The season ended with a muffled thump.
I had just finished a medium-sized training ride—Bells Mountain again, but this time the full trail. Sixteen miles, almost four hours, and 3000 feet of elevation gain and I was still feeling good. Tired, yes, but good. My pace
was is slow compared to most riders out there, but then again I weigh a lot more than most riders. Maybe that was the problem.
It was a stunning day on the trail. It alternated between typical PNW deep forest…
…to clear cuts that opened up the world.
The seasons were changing. Some spots in the clear cut areas were showing signs of autumn.
Rushing off the mountain, hoping to get back in time to watch the kids while my wife ran to a meeting, I dropped onto a wide pedestrian trail and started cranking out the half mile to the car.
Suddenly my leg met no resistance and hit the ground—like I had missed a step at the top of a staircase. Looking down, I saw my crank arm completely detached from my bike, still attached to my cleat, and thumping awkwardly on the ground. I struggled to comprehend what I was seeing.
Half flummoxed that I’m a half mile from my car and running late, and half grateful it didn’t happen deep into my ride, I try to trail-triage it back together for a quick sprint back to the car. But no such luck. I end up single-leg peddling back as fast as I can to meet my fatherly responsibilities.
Flash forward one week…
After a good hard look, I figure the crank arm screws simply loosened up. I hadn’t tightened them properly on install and they just naturally, and slowly, worked themselves loose.
There’s an easy solution for that. Put them back on and tighten them hard.
This time, Tarbell was the route. Twenty-five miles of PNW singletrack with ~5000 feet of elevation gain. My plan was that, if I could get up to doing this trail twice in a day, I was ready for the 70 miles of the Umpqua River Trail and my own personal (h)URT race.
Riding the Umpqua River Trail—all 70 miles of it in a day-has been a dream of mine for many years. When I first set out to ride it, I was woefully unprepared and conked out half way in. But this time, I was going to systematically prepare and was on track to ride it. My wife always wants me to ride with a partner, but I’m finding them hard to come by—hence the “underground” race idea. I’d get as many people to ride it as I could in the same format as me—as an ITT.
Six miles into Tarbell, I again heard the disheartening sound of metal against dirt and saw, to my horror, that my crank arm had again fallen off. This time the damage was clear. Metal shavings lined the interior and came off easily on my fingers as I probed around inside.
Irritation built to anger and then petered out into discouragement. Discouragement at the thought that I was now deep into a trail with no easy bailout routes. Discouragement that this was decidedly a season-ending problem. And, honestly, I was a bit cranky (no pun intended) with myself. People have worse problems than this—why am I reacting so badly?
Meanwhile, I whacked the crank arm back into place and proceeded to tighten down the bolts as best I could with my trail tools. Hopefully I could get it to a point where I could ride down the mountain.
Several years ago, after my chain broke mid-trail and I had no way of fixing it, I was given sage advice by a fellow rider, “no matter what happens on the trail never, ever walk.”
So I did what ever I could do to avoid the dreaded hike-a-bike. Pounding the arm back into place and torq’ing the screws as hard as my multi-tool would allow, I gingerly crept back down the mountain.
But my misfortunes weren’t over. A few miles into my descent, my right pedal imploded—coming right off the spindle.
With little to keep me on the bike, I found myself hopping off frequently to avoid even minor technical terrain.
All the while, composing my own personal version a wicked sick BMX-style Craigslist ad—in the vain hope I could unload this stupid bike.
In a text later that day, my dear father talked me off that ledge with a simple reminder, “discretion is the better part of valor.”
So, now what? This was the year that, not only was I planning on the (h)URT, but also have a brother coming out for a little R&R ride.
And this is where I need do explain something: a mechanical problem like this is a season-ender for me. With six kids to raise, a mortgage to pay and a fledgling business, an extra $300 to fix my bike isn’t in the cards. And won’t be in the cards for months to come.
So the season ends. My plans come to a grinding halt; training becomes rote, meaningless.
But it doesn’t end in glory—a stunning accomplishment or even a catastrophic crash. It ends simply—with the sound of a crank arm, gently hitting the trail.