By Christopher Cudworth
Not being the supremely mechanical type when it comes to bike maintenance, there are occasions when riding my bike is an experiment in physics.
Like yesterday. When I got to the group ride it was disturbing to notice that my front tire had a pronounced protuberance near the stem. I pulled the tire free after letting the air out and tried to wedge the inner tube into the stubborn space under the tire. No go. Time was flying by. It was time to go.
So I sucked it up and rode with the front tire going thump thumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthump
32 miles it did this. At a 21.2 mph average.
At one point I wondered how much efficiency a bump in the tire like that could cost you. 1%? 2% 10%? Was I forced to ride that much harder just to keep up? But let’s face it: Answers to those kinds of questions are best not considered during the ride. Save it for later.
Yet your mind goes back to those poison calculations when the pace picks up. Then the tire goes even thumpier, faster, and you look around at the $7000 bikes with carbon fiber wheels and carbon fiber athletes perched atop their carbon fiber seat posts on carbon fiber saddles and your brain starts to work on you.
Then they pull away at 28 mph and try as you might, the gap forms and you’re off the back. Going thump thumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpt
On top of all that there’s a mild cold working. Not the achey kind with snot and difficulty to breathe. Just the type that makes you a little cranky and lacking social graces.
Then a chain falls off and you’re forced to ride 30 mph just to catch back on. But you do it, and start to recover, and someone goes to the front and picks up the group pace to 25 mph. You cling (or at least I did…) as long as possible and it becomes a losing proposition.
One must consider the blame here. Before a group ride it always pays to do a mechanical check from front to back, top to bottom on the bike. No excuses. Check your tire pressure and put your brake lever by the pads down into position so that you actually have brakes. It’s the basics of biking. Otherwise you get to a group ride and have to learn to live with this: thump thumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpt
Did I mention that gets a little annoying after 30 miles? And that you don’t really want to talk to anyone when that happens, because it makes you assess all your habits and what a loser you can be for not checking your bike before taking it out for a workout?
It’s all part of the picture. We all have our good days and our bad days. But then my girlfriend put it in perspectives. “You know, when it’s all said and done, we can be grateful to be the age we are and ride as fast as we do.” And that made me a little less grumpy, except for the sound of my heart in my chest, fighting hard to restore balance in my struggle with a mild common cold. But my heart talked back going thump thumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpt.
And for that we call all be grateful.