Saturday, August 15, 2009

House of Tacks

My last attempt at the House of Pain ended in a minefield of puncture vine, which took out both tires less than a mile after I joined the proto-race. Today, I was back, ready to check off another goal in my riding. I'd already PR'ed Old La Honda, I'd already stuck with the Valley Ride to the sprint. Now I needed to stick with a weekender: Spectrum or the HOP.

After that first attempt, as I was in Pegasus purchasing the two tubes I needed to replace the pair which had been perforated well beyond the patchable threshold, another customer in the shop mentioned puncture vine was a common problem on the roads around Danville. But he'd also heard of tacks being spread in the bike lane or shoulder. I didn't think much of it.

So today I rolled out of Walnut Creek BART, heading south. As I crossed under 680 on Main Street, a car honked aggressively as it passed, the adjacent lane completely empty. After a brief Spike Bike fantasy, I put it behind me.

I continued southward on Danville Boulevard. The HOP starts at a park and ride, which I'd just passed by, but by the time I'd realized my error I was far enough on my way I figured meeting them at the Danville Peet's was a better idea, anyway. Surely Peet's is a nicer place to wait than an isolated parking lot. And I had plenty of time, I decided, as I cruised south in the bike lane.

But then that unmistakable feeling: the subtle loss of control of a rear flat. A quick glance back verified what I knew: the rear tire was almost completely empty.

Once after I'd swapped a punctured tube and completed my descent of Old La Honda where Jobst Brandt and his ride companion were waiting for me (I'd joined them on the road), he'd asked pointedly, "what caused the flat?" It had been something of a test of intelligence and inquisitiveness that a rider should always determine what had caused a leak, preferably with Holmesian detail. In this instance the brilliance of Sherlock was hardly required: a silver thumbtack was firmly embedded in my tire.

Based on the time the HOP pack had rolled through the last time I'd been here, I figured I was good on time, so I decided to take the easier but slower path of patching the tube (requiring moving only the small punctured segment) than to replace it and patch the old tube as my new spare. Patching requires waiting five timed minutes for the glue to dry (to maximize adhesion), but I can stretch. Total elapsed for the fix: 12 minutes.

During the last few minutes of these minutes, as I was inflating my tire with my small hand pump, a few groups of fast-looking riders, maybe six each, passed. No way either of these were big enough for HOP, I decided. This was a very popular route for cyclists: the principal north-south route on the flat-lands west of Mount Diablo. When I'd finished I glanced at my watch: 9:07. Surely they hadn't passed yet, given they'd only arrived at Railroad Road last time after 9:20.

So I continued onward. I paused at a group of three riders on the shoulder, two of whom appeared to have just finished a flat-repair job themselves. Then I came across yet another rider, this one fully in the act. "Tack?" I asked, to which he responded in the positive.

Finally at Peet's, where I arrive at 9:12 am: a small group were also waiting for the HOP, including Mike whom I knew from the Memorial Day Tour. One of them had also taken a tack. I encountered another at Peet's with the same story.

Okay, dude, whomever you are, you won. Those tacks you dumped in the bike lane caused a bunch of riders grief on an otherwise wonderful morning for a ride. You're so clever.

The HOP ride never did show. Or maybe those small groups had been it? I suspected perhaps the tacks had deterred them to an alternate route. So instead, after waiting until 9:40 am, then stopping at a nearby shop (not Pegasus, which was still closed) to borrow a floor pump, I set off to climb the south side of Diablo. It proved to be perfect conditions for the climb: the growing heat of the day offsetting the effect of the increasing altitude. And I had some nice encounters at the summit. One, fellow Mouse Ben, told me the HOP ride has been rolling out faster than they used to. So hmmm.... And I got to see my first example of a 110 mm BCD Cinqo. Cool.

So a nice day after all. But next time I'll likely stop at the Park and Ride.

Today I saw my first specimen of Quarq's new 110mm BCD Cinqo: finally supporting a "compact" crank for those of us without a ProTour-level power/mass ratio. The lighter Lightning version should be available within two months.

1 comment:

Manley Man said...

There was a guy running the Cinqo powermeter at the Watsonville crit last month. My first time seeing it in person and it looked like a nice unit.