Why is my bike such a mess if it’s not raining?

IMG_0790why_bike_messAt the shop, it’s pretty much a constant thing, several times a week, sometimes a few times a day. “Why does my bike creak?” “Why do you say my chain has to be replaced after so few miles?” “Why are my crank bearings going out so frequently?”

Answer: Because you live on the SF Peninsula and ride on Skyline Blvd, where the fog during the night, and possibly while you were riding, made such a mess of the road that your tires picked up all manner of nasty stuff and threw it against your cranks, your chain, your frame… everything. In fact, had it actually been raining, your bike might have fared better because a lot of the slop would have been washed off.

This morning’s ride was one of the worst in this regard. If it had been your bike and we’d just done a general check to it and added a drivetrain clean (about $50 extra), every bit of work you paid to get that drivetrain clean would have been undone in just this one ride. It just can’t be helped. Actually, that’s not entirely true. A “rain” bike with fenders and maybe disc brakes would have reduced the damage, and made it a lot nicer for those riding behind you (no spray coming off your rear wheel). But you start the ride with the sun overhead, and you hope that the fog you see up on Skyline is going to burn off before you get there. And your rain bike… it’s heavier and just not as much fun to ride.

“Not as fun to ride” isn’t really the case though. When descending on wet pavement, there’s no substitute for slightly wider tires, slightly lower air pressure, fenders and disc brakes. Descending is one thing that actually *is* fun on a rain bike.

So we have a bit of a conundrum. I think everybody should have a “rain” bike, a bike that is modified (or created) for wet weather (and remember, “wet” weather doesn’t just mean water falling from the sky; the greater damage is water coming up at you from the road). But if it’s not actually raining, you find excuses to take your “nice” bike out. And get it thoroughly trashed.

Of course, neither Todd nor JR nor younger Kevin were on their “rain” bikes this morning, and had I been, I would have been even further behind than I already was. The flip side? I would have had an excuse (for being slower). Score one more point for the rain bike.

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Red is such a beautiful & rare color in the wild. Best to keep your distance though.

IMG_0779redAfter yesterday’s ride Kevin took advantage of the shop being closed (for Memorial Day) to catch up on some school work and play video games. Me? If I can ride, I gotta ride. I did spend some time around the house, getting rid of a bunch of old computer stuff that has to be recycled, rebuilt my wife’s computer so it wouldn’t be quite so slow, and left things looking more of a mess than when I started. Work in progress.

But yes, I did ride. Decided it was time to head out to Waterdog Lake in Belmont, which I haven’t visited in quite a while. With my Trek Boone ‘Cross bike, of course. Yes, a mountain bike would have been more appropriate for some of the conditions, but when the closest thing to a mountain bike in the garage is a ‘cross bike, all of a sudden every dirt ride looks like something that can be done on a ‘cross bike.

Nice thing about Waterdog (and, for that matter, Arastradero) is that they’re not too far from home, so I can ride 6-10 miles on normal roads, with squishy off-road tires, and it’s just barely tolerable. Just barely. When on a bike with a road-like position, road handlebars, on a road, you feel like you want to go faster. It takes a while to settle in and accept that you’re only going to be doing 16 or 17mph, not 20 or 22. But, getting there by bike is a whole lot better than driving!

You can see the Waterdog route in the Strava map below. Nothing terribly challenging; I’ll try to bite off a bit more next time.

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