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always rely on the kindness of strangers

The ride started out great. A big huge crowd of people, many of which I know by now (even if I am terrible with names and don't remember them all). We all set out as a giant strung out pack, but the light across 2 quickly split a chunk of us out the back. Me, T, S&G, plus a bunch of people I hadn't met. We were still a wide variety of speeds; I rode with S&G and a guy A I hadn't talked to before for a good while before the first control, where I didn't want to really stop, so I left them behind and cruised on alone.

The sheltering of a pack would have been nice in the wind, but I was feeling good, and happy riding by myself. Around mile 50 or so I started seeing the speed demons heading back north; this was one of the few really out-and-back courses we do. They were flying by in tight little pelotons. Then I started seeing the looser middle packs, and then I was at the turnaround myself, being teased by one of the gentlemen who'd helped with my flat-o'doom on last years 300k. I sheepishly admitted that I'd just gone back to the type of tire that had been such a cause of dismay, but that I was sure I'd be OK next time. They didn't have any food at the turnaround, and I was starting to get hungry, but I figured I'd eat later. (Never wait until you're hungry to eat. Bad move, though I never really bonked. Just got overly tired.)

At mile 90 or so of the brevet, I started writing this blog post in my head. A title, a nervous start, some suspense, and then the news: Reader, I crushed it (p.s. that's a good thing). Well, the first 90 miles or so, I did. After that...

Not my best, speed-wise, but I couldn't expect that at this training level. I hit the 40-mile control just at the 3-hour mark, which wasn't a super-strong start, but I was still feeling better and better, and aimed to and hit the turnaround control and left it under 5 hours. Which I knew didn't translate into a sub-10 hour brevet, because I knew my legs weren't fresh enough to keep that speed up all the way back. (The way back was slightly shorter but also more uphill.) But it did mean, potentially, something in the 10:15-10:30 range, which sounded great to me, and I was pushing hard through the trip back to the midpoint. Just after the turnaround, my GPS started acting up. It crashed at one point; for several more miles it was convinced I'd missed a turn and that I needed to go back and make it, and couldn't find that I was still on track, just further down. (I'd split the out-and-back course in half, so it wasn't getting confused outbound/inbound.) It did keep me from going more than a block the one time I made a navigational error; I ignored it howling of an upcoming turn because it had been trying to get me to u-turn so much and I was looking for a landmark the cue sheet noted, which I'd evidently missed seeing and had already passed.

That was the most minor mechanical. The others were more potentially serious -- something was rubbing, mostly under load, and not all the time -- I kept stopping to try to find it, and failing; was pretty sure it involved my back tire and the fender, but every time I poked at it it would stop for a few minutes and then get worse.

Once I took my bag off the bike, it was obvious:
200k aftermath: abraded fender

I kept checking the tire to see which side might be rubbing or if I was actually damaging it, but it was fine. I'd never been quite comfortable with how close these tires were to the fenders, and had already replaced the front, but as I mentioned before, didn't want to destroy my hands wrestling another tire on after changing two studded tires out on the commuter and the front on the brevet bike this week, especially since I had to be ready to handle flats on the brevet. Guess that was a mistake. New tire went on very easily -- easier than the front, way easier than before I had the proper rim tape one.

These rims (Velocity A23s) and their hate-on for easy tire-changing are the one thing I'd change about my brevet bike, but they're nice wheels otherwise and thus I will keep them until I need new ones. With low-profile rim tape they really are much better, anyway.

The second issue was more dramatic -- I downshifted approaching a traffic light, and crunch, my pedals froze. Chainsuck. I've gotten it occasionally since getting the hybrid drivetrain, but usually I just have to tug a bit and free the chain. This time it had wedged itself into the front derailleur cage fairly thoroughly, and I was having little luck unwedging it. I was also tired, cranky, underfed, and had been keeping myself going with time goals and a focus on forward progress, and I'd been....derailed. I beat on it unsuccessfully, while standing in a slow avalanche of fresh pine mulch on the bank I'd stepped up onto off the road. (I'm probably going to be picking bits of it out of my bike for ages, especially from when I turned it upside-down.) I was just about to pull the rear wheel to give me some more chain to work with when a gentleman driving by stopped to see if I had a flat and needed help; I told him I had it under control but showed him the issue. He'd never seen a chain do that, and was impressed. And also had much stronger hands, as he gave a quick yank on it like I'd been unsuccessfully trying and it popped out.

I couldn't really get a decent photo that shows the damage -- derailleurs are finicky little metal wonders, and a little bit of warping does a lot to the performance. So just take my word for it:
200k aftermath

is not what it should look like. It did still shift, but the chain would come off one side or the other if I went too far, so all shifts had a reasonable probability of me needing to stop and put it back on. Plus I kept ending up staying in the big ring when I thought I'd downshifted -- it would make shifting-y noises but not shift; there were a few hills where I was like oh no something else must be wrong because it was so hard to pedal, and then it turned out I'd been in the big ring. Again.

But I don't really need all of those gears on this course; it was more "constant rollers" than "actually flat", and I just kept reminding myself not to cross-chain too much and to shift very gingerly, and it was fine.

I finally got back into the swing of things, though not eating enough was catching up to me. Also catching up to me, repeatedly, was another randonneur -- he kept having navigation troubles and was displeased with the cue sheet. By this point we were close to the finish, and I was very familiar with all the roads, so we rode together for a while, chatting about other rides, including the NJ night ride which we were both on two years ago, and my upcoming night ride here. I bid him farewell on the last hill; I might have been able to sprint and keep up, but it wasn't worth it to me at that point. (It was the biggest on the course -- Lincoln Road by the Lincoln library (which locals might be familiar with) which is annoying but not that bad; I used to do it with two panniers full of library books when we lived in Lexington and the Lexington library was closed for renovations.

Final total: 10:52, which with at least 10-15 minutes fussing with the chain and then more having to baby it along was pretty good.

Today I put the new tire on, found the chain rub and decided the derailluer needed the shop. And I found one other thing.

A ladybug, perched on my handlebars, still alive and well, as if to say "better luck next time". I put her in the yard.

200k aftermath: ladybug

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