If anything simply cannot go wrong, it will anyway.
Every once in a while I get a kick in the butt by Mr. Murphy, sort of ‘his’ gentle way of reminding me that despite the fact that I think I have century riding figured out, I don’t. Case and point is today’s century ride (or attempt at it) with a great group of people, none of whom I ever met in person before, but we corresponded via Twitter (@roadchickie) and through our Blogs (MyDogParty).
The plan was simple: ride an unsupported century ride from Malibu to Carpenteria and back. We met up at Neptun’s Nest in Malibu and rolled shortly after 8 am. This is what cycling is all about – what a great time riding with this group. Friendly banter, lots of egos (in a good way) and tons of ribbing among those who knew each other already. The ride started out rolling easy to allow everyone to warm up and then, gradually the tempo picked up and different groups split up. I got to hang with 8 of the guys termed “hammer heads”, but the pace was holding steady between 20 to 23 mph.
All was well until about mile 22. We just came off a re-group some 3 miles back and we were coasting along nicely, when POW, the rear tire flatted. No big deal right? – Right! Plenty of people in the group hollered “you OK?” – sure, I waived them on, after all this is not the first time I had a flat tire.
Are you ready for Mr. Murphy? (come on, people, cheers, I want to hear cheers!!!) Ready?
Never use a tool for an emergency you have never tried before! – A couple of weeks ago I tired of carrying a small pump in my jersey pocket and figured it would be so much cooler to carry one of those spiffy, tiny CO2 pumps with a cartridge. I proceeded to change the tube and got ready to pump up the tire and I still have no clue what and how I did it, but somehow the CO2 froze the valve nipple and it snapped off clean (no laughing allowed – at least not yet).
Pay attention to the fit of your backup supplies. OK – so destroying my first spare tube is not smart, but, like the good boy scout I am, I have a second tube. So, change the whole thing again get ready to pump up, but wait – what is that?? The spare CO2 cartridges I purchased for the CO2 bump have no threads in the neck??!! I had no clue there were two different pump systems. (Oh, how I wished I had my hand pump on me). Hm, time for inventory: at least 3 miles from the last gas station, last tube in, cartridges which don’t fit the receiver nozzle – nice!
When you ride in an unsupported long distance ride, be sure you have a way to contact the group. – As I sit on the side of the road it dawns on me that I have no way to contact anyone in that group. Not that I want for someone to come back, but to give them an update and the peace of mind that all that happened is nothing serious. After sitting there for 5 minutes I decided to put the bike on my shoulder and hoof it back towards the gas station. I came across a mini-mall and made stopped in all the stores in the hopes that someone might be cycling to work and had a pump on their bike – no such luck. So, off I go and hump some more! About a mile into my trek a fellow cyclist in the opposite lane sees my plight and stops (THANK YOU!). His pump made quick work of my tire. OK, so now I am at least 35 minutes behind, but I know the route and the turnaround, and figure I’ll have a chance to catch the group on their return and off I go.
When you know you are out of supplies (no spare tube and no pump) you don’t head further out! – Yes, about 3 miles later, blowout! (no, you still can’t laugh!) Mr. Murphy really hammered his message home. The funny thing is the fact that I just commented yesterday to my wife how much I love my tires and that I didn’t have a flat in more than 3000 miles!! Now I am out of easy options, 6 miles from the nearest gas station (at least that is what my iPhone said), no tube, no air and acres of agricultural land surrounding me with a road stretching straight as far as I can see North to South with nothing on it, but cars.
It’s been a while since I hitchhiked and I figured it would be best to look ‘distressed’. I put the bike on the shoulder, kept the helmet on, straps undone, jersey halfway zipped down (easy now, I have a base layer on) and looked about as helpless as I could dredging along the road side (not difficult to simulate). It only took about ten minutes before a guy with a pickup (Mitch – a chiropractor and fellow cyclist) stopped, put my ride into the back of the truck and hauled my sorry ass into Ventura to his LBS (a TREK dealer and very nice people). Thank you, Mitch!
It being Saturday, the workshop was very busy and I took the tire off again and took extra care in checking the tire and found the culprit: several tiny metal shards I did not feel before. Based on this I decided to get a new tire, 3 tubes (one to mount and two to spare) and yes, you guessed, a pump! (now you can laugh). I was fully prepared to change the tire myself when the head wrench offered to do it since I bought all this other stuff (never turn down a pro).
Soon thereafter I was backtracking my way towards Malibu. Mr. Murphy didn’t rear his head again, nor did I ever see anyone of my group again, which I really regret. I left a note on one of the cars and hopefully our group leader got the message (I know I would be worried about a missing rider if I were the lead).
Bottom line: know how to use the tools you have, keep it simple and know how to reach members in your group. I really don’t want to knock the CO2 system, it probably works well when handled correctly and I assume full responsibility for operator error. However, you will see me from now on always with a mini-pump in my jersey pocket.
I made some great connections today and wished I could have been there for the lunch break, shoot the breeze and get to meet some of the people I didn’t have a chance to chat with on the ride. I know there were 5 ‘century virgins’ in the group and look forward to find out how they did. You’ll have to do the same as I: visit My Dog Party for the full story