Mechanical problems come in threes…?

December 15, 2010 at 21:41 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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The other day, when leaving work at some ridiculously late hour, I got about a hundred metres down the road and realised that I had a puncture. I was riding the Peugeot, and it has brand new tyres on it. ‘Bombproof’ is how they were described by the shop. Well, either I have a problem with those rims or Panaracer tyres are not all they are cracked up to be; I’ve done nearly 10,000km on my beloved Conti UltraSports on the fixie and never had a puncture.

Luckily, I had another bike at work, so walked back up to the office and switched them over to ride home. (Which reminds me, I need to take a puncture repair kit in with me tomorrow to fix up the Peugeot. I’ve got so blase about punctures that I’ve stopped carrying one…)

Then today, I had another problem. Pulling away on a hill at some lights with a queue of cars behind me, and suddenly it’s really hard to pedal. I mean really hard. Hard like ‘the back wheel just seized up’. I hobble to the side of the road amidst the blaring car horns to work out what has gone wrong.

The first thing I realise is that I’ve somehow got into the dreaded ‘little-little’ combo. I have no idea how; I never use the granny ring but for some reason I’ve absent-mindedly clicked the left hand gears. On further inspection it seems the brakes have jammed on. How can that happen? Seems very odd. I try to release the catch thingy you use when taking the wheel off, but it’s already off. So the brakes should be as wide as, but are in fact jammed against the rim. Very weird, I’ve never had brakes jam on before.

I look a little further, and see the cause of the problem. The pressure of puling away coupled with the little-little combo has put a lot of lateral pressure on the axle, and it has slipped in the drop-outs. This has also caused the brakes to jam up on one side. I release the skewer, re-centre the wheel and things seem to work again. I get the gears into a more normal configuration, and take my place back in the traffic, ironically back at the head of the queue waiting for the next cycle of the lights.

They go green, and we go again. But actually we don’t go again, as half a pedal revolution in, once again that dragging feeling and I grind to a halt. Another embarrassing hobble to the side of the road. ‘Perhaps I should have tightened the skewer’, I muse, as I once again adjust the wheel back into the centre. I start out again, but something is still not right and the brakes are rubbing.

It’s no good, I can’t see what I’m doing with panniers etc on the the bike, so I take them off and turn the bike upside down on the pavement. Seat the wheel properly, centre the brake calipers, get the chain running smoothly on the gears. Finally, it seems all is well, and I am able to continue on my way.

The mysterious thing in this is, of course, the lever thingy on the brakes. Somewhere along the line I must have adjusted the brakes into working position with this catch off. Something to look at, I dunno, sometime, I suppose. But then I don’t use the back brake, and I don’t get punctures, so perhaps it can wait…

But then again, mechanical problems come in threes. Or so they say. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll take that puncture repair kit and some tools…

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