Monday, July 31, 2006

How a Bandana Destroyed my Bike!

So two days after leaving the Amish, I was really looking forward to arriving in Carbondale, IL. The small college town is well-known amongst cross country cyclists as having some excellent bike shops, and after heading off route to a bike shop in Owensboro, KY a week ago and being thoroughly disappointed with my equipment options, I was in need of some simple but necessary repairs.

I awoke early at Fern Cliff state park and started the short 24 mile jaunt into town. It was a quiet morning and I was in good spirits. I had just begun to feel that some of my delays and hang-ups were falling away and after some basic repairs, be prepared to haul tail across the Ozarks and into the flatlands of Kansas.

The morning was starting to heat up, and for the first time on my trip I took my green bandana and tied it around my head so I wouldn't have to wipe my brow so often. My other bandana I primarily use to wipe the grease from my hands after changing my tire, a task I had performed at least ten times in the last two weeks due to the inner wall of the tire falling apart on me and a steel wire puncturing the tube. My latest short term fix was to patch the actual inner wall of the tire with patches intended for the tube. I was rather proud of myself and felt confident that I had engineered a fix that would get me to Carbondale where I could purchase a quality tire.

And then, as I was peddling on a near flat grade at a speed of about 15mph, suddenly the bike jolted to a complete stop, nearly throwing me to the ground. I knew something severe had just occured. I was pleased that I had controlled the bike to stop without a tumble and as I attempted to push the bike to the side of the road, I saw what had contributed to the catastrophe. My blue and yellow bandana, which had a depiction of the entire country emblazed upon it, and also the 10 principles of Leave No Trace backpacking, had been sucked into the chain, whereupon I had pedaled the cloth into the rear gog wheel and into the rear derailleur upon which the rear derailleur had been ripped clean off the frame of the bike. It was a disastrous catastrophe, and it only took me a few seconds to reason that it was going to pretty much end any more riding for the day, and maybe for the week. The chain had locked into the wheel, spokes had been bent, pieces of the derailleur lay upon the road, and I literally had to carry my bike off the road as it wouldn't move upon its wheels.

I laid the bike down and just had to laugh. All my little problems and aggravations had been nothing compared to this. As I took a closer look I realized that the mounting bracket on the frame where the derailleur is attached had been completely stripped.

Here's a photo:

I sat down in the grass, and began to weigh my options. I was only about 18 miles from Carbondale at this point and I knew I needed to hitch a ride into town and get to a bike shop. I felt pretty certain that the frame was beyond repair at this point so I started envisioning how much it would cost to purchase a new frame, or a new bike.

So the bike I'm riding is a 2006 Novara - Randonee touring bike which I had purchased new from REI outfitters. In the world of touring bikes it's considered a budget bike and I had gotten it on sale (15% off) for about $850. Ouch! It's a steel frame bike, with a road bike design, curl handlebars, and STI shifters built into the brakes. Aside from my rear tire wall failing on me, the bike had performed excellently, equipped with a great rear rack that can be broken down flat for easy shipping.

After I had purchased the bike I had approached REI to ask them if they would be interested in sponsoring my trip, and my efforts to examine and promote Farmland Conservation and they loved the idea. They generously donated my tent, as well as giving me a hefty discount on a sleeping bag and some other odds and ends.

Novara bikes are sold exclusively through REI so I knew I was going to need to find out the availability of the frame only, in my size, and what kind of cost I was looking at.

I called Jamie Ferguson at the Atlanta office and described my sad tale. It was a real blessing just to have somebody...rather an entire corporation....willing to help for purposes beyond just another sale. Jamie connected me to the bike shop while she made a call to Novara. I sent the above picture to Allen in the shop and he called back to say, "Good job." He had optimistically hypothesized that it might be repaired....until he saw the picture. It was toast....though once I got back he was interested in facing the challenge of doing an experimental refurb.

Jamie called me back and said, "I've got good news. Novarra is going to replace your frame and overnight it to you." I just about hit the floor. What a miracle. It had only been an hour since my initial call to REI and my nearly "trip ending" dillema had just been solved.

Novara and REI guys are the bomb. Thank you, thank you thank you.

They are well worthy of my praise, so if you're thinking about a touring bike...I stand by 'em.

In keeping with odd occurences at every turn, the frame was supposed to arrive in Carbondale Friday morning. The accident and the subsequent solution had been orchestrated by about 3PM on Wednesday. By midday Friday, the bike shop and I were beginning to suspect that something was amiss. I called Federal Express and found out that the plane carrying the frame from Oregon to Memphis had another package on board that contained "questionable" material. They delayed the plane to check it out. And with the weekend coming it was going to be Monday before the frame arrived.

Not to fear. Fate had provided for this dillema as well. A few weeks back when I was in Berea, KY I was having an excellent Sunday lunch at the town Italian restaurant when a couple came and joined me and struck up a conversation about my trip and biking. Their names were the McFarland's and they were friendly, enthusastic folks. When they found out I was studying farms, they mentioned they had friends in Carbondale, IL that I should contact. I gave them a card and a few days later they sent me an e-mail introducing me to Seb and Vicki Pense. I sent the Pense's a quick e-mail and then forgot about it. When it looked like I was going to be stranded for a while I knew the kindness of strangers was going to be neccessary to keep my spirits up and my journey in motion....despite my apparent temporary lack of motion.

Vicki was more than happy to lend a hand and invited me over for dinner Saturday night and a patch of ground where I could lay my head. The bike shop in town, The Bike Surgeon had loaned me a bike during my layover, so I was back in motion, even with my trailer in tow.

My wonderful stay at the Pense's is another story entirely.

In the meantime, I'm counting my blessings as I prepare to move on in the next few hours, with a new bike, renewed spirit, and hunger to move westward.

I'll tell you about how my computer died a slow death, next time. The only thing that hasn't broken yet is my spirit. That just keeps getting stronger.

All my best,


This entry was posted on 7/31/2006 11:15 AM

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