Friday, April 16, 2010

The Year of the Broken Bicycles

Mt. Lemmon, where the Tucson Bike Gods live.

Its been a long week and this morning I thought I'd do the long commute route to the office. By long I mean its just about four extra miles, but it means about eight miles of climbing first thing out the door. For a Friday morning, that's pretty tough. I've been a bit lazy and I've taken the dive-bomb run straight down on Thornydale, which is a narrow busy and beat-to-hell road--but four miles shorter and about 30 minutes faster.

Heading East on rural Moore Rd, you see up there, there was not a car for almost the whole eight miles--at 5:30 a.m. that's pretty good. Oh, I did see one other cyclist coming from the opposite direction, and we both waved good morning. Cool...

Oro Valley, on La Canada, looking North back from the way I came this morning.

In the photo above, I've been riding along the Tortolita Mtn Range, and then I plunge down into Oro Valley. La Canada has been re-paved and the bike lane is smooth and wide. The Oro Valley Police station is right up there at the top so people drive very slow to avoid tickets--I mean they drive very very slow. You realize this when you drive yourself, because you're like, "Why is everyone driving like a zombie?" The answer is that you see the Police Cruisers everywhere--the guys are coming and going into the station. Nobody wants a ticket.

Calle Concordia and Pusch Ridge, and the sights and sounds of horses.

I ride through the old ranch roads, and where people still keep a handful of horses in their backyard. Usually it has been pretty dark when I'm riding through here, but this morning, residents are doing chores--feeding the cats, the dogs, and the horses.

Breakfast with bikes and horses this morning.

East on Calle Concordia.

You wouldn't realize it, but at the end of this pastoral road, there's Oracle Rd--one of Tucson's busiest arteries, even now packed with cars and people driving to work. I'm glad that these old ranch road finally got paved so cyclists have a way to go around all that traffic. Rugged Pusch Ridge dominates the horizon and I want to be past Oracle Rd as soon as possible because the sun will be in everyone's eyes and that's a bit dangerous for me on the bike.

On this route I want to wear the bright jersey as I'll be riding on a busy road right at sunrise and it will be blinding for car drivers, and for me too.

Traffic is a bit lighter on an early Friday morning in Tucson, Gentle Readers of This Blog, and before long, I am past the busy intersection of Oracle Rd and Ina Rd, and making good time climbing East on Ina. The long route I've taken this morning puts me right out ahead of all the construction on Ina and La Canada, which has been my normal commute route since I started working at the Desert San back in 2006. I had better wait until the construction and re-paving there is completed before I ride there--at this time in the morning, the sun is such that you can't see, and you have to maneuver through everything ripped up.

My trusty 1977 Raleigh Super Grand Prix--she gets me to the office once again, safe and sound.

After I rode in a rain storm a few weeks ago, my rear brake cable, probably needing to be replaced, got worse and rusted and on a Sunday morning spin with the Boss, I realized I had no rear break that worked. Alan said it would be okay, but just be careful. So I rode all last week, Bike 2 Work Week, with just a front brake, and really no problem, mes amis.

However this morning, I was on my usual commute route which is all climbing, and then when I reach the very top of the route, I have a 35 mph descent down into my office and the campus of the Desert San. To make a long story a bit shorter, I was coming down Craycroft Rd, which is smooth and fast with not much traffic--and I was hauling-ass--and the light at River Rd changed to Red--and I realized that I had no brakes. I had to very carefully slow myself down using the front brake--and it did protest, Gentle Readers of This Blog, moaning and squeaking as I put down the pressure. I was able to finally stop but not until I was almost in the middle of the intersection. I had to real quick turn around and ride back to the stop light as the other traffic began to roll across as the light changed green for them.

This may not seem like a big deal but at the time, I was wondering if I was going to be able to stop--and stop without going over the handle bars. No more fooling around, I'm taking the bike to Phil at Pima Street Bikes to drop off at my lunch hour. Rico can fetch me after work and we can ride home together.

I call the shop late afternoon and Phil says the bike is ready. First of all he shows me the old frayed cables, and the rust in the housing--I expected that much. But then he showed me what looked like a rear axle--broke in half. Yep, there goes the beer money for the weekend. Phil had a used one and replaced it for me, which saved me a few bucks. But the other news is that my rear tire was coming apart--so he showed me the damage. I said I'd been riding a lot and he said, "Yeah I can tell!"

Pretty much, after beating my Trek all to Hell--I've now done the same on the Raleigh.

I don't know what its been this year, but things are breaking--I'm needing to replace everything. All my parts are cracked and worn out. You think my bikes are in bad shape, all my bike clothes are coming apart as well. This seems to be the case with other riders I'm reading on their blogs. I believe its time for me to start learning how to be more of a mechanic--and although Phil is the best and his prices can't be beat--I may have to start hunting for the deals on the web, and then replace this stuff on my own.

I'm also wondering if a road bike for commuting is the right kind of bike for the conditions of my route--should I save the nicer bikes for the spins with the lads? Baby my Super Grand Prix? Or should I find some old beater that can take the punishment of the rough pavement around here?

Anyone have luck with some tires they like? I've use some that are CTS--cheaper but they are not holding up very well. I have the Continentals, the ones made in Taiwan for commuter bikes, and they seem to only last for 300 to 500 miles...

Thanks for reading the blog--Cheers! Bruce


Big Oak said...

Bruce, glad to hear you weren't injured from your broke brake incident. And it is good Phil caught the broken axle. You may want to ask Phil if he would order parts for you, then you could put them on yourself. My LBS will order stuff for me, then I buy it when it comes in. It's slightly more expensive than buying on line, but when I have to add on shipping and handling, on line purchases suddenly don't seem to be as good of a deal.

As for tires, I have a set of Schwalbe Marathon tires I have close to 4,000 miles on. And I've only had one flat. They are probably much heavier and slower than the tires on your Grand Prix, but I am no speed demon. They are also expensive, but when you add up the cost of tires that last maybe 500 miles, suddenly the Schwalbe's become a better deal.

I commute almost exclusively on my 2007 Specialized Tricross, which is a cyclocross bike. It is very sturdy, and has been a great bike for me. I have a few old steel framed bikes from the 70's and 80's that I still ride, but the Tricross gets the bulk of the riding. It is heavier than a real road bike, but again, I am no speed demon, and I can ride where most road bikes dare not tread.

Steve A said...

Regardless of the other stuff, those "aw #$%" moments are one reason why you practice the bike handling skills!

Doohickie said...

When I still worked at the old place, there was another bike commuter that worked in a neighboring building. I spoke to him once or twice. Anyway, one day he rode down Hooter's Hill (on which I could get up to 40 mph on a hybrid without too much effort) on his son's bike and realized way too late that the brakes on the bike didn't work too well. He ended up slamming into the back of a car driven by someone from my office. He apparently lost consciousness briefly and they called the ambulance. He lived to tell the tale, but... ouch.

Sir Bikesalot said...

28c tires offer a smoother ride and save a bit of wear and tear on rougher roads. I use Gatorskins myself and get good mileage when I don't thrash them on road hazards (razor blades and stuff that nothing can withstand). I doubt your trek could handle 28's but they might be a good idea for your Raleigh. Older road bikes handle rougher roads a lot better than today's road bikes, have more brake clearance, and I think you would see the larger tires make a big difference and last longer. They aren't much slower either if you use the same pressure. Some tests show that on rougher roads they are actually faster since the wheel doesn't bounce around as much.
Anyway that's my 2 cents. A dedicated commuter makes sense as you can put all the heavy duty indestructible parts on when you don't mind losing a bit of performance but have a greater need of dependability. Then you can save the performance machine for the rides where you really nead it.