May 16, 2006


Day one of the KC Bike Commuter Challenge is in the bag -- and WHAT A DAY it was, at least for me. Note to self: It's perfectly okay to have a front brake on a fixxie, even if you don't plan to use it.

Sometimes I know not what I be thinking. (good grammar)

So, I rode the brakeless fixxie to work yesterday, (mistake number one) and it felt great - totally manageable gearing, and a few semi-close calls saw me skidding to a well controlled and quite-quick stop. No problems. Until I went looking for food over my lunch break, that is.
Thankfully, all of this happened within the controlled confines of a nearly traffic-free corporate campus setting. If it'd happened anywhere else, I'd probably be typing this from a hospital room!

Things seemed okay for the first 1,000 yards or so, as I rolled up my sleeves and pant legs and trolled out of the parking garage onto the corporate parkway. Happily spinning along, I resist brake at a few crosswalks and wow the crowds with my track-stand skills. (Jedi skills, lightsaber know... skills. Girls like guys with skills.)
Anyways... something in the back end 'gives' a little, it seems -- feels like the axle pulling in the forkends, ya know? I look down and back, and everything looks fine... carry on. (mistake number two)

A few hundred yards later, the road pitches downhill and I approach a 4-way stop. This is probably my favorite part of the campus, excellent for skidding. I engage said skid.... and then it happens:

PING! skeee skeee skeee.... clang clang clang!!!! "uhhhhhh....... crap?"

Indeed. The pressure and force of simply stopping the rear wheel while in forward motion puts a TON of strain on cog, chain, lockring - basically everything. It's a complete attempt to halt all physical momentum, and every part (as basic as a fixed gear bike can be) has to share the loads and allow the bike ( and, ultimately, the rider) to survive the stop. The simplest of things, like threads on a hub, become super important. When designed correctly and out of the right materials, you just never have to think about these things. So, I don't. I respect and understand them - but the whole point is not to have to think about them.

Today, however - something gave way rather catastrophically, and I found myself completely UN-connected from the bike -- I zipped silently through the four-way stop, and continued down the grade on the other side. I can't say I was completely panicked... I mean, I looked back, and there was the cog, resting and rattling on the axle - the chain was still on it. Hmmmm. The cranks just spun freely, and there I was - totally under the control of gravity and momentum, flying headlong down corporate way -- It was exciting and freaking scary all at once.

Give Fate an inch, however... and she'll throw you over the hood of an SUV.

"... okay, this is really not safe at all, dude..."

The chances of successfully navitaging an asteroid field are approximately 512,345,000 to 1 (or something.... never tell me the odds!

Ok, Han Solo I'm NOT... and, thankfully, I wasn't being pursued by any dark lords of sith - so I elected to stop this crazy thing. Fred Flintstone style.

So, 1/8" of shoe rubber later, I came to an un-easy halt at the curb, to the confusion and stares of a few passers-by. Just as confused, I stooped down and examined the damage -- little threads of aluminum frayed out from the now dislodged lock-ring told the tale - stripped hub.

Wow -- I trashed something. Cool.

I was partly miffed, but partly amused at myself -- bad quality control or cheap parts notwithstanding, I managed to trash something. I freaking rode the threads off of a hub. Awesome... (insert Beavis-style chuckles). Cool.

Now the pennance -- I have to get rolling again, which usually equals money. Ugh.

EXTREME FIXXERS, UNITE! (we're all knuckle-dragging morons) -- Confidence only goes as far as equipment quality can take you, and as I find out 24 hours later after searching the web and reading forum posts from around the globe, the hub I was running was basically crap.

I've got a much better hub now, and a matched lockring and cog -- and I can FEEL the difference. I've got a front brake mounted now, too.

I don't plan on learning any lessons from the back of an ambulance, so even though I don't HAVE to use it - it's there -- just in case.

I may be crazy sometimes -- but I sure can act stupid, too.
Don't try this at home, kids! We're what you'd call, 'experts' --

Experts at WHAT, I can't quite say.


Anonymous said...

hey C-Dude,

Paul down here in Wichita....excellent story!! Prob cause I can relate, I stripped my hub a month ago going thru an intersection, I guess i've got too much power in my legs..haha, barely made it thru the intersection cause my cranks were just spinning and I wasn't going anywhere. So I've had to turn my wheel around and run a freewheel for now. The hub I stripped was the basic suzue, yeah, it's a basic Piece of crap!!! What new hub did you go with? I am still looking for one, just don't want to drop the cash yet cause my bike is still rideable.....Yeah, I'm cheap!!!

Keep Ridin'

kG said...

I went with a Surly hub - cheap, easy, and a reputation for strength for STREET fixed riding ... I guess the Suzue is good for something, but it really just can't take the pressure. Literally. The surly is noticably stouter - thicker flanges, beefier axles, and the threading for the cog and lockring is noticably more robust. ESPECIALLY when matched with the Surly cog and lockring, everything just fits better. It's SOLID. Paired with stout stainless DT spokes and a good rim, the whole package is stiffer and stronger. Not bad!