Ill-Starred Century

Cyclist in mask, helmet and sunglasses in front of statue of Tamagawa Brothers

I spent most of the day yesterday helping José install floor covering in his new flat, followed by far too much delicious pizza and fries for dinner. I got a lot of sleep last night, but my thighs were still tender this morning. It took 20km or more just to work out the cramps and stiffness.

With the thighs back in action (if not entirely fresh), the ride up to Hamura was routine. I wanted to get in 100km without making too much effort, and to be home before the forecast rain in the evening. Nana hadn’t prepared rice to make onigiri, so I was left to my own devices (i.e., convenience stores) for lunch and snacks.

With those caveats in mind, the progression up to Hamura went without a hitch. There’s a rough bit of pavement in a dip just 2km from the end, and I went over that with an unexpected *crack!* which may or may not have had something to do with events yet to come.

Following my convenience store lunch at Hamura, I messaged Nana I was on the way home. But I got no more than half-dozen kilometers before there was a loud *pop!* followed by a bit of fish-tailing. I brought Kuroko to a halt and assessed the damage: there was a flat, and it didn’t look like the sealant was going to fix things.

I got Kuroko off the cycle path to assess the damage. There was a large tear in the tread, leaving a flap of tread separated from the tire casing. I pulled at what I thought was a some foreign matter, only to discover it was a shred torn from the casing.

It was pretty clear the from the extent of the damage that the sealant couldn’t be expected to patch the leak. But I gave it a try anyway, pumping air into the tire while swirling the sealant around the affected area. No dice.

OK, this is why I carry tire irons and an innertube (in addition to spare sealant and tubeless plugs). I quickly had the wheel off the bike (good thing I made sure I could get the wheel off after the Di2 upgrade) and removed the tire. After making sure there was nothing still sticking into the tread (glass, wire, etc.), I mopped up the remaining sealant and set about inserting an innertube.

The innertube went in easily enough (although with all the sealant leaking everywhere, there was a lot of dirt and gravel trying to get in along with the innertube), and I was soon inflating the tire. There were a few satsifying *pops!* as the tire seated back on the rim.

This mechanical is just getting started

At that point I should have just been able to put the wheel back in the frame, with a bit of wrestling to make sure the chain was taking the proper route around the cogs and the rear disc was nestled in the caliper. Instead, the wheel went in far too easily, and kept going right past the mark!

What the … ? That’s never happened before. I pulled the wheel out and had a look, and then another look: The end cap was missing from the drive side, and as a result the entire spindle was pushing out the non-drive side.

I quickly found the drive side end cap where it had fallen on the ground and pressed it back in place. That’s all it should take, really. But I spent the next 20 minutes or so wrestling to get the wheel back into the frame, with the chain around the cogs, the disc in between the pads in the caliper, and both end caps in place between the rear dropouts. I’ve never had an end cap pop off before and now it just wouldn’t stay in place.

Finally, after lots of swearing and many repeated tries, it all came together again. But what a hassle! If you look at the last couple of photos in the gallery above, you might spot more than a few greasy handprints on the rear tire and the bike frame itself. I was carrying tissues, but no alcohol wipes, and the tissues did little to clean up my greasy hands.

At last, with the wheel back in the bike, I took a few deep breaths and mounted up again.

Bicycle against park wooden railing with deocrative waterfall in background
Final stretch

The innertube held despite the large gash in the tread. (The casing was still largely intact.) I was still going a bit gingerly, as I was concerned there was some damage to the hub and I worried the innertube might not hold. Plus my thighs were really setting up a howl of protest to the abuse they’d been taking for two days in a row. When I got going fast on smooth pavement, I could feel a bump … bump … bump, which I assumed was the flap of torn tread and nothing else.

I’d planned on returning via Futako Tamagawa, the same course as I’d set out on in the morning, but a consultation with the Garmin showed I could take the shortcut home from Komae and still get in my 100km goal. On the plus side, I’d shave off about 5km from the total and get home that much sooner, before the tire gave up or the hub came apart. On the minus side, I’d be in heavier traffic, so any issues might expose me to a greater risk.

It wasn’t really a choice. I stopped briefly at a park in Komae, had a Snickers bar, and messaged Nana that I’d be home within the hour.

I happy to report there were no further issues on the way home. I didn’t press it on the final downhill as I was still worried about the tire coming apart. Nevertheless I reached 40km/h without trying.

GPS record of cycle ride
Ill-starred century

The flat took me less than 20 minutes to fix, but with the hub issue the total repair added 40 minutes to the total ride time. I did beat the rain — apart from a few sprinkles in the morning with the sun shining and a couple more as I neared home. I wasn’t expecting to make good time overall, and the total elapsed time of nearly 7 hours for the ride is something of an anti-record. But a moving time of 5 hours 3 minutes netted a respectable 20.6km/h. I’ve done better on this route, but I’ve also done considerably worse.

I got home a good 17 minutes before the time I’d given Nana to expect me, and took my time parking Kuroko and gathering up the various bits and bobs before getting the elevator up to the flat. Once home, I spent a good amount of time washing all the dirty grease off my hands before attempting anything else, and then relaxed in the bath for half an hour. When I emerged, Nana took one look at me and asked if I was OK. I assured her I was fine, just dead. Very, very dead.

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