Sometimes, things don’t always go according to plan. What’s worse is when backup plans don’t go according to plan.
No more than 30 miles away from the Checkpoint my chain broke– snapping off at the quick-install powerlink. No problem– I planned for that. A sweaty and greasy 30 minutes later I had a spare chain fastened on snug and tight (the process was greatly prolonged by important little metal bits falling in the tall grass.) A few pedals later I noticed that that I hadn’t entirely thought this thing through.
When a bike chain wears and tears, it’s supposed to wear and tear alongside the cassette of small gears its fed through. As tiny little scratches, stretches and nicks form in the chain, they’re supposed to match the deformities of the teeth. Put a brand new chain on a worn cassette and you’ll get a jerk or a skip every few pedals as you feel the two pieces conflict with one-another. The spare chain I carried with me was the old chain the bike came with, with a lifetime of wear that was all its own. The proper solution would’ve been to carry spare powerlinks for the newer chain.
I rode a skippy, jerky 10 miles over to the next town where I could find some shade and a table to think this over. The nearest bike shop on the ACA maps was over 150 miles away– I wouldn’t be seeing it for another day and a half, and the skipping, jerking motion of the spare chain is the kind of thing that leads to broken chains.
I sent a mass text asking folks back home to Google nearby bike shops, and within seconds I was inundated with responses at a faster rate than I could reply to. The consensus pointed towards College Station, a town to the north with 4, 5, maybe even 6 bike shops. A haven. Just what I needed. I worked out a detour route and set sail.
I really didn’t mind it, actually. The route was pretty, and I mean gorgeous. I’m finally starting to see the occasional treeless plain, and these things are so beautiful that I can hardly keep my eyes off them. All of my worries drifted away into an aesthetic euphoria– the scary clinks and clanks below got quieter, the muscle aches died down, and I felt full of breath and utterly content. The bike pedaled itself.
The scenic county road inevitably ended into an ugly state road, but eventually I made it there. College Station is the small but densely populated college town where Texas A&M University lives. The A and M don’t really stand for anything, and students are called “aggies.” The surrounding neighborhoods are known as “Aggieland.”
The local bike shop fixed me up, but not without opening another can of worms.
“Man, that thing is loaded,” said the clerk.
“That’s a touring bike if I ever saw one,” said another.
“How many pounds do you think you’re packing?” one mechanic asked.
“Uhh, when I left home the scales said 50. I’ve only been eating off of it since and haven’t really added much…”
He lifted it up into a repair stand to get a better angle at the chain. He made the process look strenuous– which lots of grunting and flexing.
“Man, I think you have 80 or something. That’s defineteley not 50. I’d weigh it, but it might break the scale.”
Everyone else laughed.
Excuse me princess, but my bike weights just the amount it needs to. I’ve made use of every little item I’ve packed on there– from the mini chain breaker on the mulititool to the plastic spoon I snuck out of a grocery store. One of the first things I did when I rode through Pensacola was mail home a package of dead weight.
My bike is loaded to the brim with stuff– six gallons of storage on the back, four on the front. There’s a tent and a sleeping pad bungee corded across the middle, and I have enough water and food tucked in there to last for days. It’s slow to start and stop and doesn’t turn on a dime, but that’s because I’m not just riding it. I’m living off of it.
I’m sleeping at Lake Bryan tonight instead of Lake Fayette, and am about 30 miles off route and off the map. Tomorrow I’m pedaling me and my fat bike 100 miles to Austin. Cycling 100 miles isn’t a feat that many Americans are physically capable of. Cycling a fat and fully-loaded touring bike skims that majority even smaller, but I have no doubt that I’m going to pull it off easily.