|Its a fact of life;
anything that can be made, can, and will be broken. Even ancient rock is slowly worn away
by wind and water. So why are we surprised when our puny machines of tin and plastic let
us down? Words and phrases like "unbreakable", "more durable", and
"lifetime guarantee" pop into our heads from that over-hyped purchase in a bike
shop not-so-long ago. Like I said, its a fact of life that bikes break, not a
question of if, just a question of when. Be prepared or be prepared to walk, and
sometimes, youve got improvise too. Reptar and me we know, because we ride long and
sometimes we ride hard, and sometimes we (mostly Reptar) break stuff. Yet, we almost
always ride back.
Once we were riding along Roaring Brook to do a
ride past Scary-Ass-Bridge to the tunnel where the Mutant-Albino-Fish lives. About halfway
to the bridge Reptars seatpost started to slide down. Now you can ride a bike with
the seatpost down, I even heard of a guy who has no seat or seatpost at all, and another
one with just a seatpost (but we dont do that kind of material here). Like I said,
you can ride with the seatpost down, but its not fun and our ride was in jeopardy.
We stopped at least three times to tighten the clamp but the post kept sliding.
Thats the karma he gets for buying cheap mail-order parts. We were underneath
Scary-Ass-Bridge when the bolt finally snapped; now it was time to improvise (a lot).
There are plenty of places to swipe a bolt for your seatpost clamp. Bar ends (who needs
those stupid things anyway) or the preload bolt from a threadless headset (thats the
bolt on top you tighten before you tighten the stem) are easy places to get one. We stole
the preload bolt, but the original problem still remained, the seatpost was too thin where
it needed to be clamped (a manufacturer defect). Luckily we live in an area where there is
never a shortage of empty beer cans. Using a knife we made a shim out of one of the many
we had to choose from and with a little work installed it and all seemed well. That was
when the threads stripped out of the clamp, the rear tire popped and a frightening cackle
followed. Now remember that were making our repair underneath the bridge & it
turned out that the whole time this weird guy perched on an access ledge with a six-pack
was watching us from 30 feet up. After a quick "howyadoin" exchange with the guy
we figured we better get Reptar up and riding because this guy was probably armed and his
sixer was almost empty. Reptar set to fixing the flat (wasnt that weird?) while I
cannibalized my folding allen wrench tool for a nut (yep, its the right size). Our
stolen replacement bolt had enough threads sticking out to put the nut on, so we thanked
the guy for the beer can, didnt get shot and finished our ride (couldnt
find the Mutant-Albino-Fish though).
Another time we were riding with the Woodsman
when we realized hed forgotten his helmet (even mountainbike crackpots need to
protect whats left of their brains). He just plain old rode off and forgot it. Then
he made an even worse mistake, he started to ride carefully, and in the middle of a rock
garden he crumpled over (not enough speed to "float" over the rocks) and snapped
his rear derailleur clean off. Not having a spare (shame on us) we resorted to the old
Convert-it-to-Single-Speed trick. Sometimes this trick works well, other times its
finicky as all hell. You pick a single gear combo with a straight chain line (usually the
middle chainring and a middle cog) and shorten the chain to bypass the rear derailleur.
Then you cross your fingers and walk up the steep stuff (unless you're Captain Big Ring).
It gave him trouble a couple of times but the Woodsman just shut up and rode and we made
it to the falls and back again. If you bring anything at all with you, always bring a
Stuff like that happens to us all
the time. We patched a sidewall gash with moleskin from a first aid kit, secured a loose
water bottle & cage with police caution tape, straightened chainrings with rocks, and
willed many wheels back into roundness (well, maybe ovalness). Weve fixed more than
a couple lights on night rides by cutting out the switches and fuses (most bike lights
work best with just a bulb wired to a battery-screw the rest). Do you know that you can
use the sleeves from a t-shirt with your former employers name on it as toilet
paper? You know what happens, so youd better be ready.