Last night I sent an email off to a Warmshowers (www.warmshowers.org) host knowing that we had to deal with Jodi’s rear wheel today and likely would not be able to ride very many miles today. This morning I got a phone call from Reed confirming that we would be welcome to stay with him and his room-mate tonight. With that settled, Jodi and I walked down the street to the Brown Cow diner for breakfast, then back to the motel to take a close look at her wheel and see exactly what we were dealing with.
It turned out that there were 3 broken spokes, all on the drive side of the wheel; the most common place for broken spokes. For any non-cyclists reading, I’ll try to explain. We’ll consider a front wheel first. The hub has flanges on both the left and right sides and the rim of the wheel is centered with spokes going alternately to the left and right flanges.Since the rim is centered in relation to the flanges, the tension on the spokes on both sides is the same.
Now consider a rear wheel. The rim is still centered in the hub, but because the gear cluster takes up space on the right side of the hub, the right flange that the spokes attach to is pushed towards the center of the hub, so the spokes that attach to the right flange are shorter than the spokes that attach to the left flange. Since they are shorter and at a steeper angle, the right spokes must be at a higher tension in order to keep the rim centered in relation to the hub. Since these spokes are under the greatest tension, they are the most likely to fail. They also happen to be the hardest to replace, since you must remove the gear cluster before you can replace a rear drive side spoke, which requires a special tool.
Well, I am no mechanic, and I don’t carry that tool, nor do I carry the necessary replacement spokes. What I do carry is an ingenious invention called a “Fiber Fix Emergency Spoke.” This is a length of cord with a Kevlar core that is very strong, and an ingenious little bracket that crews into the spoke nipple. Once the bracket is screwed into the spoke nipple you simply run the cord through the hole in the hub where the broken spoke used to be and then run it back up to the bracket and thread it through in a certain way such that it locks into place. Now you can use the included spoke wrench to tighten the spoke nipple and pull the wheel back into true.
Unfortunately, Jodi had 3 broken spokes, and we carry only 2 of these Kevlar spoke replacements, so we replaced 2 of them and got the wheel close enough to true that Jodi could ride the bike with the rear brake released. We left our gear in the motel office and rode our unladen bikes 2 or 3 miles to the Village Bike Shop in Derby, where we had the 3 spokes replaced and the wheel trued.
By the time we got done and rode back to the motel in Newport to retrieve our panniers it was past noon, so we rode down the hill to a nice restaurant situated on Lake Memphremagog and sat outside at a table with a shade umbrella for a very leisurely lunch. We finally left there around 3:30 for the ~20 mile ride to Westmore on the shore of Lake Willoughby. This morning Reed had told me they wouldn’t be home until 6:30 or 7:00, so we had plenty of time to get there. Well, the route we chose turned out to be quite hilly and involved miles of unpaved roads, so it turned out to be quite the grueling ride in the afternoon heat. We arrived about 6:20, making it nearly 3 hours for a 20 mile ride! Leaving our bikes in the yard we walked the short distance down to a town park on the shore of Lake Willoughby and hung out there until Reed and his roommate arrived home.
Reed cooked up a nice dinner of salad and sauteed veggies from their farm along with some locally produced smoked meat, then we spent some time in conversation until it was time for bed and he showed us where we could sleep on their floor.