On Sunday, July 29 I’m going to ride to Chicago.

Yeah, I know.  Nucking futs.  Completely.

Last weekend I wanted to get a bunch of miles under my belt.  Kind of like a shakedown cruise.  Feel the burn.  Chafe my ass.  What have you.

The goal was to be180 miles over 2 days.  I’ve a friend who lives outside of Dayton.  I figured it’d be good exercise to ride there, 90 miles from my house.  Get up Sunday and come home.

As I do every year in the Spring, I take my bike to where I bought it from, Bike Source, and I have them do a complete overhaul of all of the “necessary parts.”  Chain.  Gear sprocket.  Tires.  Inner tubes.  This year I did all of that and had them check the cables, replace the brake pads.  Nearly replaced everything except the frame itself.  (“Except for the handle and the blade, this very same ax was used by George Washington.”)

I always buy the upgraded tires.  Flats are a pain.  I understand they’re a part of a bicyclist’s life, but that doesn’t make ’em pleasant to experience.  I’ve yet to have a flat where I said to myself, “Man, what a convenient place to stop and get my hands dirty!  I just had a hankering to unload the panniers, break out my tire changing kit, and just relish the time spent on the side of the road, sitting on broken concrete in 105 degree heat.”

The two big group rides I did — RAGBRAI in 2008 and XOBA in 2009 — were 471 and 520 miles respectively.  I didn’t suffer a SINGLE flat on either trip.  The ride I did to Lake Erie last year, by contrast, there was one miserable day when I suffered four flats

In the 5 years I’ve owned this bicycle, with the exception of that trip to Lake Erie, I’ve had no more than a half dozen flats.  I chalk it up to those upgraded tires I buy.  They’re not impervious to punctures, but they’re very resilient.

In the Spring tune-up I must have got a bad batch.

About 10 days ago, when I suffered the fifth flat with these new tires, I took it back to the store.  Grabbed a manager and said, “Look.  I’ve had as many flats with these tires in three months that I have had in five years.”  He assured it that it wasn’t the tires.  Rather, “it was a bad batch of tubes.”  He replaced the tubes, assured me the tires were just fine.

Uh huh.  Sure.

My previous long post about not being able to breathe came about because I’d been wondering what route to take on that Friday morning.  I was trying to find a “hillier” place to ride (a challenge in itself in flat Columbus, Ohio) as I was lacing up my shoes.  It was all for naught because when I got out to the bike . . . there was flat number 6.

Dammit to hell.

I planned on Saturday to take the bike back to Bike Source and tell ’em to get those cursed tires off.  They don’t open until 10.  By the time I got done bitching at ’em, and they replaced the tires, tubes, we’re looking at 12 to 1 before I’m on the road.  Knowing it’s going to take me 8 to 9 hours to ride 90 miles, I decided to just fix the flat and deal with Bike Source later.

I pulled the bike in the house, turned on Big Bang Theory, and went to work.

I got on the road at 10:30.  You can click on the link below to see how far I got before suffering from flat number 7.

Finished Cycle: Jul 21, 2012 11:40:50 AM
Google Maps URL: http://maps.google.com/?q=http://share.abvio.com/fc28/825e/4e37/b4c1/Cyclemeter-Cycle-20120721-1021.kml
Ride Time: 43:52
Distance: 9.18 miles
Average: 12.55 mph
Fastest Speed: 27.98 mph
Ascent: 283 feet
Descent: 229 feet
Calories: 716

You.  Got.  To.  Be.  Kidding.  Me.

Flip the bike upside down.  The flat’s on the rear tire.  (Of course.)  Do the quick release.  Get the tire off.  Open up my bag to fetch my tools.

The tools which are lying on my kitchen table.

Because that’s where I left them after changing the flat in the house.

You.  Got.  To.  Be.  Kidding.  Me.

I gave my youngest a call.  This ain’t the first time I’ve had to summon my progeny.  “You need rescuing again, Dad?”  (Fortunately for me, the kid works for food.  The further she has to drive, the more expensive the meal I have to buy.)

Gnawing on a Dagwood at the Ohio Deli

As I usually do, I’d left my car keys where she could find them.  This way, she can bring my car which is already equipped with a bike rack for easy totin’.  (She also likes to drive my car since it has a factory-equipped iPhone / iPod / MP3 player input jack.  Her tunes never sound better than when they’re played through my car stereo!)

While I was waiting for her to arrive, a local cop car stopped and a patrolman got out.  “Hi, officer, what’s shakin’?” I said to the Dougie Howser of the Dublin, Ohio Police Department.  “Just wanted to make sure you were ok.  We got a call from someone on the road.  Figured you might have taken a header or something.”

Thought it was nice that someone would be so considerate, but, why didn’t the person who called stop to see for themselves what the trouble was?  I suppose the caller could have been an unaccompanied woman and, truthfully, it’s never a good idea for ladies who’re by themselves to stop and help someone out.  It’s a mean old world.  But, thanks for the call, Lady!

I assured the cop I was fine, thanked him for stopping by, told him my daughter was on her way to rescue me. 

Shortly after, Spud arrived.  Bless her heart, in addition to bringing the rescue wagon she also raided my fridge to bring a couple of things to drink for her dear old dehydrated daft dad.

We loaded the bike, I asked her if she had time for me to go over the Bike Source and bitch.  She assured me that she’d like to watch the show.  I promised her lunch at the Mexican restaurant literally next door.  (Chili Verde Cafe.  I’d never been, but I’ll go back!)

I got the attention of one of the bike mechanics who’s personally done a lot of work on my bike.  (They all know me in there.)  I was firm, yet polite in my demand that those cursed tires were coming off that bike.  He apologized, said he’d see what he could do since Specialized — the maker of my bike and the tires — really took seriously their commitment to great products.  Yeah yeah yeah, I thought.  Just get some new tires on there.  I’ll take the same brand as, until this batch, I’ve had good luck with them.  But those tires gotta go.

Spud and I went over to the restaurant.  Both of us had quesadillas.  (Why doesn’t Google spell check recognize that word?)  Went back to the bike store and they’d completed the fixes.

All gratis, too.  Well.  What a nice surprise.  I figured they’d tell me I’d put X number of miles on the old set, so they were going to pro-rate the cost of a new set towards that.  Frankly, I would have been satisfied with that answer.  But, no.  New set.  No charge.  Major brownie points for you, Bike Source.

Took Spud back to the house where she could fetch her car and go on about her day.  I moped around for an hour or so.  Bitching that I wasn’t going to get in a huge ride like I wanted. 

I decided that something would be better than nothing.  What if I started in London again?  I could get in about 50 miles or so, then 50 back to the car the next day.  About half, but, well, it’d still be a ride, right?

Drove the 40 miles to London.  Unloaded the bike.  Locked up the car.  Got everything ready to go.  Got on the trail.

That’s when the gears start slipping.  The chain wouldn’t stay in any particular gear.  Didn’t matter whether I was pedaling or not, the gears kept throwing the chain off.

You.  Got.  To.  Be.  Kidding.  Me.

It started about 1/4 mile into the ride.  I shifted gears several times manually to see if I could “work it out.”  Nothing doing.  I made it to the 1/2 mile point, then turned around and went back to the car.

Oh, I was seriously pissed.

Loaded the bike back on the car.  Fired up the phone to find where the closest bicycle shop is.

It was 40 miles back in Columbus.

Right about the time I was thinking about throwing something heavy at the nearest pane of glass, my Dayton friend called wondering what my status was.  I told her, “Oh, you sooooo don’t want to know.”  Told her that the bike had been causing me fits, that I didn’t know what my plans were, and that I’d check in later and let her know.

I decided to head to Dayton.  Figured I’d find a bike shop there, see if they could take a look at what was going on, and then I’d live to ride another day, like, on Sunday.

I found a Performance Bicycles shop with a fully manned service department.  Yes, as a matter of fact, they did have time to look over my bike.  The mechanic — who probably had 10 years on me — figured it was the chain that was causing the problem.  There appeared to be a frozen link that wasn’t playing well with others.  After 30 minutes of trying out that theory, he figured it was the gear sprocket itself.  So I had him replace that because by this point I didn’t care any longer.  Just make the bike ride-able.

$35 and another half hour later, it was ready to ride.  Except by this time I’d used up most of my daylight and all of my patience with bicycles.

Sunday morning I was ready to ride.  My friend treated me to Cracker Barrel for breakfast.  I accompanied her to Wal-Mart for a supply run.  She had a motorcycle to ride — none of these silly human powered two-wheelers for her! — and she was happy to see me off on my quest to burn some calories.

Five minutes after leaving her driveway I checked mail / voice mails at work.  So much for my day off.  I couldn’t go riding because I had to come into the office.  By the time I drove all the way back to Columbus, went into the office, fixed what needed fixing, then ran some necessary chores, it was mid-afternoon again.  Wasn’t going to get 90 miles in on Sunday, either.

Dammit.  What a wasted / frustrating weekend for bicycling.  

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.  Me and my first world problems.  90% of the world would be happy to have as their main worry of the day their bicycle didn’t take them on a joy ride.  Yeah yeah yeah.