February 25, 2007: Bronchial Chowder for the Soul


I tried to forget about it, hoping the derailler elves would magically fix the problem for me. Apparently though, derailler elves, and yardwork elves, and sit-up elves, and other procrastinatory conspirators exist only in my mind.

Hooe derailler Hooe Derailler_2
The offending derailler (note the newly bloodied knuckle)
Also note how extended the throw screws are -- not good

The problem was a worn out rear derailler. Well, that's what I was blaming it on. I started having some shifting issues with my rear derailler while riding the Hoo-E through the Fitzgerald Marine Preserve a couple of weeks ago. It was ghost shifting, missing shifts, couldn't get to certain gears. Ugh.

In my younger years, when I had neither the money nor the knowledge nor the inclination, really, to keep my bikes in good working order, I would have just adapted and adapted until I had been whittled down to one or two gears. But this is a new age, and I am now Cannonball, master of the trailside fix.

Riiiiight. Long story short is I was out on the trail, the Hoo-E was shifting like crap, so I fucked around with the rear barrel adjuster for a while. When I wasn't perfectly satisfied with that adjustment, I committed the cardinal sin of derailler management and started mucking with the inner and outer throw screws.

Here's a trailside tip: DO NOT FUCK WITH THE THROW SCREWS ON YOUR REAR DERAILLER! They are much bigger than you are. No matter what you think, they are not the problem. Leave them alone!

Anyway, I got it shifting good enough to continue the ride, but I knew it was only a patch. Today, I decided to bite the bullet and fix the shifting problems.

. . . two hours later . . . I actually had it fixed and was ready to ride. But it took two frigging hours.

Again, my fault. I first tried to solve the problem on the cheap by just futzing with the barrel adjuster some more. That didn't work, so I started in with the throw screws again. Worse. Hmm. Back to the barrel adjuster. Nothing, and, well hel-lo throw screws, what happens when I turn you both all the way counterclockwise -- nothing. Has to be the barrel adjuster. Or maybe the throw screws. Well, that idiocy went back and forth for a good thirty minutes.

Keep in mind that while this exercise in futility was going on, there were two different clocks ticking in my ear. The short-term clock was reminding me that there was less than four hours to dark. The long-term clock was reminding me that I've missed a couple of rides this week because I've had a cold, so I had to ride today. Meanwhile the derailler was just sitting there mocking me with that smug, oily grin.

I decided to take a step back. What I had been doing obviously wasn't working. I wasn't quite sure what I needed to do to fix the problem, but I was sure that over the last 30 minutes I had made things worse. The shifting range on the rear cassette was down to about three gears.

It was decision time: invest more effort in getting this bike functional, which I'm going to have to do at some point anyway, or abandon the Hoo-E right now and get a good three-hour ride in on the Blade.

Because it was raining and because I had already started in on the project, I decided to redouble my efforts on the Hoo-E.

I considered replacing the derailler, which is about five years old. It's a Shimano XT, the best derailler for the weight/money you can buy, in my opinion. I had another one, but then I considered the amount of work it would take to replace the derailler -- visions of algebraic formulas for chain measurement clouded my mind. Nope. Not up for it today.

So how about the cable? Yeah, it's possible. I was pretty sure it was the derailler, but what the hell, I hunted up my last derailler cable and five minutes later, I had it in place. Slowly but surely, I got the cable to the right tension, then fine-tuned the inner and outer throws, then dialed in the shifting. After a couple of false starts, it came together and by 3:15 p.m., two hours after I started the project, the bike was shifting smoothly to all gears and was ready to ride. Turns out it was the cable after all.

Excellent. Still time to get some miles in, maybe even a 25'er. I jumped into my bike clothes, prepped the Hoo-E, and was literally just peeking my front tire out the back door when it started to rain. Deluge. Like six beers and a double latte in your bladder driving a stick shift on Highway 92 trying to come into Half Moon Bay on a sunny weekend day piss that you finally get to take after an hour and a half, coming down. We're talking volume.

Rain on the bricks
Rain on the bricks like fury spittle in my beard

It's like the third goddamn time in a row this has happened. It hasn't rained a drop all day, but the second, the fucking second I'm ready to go -- cue the waterworks, baby. Speaking of waterworks, while I waited for the rain to stop, I occupied myself with a nonstop torrent of uncreative and mostly repetitive oaths, curses, expletives, and quasi-vocabular utterances, which were made further unintelligible by the vast quantities of spittle spraying out of my mouth.

More time lost. I contemplated going for a run. Yeah, that would be some exercise, but I need miles. I'm not going to be running up those hills in April, I'm going to be pedaling up them. I contemplated violating my rain ride rule, but decided to stick to my strict constructionist guns and follow it to the letter today.

After another 15 minutes, it let up enough for me to justify heading out. Thus, it was 4:00 p.m. before I finally got out the door.

The ride itself was a frenetic individual time trial north to Montara, up over the San Pedro saddle, down to Pacifica, and back. About 60 percent pavement and 40 percent dirt, which wasn't bad considering the weather. (Note: no sensitive trails were harmed during the course of this ride.)

I was racing against the clock the whole time, the clock being visible light. After several years on these trails, I've pretty much got the time/distance equation down to an exact science from just about any portion of my territory. And so it was today, for I was able to pound out 26 miles in just over two hours, returning triumphantly, if not muddily, in the heavy gloom of deep, deep dusk.

Today's spin was great for the legs and just what the doctor ordered for my congestion. For 26 miles I was shooting huge, gloppy snot rockets out of both nostrils. Each projectile had impressive heft, blasting out of the nostril, catching my slipstream and cartwheeling backwards from me, elongating with each end-over-end revolution until it was the size of a B-29 propeller blade by the time it hit the ground some 20 meters behind me with a wet slap like a fat kid bellyflopping a swan dive from the high board. I probably offloaded about three gallons of pure nose juice today. That's got to help the cold.

Also helping the cold was the 14 pounds of lung butter I hacked up and lougied out. I'm talking the thick, clumpy yellow (sometimes green) goo that comes from your lungs the consistency of pudding. When you cough it up, you can feel that bronchial chowder come up and just sit there on your tongue, a distinct packet of slippery goo separate from the clear, liquid snot from your nose. Because of its dense consistency, the lung butter pats really fly when you launch them off the tip of your tongue. I can routinely get 25 feet on my standing broad hawk.

All in all, a pretty satisfying ride. The Hoo-E shifted great, so the two hours spent on that was worth it, and I really hammered a hard, hard 26 miles, so the two hours spent on that was worth it.

It's time to start getting serious about the April races. I'm going to spend March in mountain bike camp, trying to get my trail chops back. The fitness base is there, but needs to be fine-tuned. Right now my technical skills and dirt climbing skills feel like I left them out in the yard all winter -- pretty rusty.


Dist: 26.1 mi Time: 2:09:25 Avg: 12.0 Max: 33.5 Wgt: 161.5

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