Thursday, October 23, 2008

Long Division...

I'm not your villain,
not your adversary,
I'm not your reason
to crack and divide.
tt's long division,
crack and divide.

—Fugazi, "Long Division"

Sometimes a creaking bottom bracket isn't a creaking bottom bracket.

You begin to understand this, to believe it, yesterday, on the morning commute, when a faint creaking sound suddenly interrupts the gap between songs on the Shuffle, in the interlude between, say, "Heart and Soul" and "Twenty-Four Hours". It happens when you stand and deliver, particularly on climbs. At first, you dismiss it as simply a rogue pack buckle banging idly against a seat stay. You ride on, hard, fast, passing other riders and staying past them, dropping curbs to advantage. The creaking continues.

A little over halfway to work, the sound is persistent enough that you pull over to inspect the cranks and chainring. Everything checks out fine. You hop back on the bike and pursue the rider who passed you while you were stopped. The sound continues and you dismiss it as the meaningless moaning of friction, the settling in of unsettled parts, feckless frottage between formerly friendly surfaces. In other words, a creaking bottom bracket.

You arrive at work and the work day passes.

The next morning, same damn scenario, all the way up until about a mile into the ride home, when you've had enough. You execute a couple of low trackstand hops just to see if everything will hold together under moderate force, to approach an unknown threshold—dammit, if something's going to give, it's going to give under your terms. The post-hop creaking is louder, worse. Something has changed. You look down at the bike between your legs and notice a dagger of missing paint crossing the down tube some six inches below its junction with the head tube. Uh oh.

Sometimes a creaking bottom bracket isn't a creaking bottom bracket.

Sometimes a creaking bottom bracket is a crack running more than half way around your down tube. And sometimes the creak isn't a creak, but a death knell. And this death knell tells you your beloved bike has gone the way of all things.*

You decide to ride it out and keep on eye on it as you do. What choice do you have? You ride gently, gingerly, as delicately as you can when the bike is a fixed gear and the juju against further damage, against a new set of sparkling, synthetic teeth—the luxury of coasting—isn't an option. The frame holds up, but the protests continue.

Halfway home, in the gloaming of a chilly fall evening, just after the deck-bridge, with its uneven planks over which your tires resound like the thumping of a rickety old roller-coaster, you stop to look closely at the damage, to analyze the entropy (the whole ordeal a quiet reminder of your own mortality; a crack is developing somewhere in you right this minute. Yessiree, old boy, keep playing, but know that I'm here, following the script. And though we all know what happens in the dark denouement, only I know how it happens). Lo and behold, the adolescent crack has grown into a full-blown adult. The bit of good steel between fissure ends is retreating, succumbing. A half-inch margin of safety is all that's left before all bets are off.

You walk it out, past Key Bridge and the artificial glow that floats like a halo over Georgetown, up the hill along Route 29 through Rosslyn. Riders pass, as silent as their shadows, red taillights pulsing like alien semaphores. One asks if you are okay, and the bitterness subsides, just a little, just enough. The march is slow, and the damn bike creaks at every fissure in the sidewalk. It's terminal now, this crack, as if it were ever anything else, and its slow, circular creep is nothing less than a fatal metastasis, irreversible, the triumph of evil over good.

You stop at Whole Foods to grab dinner and some compensatory beer, a Russian Imperial Stout (one of which you're enjoying right now). Ten minutes later, limping along Wilson Boulevard, you give in, capitulate, crack, like the frame of the bike you pull along beside you. Into the back of a cab van goes the spavined Salsa, and less than three miles and seven dollars later you're home.

You've got a Bianchi, a nice full-on Italian job—a geared bike (said with a sneer)—all set to go. You've got a Cross-check and the pieces to make it mobile laying about. You'll get to work tomorrow on two wheels, no worries. The streak will continue.

Sometimes too many bikes is just enough.

*I plan to contact Salsa about getting a replacement frame under warranty. This frame is less than a year old and I've ridden it for about half that time; I haven't abused it by any stretch of the imagination, though I have been commuting on it every day for several months. I'll post here about my experiences, for what it's worth. Damn! I'm bummed. I really like this frame!


Fxdwhl said...

that sucks man and is a valid reminder of why more bikes is more better. you've been a real frame killer lately.

Hjalti said...

I feel your pain brother.

riderx said...

I thought this post was going to be about Donna's bike!

Sucks about the frame. Duct tape and a peanut butter wrench make a good emergency splint (speaking from experience).

DT said...

Damn, I can't believe that thing broke so quick! You didn't even run over any cabs with it...did you?

gmr2048 said...

Suckage. Sorry to hear about that. Hopefully Salsa will be cool and quick in getting you a replacement.

Güero said...

How's it go? The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long-- I know, that's bullshit- sorry to hear about this, man.

fatbob29r said...

Steve-o sorry for your loss, with any luck this is it for broken steel for a while for you. By chance did you use

Tubeular Visions said...

WOW, I feel you man,
well put.

jon_baler said...

man, couldn't believe your luck. good luck with Salsa.

DiscoCowboy said...

The Masi is looking even better to me now... good luck.

Todd said...

Damn man, sorry about your ride. Hopefully Salsa takes care of you, that bike is a beauty.

Rob said...

What a drag! At least you weren't into it at full throttle/power when it decided to epic fail.
Salsa hopefully does the right thing here. I'm curious also.

Cycle Jerk said...

Man, thanks for the story. I am going to check out the creak in my ride tonight.

Also I am building a Salsa Las Cruces SS right now. I hope the scandium holds up better than that.

Hang it there, and try Bells Two Hearted Ale when you get a chance.

Cycle Jerk said...

On a happier note, there was a Palermo sighting today, my neighbor had a custom touring bike made. Check it out

tomp3791 said...

that's an odd location for a down tube failure... so far from the weld zone. Is the crack adjacent to down tube shifter bosses?

Ikon O. Klasst said...

CJ, there should have been a Palermo sighting at the Bliss, but alas, it didn't happen. Care to weigh in, Tom? ;)

Failure occurred well below the down-tube shifter bosses. There's a small crimp near the crack's origin, but I think that's where the tubing begain to buckle as the crack developed. No idea how it happened; a defect when the tube was drawn, maybe?

2drunk2shift said...

That is like a little heart breaking. Long time no connect. Hope the bliss went well, sorry I missed it. Things are well accept for fucking myself up last week. Anyway, let me brag a little. Just got an order for 180 bottles of hot sauce. The biggest order to date. Gotta figure out how to ship it best. That is like a two batch order. HOLY SHIT.