Saturday, January 26, 2013

In Which Mechanical Mishaps Prolong the Journey

Adventure number one: swapping pedals. The left one would not go on until I used an unnamed lubricant to clear the way. To be more cliche, I should have fixed the old ones with duct tape.
And now, 73rd Street is a bike route ...
I wonder to whom the sign is directed--me? The cars?  Anyway, this near the western, or "new" end of 73rd.

As usual with the first weekend of any semester, I have a lot of prep to do. So, I planned to ride to MMU this afternoon, spend a few hours working, and be home around 4 to meet the grandkids who were coming over, potentially to spend the night.

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and bikers.

Adventure number one was sort of planned. I broke my right pedal several weeks back, and have been planning to swap it out, but never have time in the morning before I ride to work. I decided to take time today. I had purchased a spare pair of pedals to use on Jon’s bike, but, since I can’t inflate his tires, decided I might as well use them on mine.

As I noted, the right pedal was broken. Since the new ones are not a perfect match, I planned to change both pedals. It turns out that the left one was the difficult one. After a few minutes struggle (and constantly reminding myself that left pedals are threaded backwards), I managed to get the old one to budge, and if it moves ¼ turn, you’re gold.

But, the old one apparently was so stuck that it damaged the final threads on the way out. And the new one refused to get started.

Well, I decided to try WD-40, and, in fact, it did the trick. Once squirted, the new pedal’s threads could get started.

A good mechanic would have changed the pedals in a few minutes. I am not a good mechanic. A half hour later than I had planned, I was finally able to hit the road.

My sister claimed she had driven over 73rd Street Northeast, the mythological road that is supposed to run between her neighborhood and mine, just last week. That road has been closed for repairs since the Bush administration, possibly even Bush the Elder. I had to return some videos (see my other blog) so I was almost to 73rd Street anyway, and I decided to try it and then take the Cedar River Trail to MMU.

The street was, as advertised, open. A bit of a surprise to me is that even the old section, which is really a rather narrow, primitive country road, is now labeled a “bike route,” so good on me for biking it.

The day was windy and cool, a bit cloudy and brisk, but the ride was pleasant until I approached the hill near HyVee Drug store, where the trail has crossed from Hiawatha into Cedar Rapids. As I approach a hill that is the approach to a bridge that goes over a rail line, I shifted into bigger gears in back and my rear derailleur started seriously “chunking,” like it was about to fall apart.

I stopped, checked it, and found the end of a bungee cord entangled in the gears and snagging some spokes. Well, hell’s bells. The cord was so taut that the hook at the end slightly misshapen, and if I had pedaled much more, either the hook would have given or the spokes would have snapped. And the spokes are a lot thinner than the hook, although I have to give them credit—they were unbent while the hook was misshapen.

Anyway, a slow, frustrating 25 minutes or so ensued where I was using various parts of my pocket knife. I sliced off the hook and then used the blade to slowly dig out the cord. It took some time and some tugging, but finally the cord, which was deeply embedded between gear cogs, popped out. Or, at least 2 inches of it that were still with the bike did. The rest, I suppose, is somewhere in Hiawatha or Cedar Rapids—the bungee cord had long been severed.

What with one thing and another, my journey to campus took close to two hours. I did get a little work done, but not much, and was slightly late getting back home. Still, the grandkids had just been dropped off, and no harm was done.

And I’m glad I carry a pocket knife along with all my other biking stuff.
My knife and the severed end of the bungee that became entangled in my back gears. I use bungees to secure my book bag to the back rack of my bike, and one slipped off and into the volcano whence Sauron had forged it to gather all bungees into the darkness.  Something like that.

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