Today was one of those rides that left me with an uneasiness about the volume of abuse many of the parts on my bikes have been subjected to over their short lifetimes. The ride was rolling along nicely, with my ankle and legs feeling good, company enjoyable, and the sky as blue as it gets in the desert.
We wound our way through a maze of singletrack, moto routes, and ATV trails, never really straying all that many miles from where we began. My chain sounded annoyed, somehow realizing that it was due for replacement at the end of the day. My cleats seemed to echo the sentiment, feeling more wobbly than ever.
Then, as I pedaled up a short, steep sandstone slab, I heard the PING of a spoke breaking. Or rather, in this case, it was of the aluminum nipple failing. I twisted the spoke around one of its neighbors and kept on riding. The rim had only a modest wobble to it, a sure sign of any well-built wheel.
Then only a mile or two later, as I stood up to climb another short slab of rock, my left knee suddenly hit the handlebars as it does when the chain unexpectedly drops off the chainrings. But I glanced down as I hopped off, and the chain was right where it always is. I swung my leg back over the saddle to pedal on, and my pedals turned, the chain squeaked as it moved forward, but my rear wheel just sat right where it was. Uhoh. The pawls in the freehub body must have all snapped. Nuts.
This is one mechanical failure for which there's no good solution, so I coasted the descents, walked the climbs, received some friendly assistance on the flats, and eventually made my way to the nearest highway. I clamped all the zip ties I was carrying around the biggest cog and the nearest spokes and gently pedaled back to town, making it to the last half mile before the zip ties snapped, forcing me to do the walk of shame the rest of the way on the sidewalk.
Metal fatigue. It happens. How will you make it home from your next long ride through the middle of nowhere when the unexpected, unlikely, challenging-to-remedy mechanical failure happens?