie, if only to keep my ears warm.  After the first half hour, I reached a nice equilibrium.

I liked the route, especially the parts to the far west (Dash Point, with its occasional views of the billowing plumes from the Port of Tacoma) and far east (Kanasket/Cumberland farmlands).  There was a pleasant dearth of chip seal!

Janet was very nice about this whole thing. I owe her big time.

9 thoughts on “Close, but no cigar”

  1. The way that personal debt accounting works in this family is that a long-distance rescue as you describe could be paid off by a.) flowers, b.) dinner for two, or c.) all of the above.

    A three-day weekend to ride in Pendleton, Oregon requires jewelry.

    If you have occasion to use a fiber-fix spoke, remove it yourself before dropping your wheel at the shop. The guys at my LBS had not seen one before, so they just cut it off and threw it away.

  2. Lynne F. told me that you were DNF – now I know why. It’s not from a lack of stoutness of leg, it was due to spindly spokes.

  3. I’d have gladly given you my fiber-fix spoke, but I guess we didn’t intersect at the store. Sorry.

  4. Claire – the spindly spokes (versus legs) was ironic. But, I was very pleased at feeling as well as I did that late into the ride.

    Lynne – thanks. I saw some of your photos on Flickr and am curious what you carry in your bag/what you find useful. I want to be more prepared next time 😉

    Sally – what John said. On a 36-spoke wheel, the loss of one spoke would cause a slight wobble, but I could have tied it off and continued riding. With the 24-spoke one, the wheel had an uneven spot where it moves about 1 1/2 inches out of true (unless contained by the brake). It’s very unstable with any side loads like turns.

  5. I think I’m not using my bike hard enough. The worst I’ve ever done is pop a tire on a curb.

    Glad to know you had an enjoyable time despite the spokeyness.

  6. I’m sorry it didn’t work out! But of course you got through with enough of a positive attitude to be able to observe (and report on) other entertaining dramas. Whee!

    Tell me I’m reading that -196 F in the image incorrectly?

  7. Woodstock – This wheel and I have a history. It’s now “swimming with the fishes.”

    Kiri – You are reading it correctly. The fireman washing the truck seemed puzzled why I was frantically digging my camera out of my bike bag. (Or, perhaps, why anyone would be purposely biking in the muck 😉

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