Two False Starts

After a few weeks of getting my new bike in order, fitting it with luggage racks, a new saddle, making repairs to my tent, panniers, stove and other gear, I was ready to set out for Montana on July 5th. Here I am with my Uncle Frank about to push off from Golden, Colorado on the Clear Creek Trail.

It was hot. I was out of shape. The bike was heavy. In short, it was miserable. I camped out the first three nights near farms and pastures. Finding a good campsite was tough due to all the civilization. I was near the South Platte River and people used the water for irrigation so there was a lot of agriculture going on.

One difference between this bike and my previous ones is that this is a “gravel bike”, which is designed for, guess…gravel roads. So it has thick knobby tires and a low gear. This is exactly what I wanted because as I’ve mentioned, riding on paved high speed roads has become more dangerous as more and more cars and trucks fill the highways. So I got on many quiet dirt roads, which was great. What was not great though was I realized I was going a lot slower than I was used to. 40-60 miles a day was normal with my old road bike. Here, I was barely making 25. This was due to the roads, but also the heat and my physical condition. OK, so what, I’m not in a race. I just had to recalibrate my timing.

On the 2nd or 3rd day I had a flat tire. This is not normally a problem, but with these new fat tires I found that I could not get the darn tire off the rim. It was wedged on so tight I could not get it off. I pushed, pulled, levered, swore and finally broke my tire iron and swiss army knife:

Eventually I got the tire off, replaced the tube and got the tire back on. A couple days later I camped out in the this corn field.

As I was packing up I noticed another flat tire. I struggled again for a couple hours trying to get the tire off. Even when I got it off and replaced the tube, when I inflated it, the tube leaked. I must have punctured it when I was forcing it back on the rim. This happened twice. I tried to youtube the problem and wrote to the bike maker but to no avail. I was flummoxed. With a flat tire and no way to fix it I capitulated and called my sister to come get me. It was back to the drawing board.

I returned to Golden to figure out what the hell was going on. At a local bike shop the guy showed me that I need to break the tire bead off the rim on both sides. Then the tire can then easily be removed. DUH! I felt like an idiot. Then he convinced me to get tubeless tires, which are filled with a sealant so a small leak will be automatically plugged, reducing flat tires to almost zero. This sounded great so I bought them and the bike shop put them on the rim. I was ready to start again.

So after a week I pushed off again, headed northeast out of Denver. It was again super hot but I had planned my route to stop by gas stations every 25-30 miles so I could fill up my insulated bag with ice.

The 2nd day out I hit some bad washboard dirt roads which pounded my bike for a couple hours. Then at the end of the day I discovered I had broken two spokes on the rear wheel. This was surprising and some bad news. On my old bike I had ridden 50,000 miles fully loaded and had broken maybe three spokes in 15 years, so two spokes in one day was not a good sign. Furthermore, although I had spare spokes, I discovered I had forgotten my tools needed to remove the sprocket cassette and disc brake on the wheel in order to replace the spokes. Again, cursing my bad luck I had no choice but to call my sister again and get a ride back to Golden. How humiliating. I have never had such a poor start to a bike tour.

Back in Golden I had to beef up my wheel, which means buying a whole new one with more spokes. Unfortunately due to covid there is a global shortage of bicycle parts and shops were quoting me lead times of up to 12 weeks! I finally called Peter White cycles in New Hampshire, where I had bought my good wheels for my 2007-2009 round the world trip. Luckily, they had a hub, rim and spokes in stock so they could build my wheel in a week or so.

So that’s where things stand. I am waiting for my wheel to be shipped to me and I will try again around the end of July. As I’ve said many times, you have to be flexible when bike touring. Actually, it’s just as well. The weather has been very hot around here…temps in the mid to upper 90s F. So in a way I feel fortunate that I have been delayed. Cycling in 90 degree heat is not really a good idea.

Meanwhile I have been walking around the neighborhood every day to get a little exercise. Deer and elk can frequently be seen grazing right by the road. Here’s a shot of a mule deer keeping me company on my walk.

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