Today is Your Lucky Day


by Mark V on Mar 20, 2008 at 6:35 PM


“In my experience there’s no such thing as luck.” - Obi-Wan Kenobi

I remember old Ben’s advice well, but I also remember how he caught the wrong end of a light sabre the next day. Lady Luck is a fickle bitch. Take today for instance. I finally get a chance to ride my new frame, but I figure that I should evaluate how the new bike feels on a set of wheels that I know well. Besides, it was windy, so those super-tall rims of my new Mavic Cosmics wouldn’t be a wise choice, would they?

Oh, I would be regretting that decision.

Last night’s sake-drinking and rock show didn’t exactly prepare me for a great ride, but I really wanted to ride that bike. Plummeting off Capitol Hill into a crosswind, I said to myself, “I sure am glad I’m not on the Cosmics.”

But somewhere near the north end of Lake Washington, I felt something pop and suddenly the bike had a wiggle at the rear end. I snapped a spoke on my trusty wheels. It didn’t even pop at at the elbow like normal…it broke smack-dab in the middle. Dumb luck. I felt like an oracle examining bird entrails…is this some sort of bad omen?

So now the wheel won’t turn in the frame without aggressively rubbing the chainstay. If this were my rain bike, I’d just ride that bitch all the way home…fuck it. But my rain bike isn’t carbon fibre. I didn’t shell out all that money for a brand new carbon bike just to belt-sand 3K-weave layers off the stay on the first ride. And anyways, maybe I should be a little more gentle with my second-string stuff, since I broke my rain bike 3 weeks ago. Where do you think I got those trusty wheels from?

“Why the hell didn’t I ride the Cosmics? They’re brand new…they definitely wouldn’t have broken a spoke.”

The thing to do would be let off the tension of the spokes opposite the broken one. That would require a spoke wrench…which, of course, I don’t have. And neither did 6 other cyclists who passed by. Looking at my predicament, the last guy seemed determined to have one the next time he rode. But it looks like I’m shit out of luck. Time to start walking with the bike on my shoulder. This is going to kill the whole afternoon.

Then what could happen next?. A silver SUV stops at the next cross street before me. It turns out that it’s Ed Brewer from Two Wheel Revolution, the Seattle mobile bike mechanic service. He’s like a doctor for quality bikes, and this doctor makes house calls. He just happened to be on his way to a gig when he saw me. What are the odds?


Ed loaned me a spoke wrench, and I backed the opposite spokes down. The wheel was reasonably true but now with a distinct hop. Whatever, I can deal with that until I can get to my own shop to replace the spoke. (Thanks again, Ed)

In the end, I got home. I’m kinda superstitious about equipment, so I’m a little uneasy about the new bike. Maybe if I ride long tomorrow, I can squeeze out all the bad luck from the bike and then start building karma on it. Yeah, that’s it. But I’m not taking any chances…tomorrow I’m gonna burn some incense and ride those Cosmics…no matter how much wind there is.

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I’ve seen that silver scion rolling through my neighborhood a few times (Maple Leaf). I was sort of wondering what their gig was. My wife guessed that they were like AAA for bikes, but I figured there couldn’t possibly be enough demand for that. I’ll have to tell her that in your case they were like emergency roadside service.

Its a shame most bike wheels are so lame. Handuilt ones are best.  I had a pair hand built at a local shop that lasted me until being hit by a car.  I built a set for a new bike from phil hubs and velocity (celeste!) rims (36h) that has lasted a good while.    And of course knowing how strong they are, I do stuff like jump on/off curbs and hit ruff stuff at high speed-on my road bike without so much as a complaint from the wheels..     

The fact that the spoke broke in the middle is due to it being butted - probably triple butted.  Theoretically it lightens the wheel a bit while maintaining the strength by taking material away from the low stress areas (the middle) and leaving it at the ends.  Of course what actually happens is you get weaker spokes.

Oh man, luck and bikes never works out for me…

So a few weeks ago, I finally picked up a brand new, shiny red bareknuckle frame in my size…brought it home, built it up and got excited for the warm and sunny forecast for Thursday (this was Monday). 

Now, I commute everyday- rain, shine, snow, whatever (in Chicago).  Needless to say, I’m used to my route and have traveled it often.  Well, I hop on my beautiful new bike and head out with my girlfriend in front.  We approach a busy intersection.  She makes it through and I cross the white line just in time to see the light turn yellow.  A lady in the opposing left turn lane also sees the light turn yellow and guns her SUV right into me and my brand new bike.  I hit the road, land on my helmet, thankfully, and get up cursing. 

I went home that night relatively unscathed, but my Bareknucle’s left seat stay had been collapsed into the rear wheel.  Tears followed…