I realized yesterday just how thin a thread I’m hanging from*. I was standing in the Graham Hill parking lot, 20 feet from the beginning of the trails, with a pile of disorganized prototype bike at my feet. The bike was upside down, the back wheel was off, and the entire contents of my back pack were strewn around the scene. It was when I realized the spare tube I had with me had a big gash in it, that something snapped. I had a minor meltdown. A semi controlled melt down. I looked around for something to break, and ended up just throwing my hand pump at the ground. Twice. For emphasis.
I’m trying to figure out the right way to tell this story without boring the non bikers to tears with technical talk. I woke up yesterday morning with a sore throat, feeling crappy and in pain. The following day (today) promised to be gross and wet and sleeting (and it is). The trails have been wet and muddy and I hadn’t yet gotten a chance to actually RIDE the prototype Tight Ass that I finished over the weekend up in Vermont with the parts that Zach and Todd put together (not a shabby build in the end!). I realized that I had a one day window before the trails got WORSE and I’d have to wait a few MORE days for things to dry out. “I don’t have time for this,” I thought, and decided that I should pull on some tights and get on the train. I headed up to Pleasantville station (you remember pleasantville.. shudder), and rode the mile and a half to the Graham Hill parking lot. On the way, I noted that my seat wasn’t quite high enough, and that my rear tire felt a little low. Rather than ride straight into the woods, I decided to pause in the parking lot and tune up the prototype. The seat was no problem, of course.
I am running my tires tubeless on this bike. For you non bikers, that’s the same way car tires work. The tire just makes a seal against the rim and the air stays in. If the pressure goes low enough, though, the seal can break (particularly if your rims are all dented up), and to get the tire to seal again you need a pretty impressive blast of air.
As I attached my little hand pump to the valve to top up the tire, it made a sisssing sound and before I even realized what had happened I had a flat that I was going to need an air compressor to remedy. “well.. Shit. Guess I’ll have to throw a tube in there…” I’ve already described how that went. No patch kit. No compressor. No EXTRA extra tube. No other people, or even their cars in the parking lot with me. No immediate solution. “I don’t have time for this..”
I did the only thing I could. I started walking the mile and a half back to the train station in my cycling shoes, pushing a yet untested bike with a flat tire. Never even got it into the woods. Unbelievable. I held out SOME hope that maybe a local gas station would have a shraeder to presta adapter and that their compressor would be able to bail me out. This day HAD to be saved. I just wasn’t really getting my head around the notion that I had lost. That I had tried and lost.. that I was headed home, STILL without having actually ridden this bike.. that the next day was going to be crappy.. that I needed to start working on the REAL one, but needed to test this one out first.. That I had spent $20 on a round trip to nowhere.. Etc. Plod. plod. plod. “fuck. fuck. fuck. I don’t have time for this..”
“Can I help you somehow?”
I looked up and there he was! Arnold! (except I didn’t know that was his name yet..)
He was on a road bike, with a back pack that had a pair of suede dress shoes strapped to it, wearing a helmet with a head lamp on it (?)
“Not unless you have a 29er tube.”
“nope,” He started digging around in his saddle bag as though maybe one could be hiding in there.
“Cool bike! What is it?” I noticed that he DID have some co2 cartridges. We tried one, and it didn’t quite have the oomph to re-seat the tire.
“Well, I’m a frame builder.. It’s one of mine. This one is actually a prototype..”
I started telling him the story. When I got to the part about being pretty sick, something changed in his face.
“I was just riding to my girl friend’s place. We were going to hang out. Nothing planned. I can come back with a car!”
“Oh come on. Don’t be silly. Sometimes it’s just not meant to be. If I had an adapter, I could probably take care of it at a gas station..”
“Oh. Here. I have one. Take mine!” Of course you have one, I thought. What are you some sort of angel?
He left me with his adapter, and got back on his bike “yeah, I’m on the way.. I just stopped to help out another cyclist. I’ll be…” He trailed out of hearing.
My brother called.
“How is it!!!??”
“I don’t know.”
I explained what was going on.
“you don’t have TIME for this!!!!”
“Right. I know.”
“But seriously, this can’t happen! You have to have an adventure today!!”
“Yeah! right! I have a feeling that it’s going to be dark by the time I get home.”
I got to the gas station, got some quarters from the attendant, put the adapter on the valve, and dropped my money into the machine. It whimpered into action, and I knew I was nowhere. It didn’t stop me from putting another fifty cents in when the time ran out, though.
I tried right? Nothing to do for it but head back to the pleasantville station (two strikes now, pleasantville).
“Did it work?!”
I turned around and there was Arnold! With a car. Nooo shit..
“I told my lady the story in about two minutes.. We’re going to do whatever it takes. She agreed.. you HAVE to ride today!”
Arnold drove me three miles out of town to a bike shop, where Manuel put a little extra sealant in my rear tire and popped it back onto the rim. No problem.
“Y tu? De donde eres?”
“De aquí! Pero hace vente años, yo vivia en El Salvador por cinco o seis meses.”
“Pues, aprendiste hablar para sobrevivir”
“Si! Claro. Estaba viviendo con los guerilleros! Habia que aprender!”
“El Salvador is a tough place, man.. ” He turned to Arnold, “this guy is a tough guy, I can tell!”
I bought a 29er tube with no hole in it just to be safe.
Arnold packed me back into his car and delivered me back to the parking lot at Graham Hill, the whole time trying to figure out how quickly he could get his hands on a mountain bike so that he could ride with me (! He had called ahead to the bike shop to see if they rented. Unfortunately he had just sold his own, to put together the money for something with dual suspension).
“Is there nothing to be done? I mean I can’t get on a bike and ride it across the country or something?”
“To save me?”
“I’m afraid not.”
This guy was obviously an angel. We have plans to ride on friday if it seems that the trails have dried up enough.
Arnold. Thank you. Yesterday could have been a total loss, and not even a good story. It could have been the day that pushed me over the edge into a pretty depressed and listless state, instead I got in a great ride, met a new friend and riding partner, and have a good story to tell!
As soon as I got the bike into the woods, I knew there was something very right about it. It is so nimble compared to the longer wheel base of the double boinger that I’ve been riding. It feels light and responsive. The front end is easy to get off the ground and yet doesn’t seem to skip around when you’re climbing. Unlike a dual suspension bike, getting out of the saddle on a climb DOES something for you. The slacker than XC head tube makes it feel fun and stable on decents, with no fear of going over the bars. It’s an all around fun all mountain hard tail. Not sure that I’d change a thing. I’m going to get a little input from some other riders that I trust before I commit, but I think I’ve landed on the right bike on the first try! It’s a thoroughbred. Maybe a thoroughbred goat.
Today I’ll make some phone calls to see if I can nail down the details of the build for the Ultimate Tight Ass. I will update you as things fall into place.
To date: Schwalbe has donated tires. Industry Nine has donated hubs. Sram has donated an XX1 drive train (and maybe a fork?). Chris King has donated a head set and a bottom bracket. (Don Ferris of Anvil sent me a 142 x 12 dummy axle with an invoice that said $0.00. Thank you Don. You’ve been a big support over the years!) Still waiting to hear on rims, cockpit, and brakes. It’s all getting pretty exciting. True Temper OX platinum tubes arrived yesterday. I guess I’ll be headed back into the shop before too long!
I’m still trying to figure out just which cancer research fund the final sale of this bike will go to. (there, I’ve done it again! *) Those of you who have ideas about this, please feel free to chime in.
Fast boy OUT.
* From is a preposition. I know that. I used to be able to recite all the propositions in the english language alphabetically. Not kidding. “aboard about above across after against.. ” etc. Anyway. “from” is on there. I think it’s around number 34. You’re not supposed to end sentences with prepositions, as we know from the punchline, “Ok.. Where’s the library at, asshole!?” At any rate that’s what most of us remember learning. But I’ve done it. It just sounds better sometimes. I learned, or was maybe reminded, just now by the internet that in fact you CAN. It is when the sentence is incomplete without the preposition that you are allowed. For instance, “I realized yesterday just how thin a thread I’m hanging, ” isn’t a complete sentence.. or actually, never mind, it IS. But it means something else entirely. For those of you who feel uptight about this, I offer you the alternate and I believe far clunkier, first sentence. “I realized yesterday, from just how thin a thread I am hanging.”