Thursday, January 5, 2012

WTF? Or... When Balance Shifts to the Dark Side

Zen (and much of this here blogular posting) is about the pursuit of balance, which by definition, is an even distribution of forces to create equilibrium. Yeah, okay. Since yesterday's post portrayed a most beautiful, nearly perfect day of weather and riding (rather heavy on the NICE side of the scale), I should have expected today's ride would include some not-so-perfect attributes (the NOT NICE side of the scale).

I did not prepare myself.

The weather appeared just as nice as yesterday, dare I say, even better. Little to no wind, sunny, and very warm. Wanting more of yesterday's beautiful ride, I grabbed the camera and shot out the door.

The ride began nicely, and I headed down to the beach to get on the bike path, deciding today to head inland for a change of scenery. I hadn't gone that way for a while, focusing more on the beautiful coastline area of late. As I proceeded down the path, a bit of headwind picked up, making the pedaling slightly harder, but not enough to be unpleasant ... and I figured that would mean I'd have a tailwind for the return trip later. Remember that statement, okay?

As I got to the 5 Freeway underpass, I found this:

WTF?  Someone has a faulty calendar
I checked my cell phone to confirm that it is indeed January 5th.  According to this sign, the path should be open now, since it's AFTER December 30. But still, sadly, the path is closed ... blocked by a concrete barrier ... preventing me from pursuing my chosen route inland to see the cows and horses further up the path. It's not so much that my route was interupted, but that this bike path has had one closure or another since January 2009. It's irritating, because this path, when not closed with construction, provides a continuous 8-mile stretch of riding with no streets or traffic to contend with, and connects Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano, as well as Mission Viejo via a secondary connected path. When it's closed, getting from one town to another requires navigating some fairly busy streets with drivers who aren't aware of the no texting or talking on the cell phone laws, always in a hurry, and rather annoyed by cyclists in general. It's certainly possible, but not nearly as pleasant, nor as fun, since the ride is mostly about staying safe and avoiding obstacles, rather than enjoying the scenery.  Anyway ... here's why this part of the path is currently closed:

5 Freeway off-ramp construction and Levee reinforcement

I understand this need to be done ... but does it have to take so long?

Okay ... so I didn't get to ride where I really wanted to go. No big deal. Lots of other things to see. I turned around and headed back toward Dana Point and the beach area. Along the way, I discovered that I was riding into a headwind ... again. Yes, that's right. It shifted while I stopped to take construction photos. Headwind riding inland ... and headwind again riding to the beach. Go figure. Looks like the universe required more effort from me today, since it was so perfect and easy yesterday.

Still being positive, I stopped mid way back to the beach, remembering that one reason I wanted to head inland is to see the mountains. As beautiful as the ocean is, I never tire of seeing this:

Saddleback Mountains in the distance ... on clear days, this is breathtaking

After the mountain viewing stop, I turned around to head up the little hill out of the park where I took the photo. I hadn't downshifted from the big front chainring on the way in, so I pedaled soft and gently moved the lever ... and then something very bad happened.  Chainsuck.  What is chainsuck? It's when your chain sticks to the bigger chainring as you attempt to shift to a smaller one, and then wraps itself around the ring, jams into the chainstay and basically stops all forward motion. There are many causes for this ... shifting improperly, bad derailleur adjustment, generally being stupid about when you shift, dirty inflexible chain, or any combination. In my case, it is fair to say my chain wasn't freshly cleaned ... but it wasn't completely dirty, either ... and the bike is only 45 days old, so the chain can't be completely fouled already. However, I hadn't wiped it down from yesterday, and there was a bit of sand in some of the links. Probably more likely is that I attempted to shift with too much pressure on the pedals while going uphill with a slightly dirty chain, and in a slightly odd combination of middle front ring and small rear cog. I could also just be an idiot when it comes to shifting. In any case, freeing the chain was no big deal. However, it was after freeing the chain that my worst nightmare presented itself. When the chain jammed into my chainstay, it caused ... horror of horrors ... the first scratch on my Hunqapillar. I nearly sobbed right there on the path:

Damn you, Chainsuck!!!
GREAT!!!!! Now I have to go and get some gray touch-up paint or fingernail polish to fill the scratch. Well, there had to be a first scratch, right?  There always is ... and it's painful, but I'll get over it.

I picked myself up off the gravel from my fetal position, and got back out on the path, heading toward the beach and then home. I'd gone a couple of miles and started to shift down to the smallest ring in preparation for the steepest climb when I noticed I could not shift to that ring. WTF?  This is not good. Why can I not shift to the small ring? The shift lever would move all the way down until it could physically move no further, but the derailleur would not move far enough to guide the chain over the small ring.  I scratched my head for a moment as I got concerned about my new bike having issues. I thought perhaps the front derailleur got bent from the earlier chainsuck. Nope ... looks okay, and straight. And it can't possibly be the shift cable. If anything, the cable would stretch, not get shorter. I noticed there was considerable tension on the shift cable with the lever all the way down, and concluded that the only way for this to be happening is that the entire derailleur had gotten shifted up a few millimeters during the chainsuck incident, which would cause the shift cable to to be pulled tighter, which would then cause the derailleur cage to be limited in how far inward it could travel. I took a look ... and sure enough, it was sitting quite high above the chainrings. The clamp had shifted up on the seat tube.

First a huge scratch, and now THIS?  Damn you, Chainsuck! 

I got out my toolkit, loosened the clamp and re-positioned the derailleur ... then I was back on the road. Glad I always carry my toolkit ...

Riding back up through the park hills toward home, I began to relax again, and noticed how blue the sky was ... how clear the harbor view ... the cool trees in the park ... and the ride went from headwinds in both directions, path closures, chainsuck, and derailleur bumping to this:

Bright green sprawling pine

Clear sky and blue water

A wisp of clouds over a clear coastal view

Gnarly tree branches

More gnarly tree branches ... amazing, the shapes they take as they grow

And once again ... balance is restored. In the words of the great philosopher Jed, "Y'all come back, now ... y'hear?"

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