hell week day 4

4 days down, 4 to go. This morning I awoke to the sound of Scott swearing loudly at the coffee maker, which had apparently decided that three days was about as long as it needed to work and it was break time now. None of us could figure out why, but it wouldn't start. So we packed it back up into its box -- none of us ended up bringing ours, despite earlier plans to do so, so we bought a new one at WalMart when we arrived -- and drank EconoLodge lobby coffee instead. Walking to the lobby was probably a good thing anyway, since I otherwise wouldn't have known how FRIGGIN' COLD it was. The weather report claimed it was 35 degrees, though I'm not sure it was really that cold. Chilly though. I wore arm warmers and my wind jacket and was still cold for the first half hour.

All ten of us started together this time, but quickly broke up into smaller groups. Nate took off for a faster ride, as did Belgian Bella (they ended up riding together, I think), and Sascha and Scott dropped back, and I rode with the rest of the Bella team all day. It was a much more leisurely ride than the last few days had been, which was fine with me. I'm ready for a rest day for sure. It was by far the best weather we've had, though, so it was a great day for a long easy ride. After the first half hour it warmed up enough that I took my jacket and armwarmers off, and the high was in the low 70s with almost no wind at all and no clouds in the sky. I am starting to get a wicked glove tan to show off when I get home. You'll notice in yesterday's pictures that my natural state this time of year is glow-in-the-dark white, so "wicked" is a relative term. You Californians won't be impressed.

The route was fun too, with larger rollers than we've had the last few days. It took longer to crest each one, but the descents were longer as well. Nothing like we had when we did the Great Arizona Bicycle Adventure tour in 2004, but long enough to be a nice reward.

Now, before I even left Minnesota, my right shift lever was starting to poop out a bit. I would try to shift to a bigger cog and my lever would just flop around uselessly, not catching anything. I could get it to catch if I braked and shifted at the same time, which is rather counterproductive in a paceline, but it only did it some of the time and I didn't have time to mess with it anyway, so I just brought it to Texas and kept my fingers crossed that it wouldn't get any worse. And it hasn't, really, not that way. Shifting to a smaller cog, on the other hand, is now a problem where it hadn't been before. As the day wore on it took more and more effort to get the damn thing to catch and shift, and about 45 miles in I found myself at the top of a huge hill and completely unable to get the chain off my 27 cog. (For non-cyclist readers, that is the "going up really big hills" gear, thus not a good one to be stuck in when you have half an hour of descent ahead of you.) I coasted for a long time, but on shallower parts of the descent I really needed to be pedaling. The best I could do was a 53/27. My bike didn't like that much. Rowr, rowr, rowr, rowr, it said, and went 14 miles an hour while my pals disappeared into the distance. I pedaled harder. Rowr, rowr, rowr, rowr.

Some guys passed me, chuckling. "Dropped you off the back, did they," they said. "Heh, heh."

The road tilted up a bit, so my rowr-rowring bike and I finally caught up, and I asked if anybody knew how to manually force a derailleur onto a different cog so at least I could be stuck on something reasonable instead of a 27. They didn't, but everybody stopped to try. We all failed. A couple random people stopped to try and help, but they couldn't figure it out either, so they eventually took off, and I decided to call Nate and see if he was back yet. When all else fails, call the sag wagon. But he wasn't answering his phone, so I got ready to rowr-rowr the last 16 miles at 13 mph. Right then, another group of people rode by.

When you're on a ride like this and you see people off their bikes at the side of the road, you holler "Got everything you need?" as you pass. Generally you don't mean much by it, since it's almost always a flat tire and everybody has their own tire changing stuff, but it's the polite thing to do. So as this group rode past us, they hollered "Need help with anything?" and we hollered back, "Not unless you're a derailleur expert!"

And one of the guys said "I am!" and pulled over. And he listened to my sob story, and he grabbed my lever and wrenched it sideways in a really violent way that I would never have done to my own bike, and it worked again. "You just got to get a little rough with 'em when they get like that," he said. "I've seen 'em like that before. Your shifter's about to wear out though, honey." All in a deep Texas drawl, of course.

I sighed and said "Yeah, I know." Because one of the GP guys had said the same thing. Plus the shifters are pretty old -- the Salsa, you may recall, is a mishmash of parts thrown onto a new frameset, and I don't actually know how old the shifters are. The bike I got them on was a 2002, but I'm pretty sure the guy I got it from had put older components on that frame too. So lord only knows how old these things are. And while the guy on the road got it to work for a bit, it didn't last long before it was feeling pretty arthritic again, so I'm not too excited about riding with it for three more days.

But I got going again, and a minute later Bella P turned to me and said "I've got some extra energy right now, want to go hard for a while?" I can't pass that up, so we took off and hammered for about ten minutes until we missed a turn and had to turn around. Then we met back up with the group and cruised the last ten miles back to the EconoLodge, where Nate was sitting outside the motel door in his sweaty kit, having forgotten that he had no room key when he took off for his faster ride.

Tomorrow was going to be my rest day anyway, either completely off the bike or a short 25ish mile ride, so I guess I have time to figure this out. The shop in Fredericksburg doesn't happen to have a nine-speed Ultegra lever laying around, so we may have to go to Austin, but only if we can find a shop that does have the part and is willing to fix it ASAP, since I need any and all work to be finished by tomorrow night. Or hell, San Antonio would be okay too.

Still, as problems go, it ain't bad. There were a number of crashes yesterday on the A ride, all at a slick water crossing, and while no details were really given out, injuries included at least one concussion and several broken bones, and apparently somebody had to have some surgery to "put stuff back where it belongs." So when water goes across the road for a long enough time that algae starts to grow, get off and walk. Now you know.

Oh yes, and we exchanged the coffee maker at WalMart, in case anybody was concerned about that. Whew.


Blogger Jill said...

I envy you guys down there riding through Texas. Sounds like a hell 'o a time.

3/14/2006 10:42 PM  
Anonymous Stan said...

Yup. Those derailleurs are sometimes finicky. I did my time working in a bike shop years ago and I learned about all kinds of things that can go wrong with them. But hey, you can avoid all the trouble if you do like me and ride everywhere in one gear. Just pick something around 64 inches (42x18) or so. Riding that up hills will make you strong, and riding that fast on the flats will teach you to spin. At least that's what they told me back in 1976 when I started racing. So far I've only found one hill that I couldn't ride up in that gear.

3/15/2006 12:06 AM  
Anonymous andy said...

I saw the shifters on the salsa, they are definitely older than 2002. The good news is, that if you find someone with a replacement, you can do it yourself pretty easy. Just unscrew the allen bolt that fixes the shifter to the bar completely and take the shifter off (it will leave the band clamp on the bar under the tape). Then, unscrew the band clamp from the new shifter and screw it onto the one that is already on the bar. Should be pretty easy other than the requisite cable changing you're going to have to do.

3/15/2006 7:47 AM  
Blogger annie said...

Jill, if it makes you feel better, I was getting jealous reading all your mountain-biking adventures this winter. I don't have a mountain bike, but your blog made me want one!

Andy, how old do you think they are? I've never paid attention to the year to year differences. All I know is they were a lot shinier when I got them than they are now... damn Dakota crash....

3/15/2006 9:02 AM  
Blogger Caloi-Rider said...

Weird. Is that a western thing or something. I don't think I know any roadies out here who don't have mt bikes as well.
I don't know any/everything about shifters, but I just remedied a shifter problem last night by spraying a ton of lubricant through the shifter. Maybe it would work for you (and be cheaper than a new shifter, though I guess you'd only be delaying the inevitable). Take the shifter cover off and specifically spray from the side into the case where the cable is, go crazy on it until it's foaming, then let the lube drip out. This could be completely pointless, but I thought I'd mention it since it worked for me recently.

3/15/2006 11:13 AM  
Blogger Tim Jackson- Masi Guy said...

Worse case scenario- I have an old Ultegra 9spd shifter I can mail you... though it would likely arrive as you are leaving.

3/15/2006 11:16 AM  
Blogger Pete said...

I'm extremely relieved that you will have quality coffee.

3/15/2006 1:17 PM  
Blogger annie said...

Caloi, almost everyone I know also has a mountain bike. It's just me. And I want one, it just hasn't made its way to the top of the financial priority list yet. You know how that goes.

3/15/2006 1:51 PM  
Blogger Caloi-Rider said...

True. But I've got to tell you that a decent mt bike is much more affordable than a decent roadie. I bought my mt bike (the Caloi) in '98 for $450, but I can still more or less keep up with my friend who rides a Scott Scale on it. You can get a pretty sweet bike for $400-$700.

3/16/2006 3:00 PM  

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