Sunday, September 25, 2011


About a week ago I got a notice from my bicycle club of an upcoming ride that really sounded attractive. I had done a variation of this ride about 3 years ago. The ride would originate in Kamiah, go east on Highway 12 to Kooskia and turn south on Highway 13 to Harpster. We would ascend the Harpster grade and go into Grangeville and then take the Mount Idaho road for the descent back down to the river and return through Harpster and Kooskia to Kamiah – 76 miles.

I have recently acquired a new bicycling friend whom I invited to go along with me. He is about Kathy’s age and is the Significant Other of one of our friends who moved to Ohio but is back in the valley for an indefinite period helping out with a new grandchild. We had made a few rides together and I found him to be a very experienced cyclist of about my ability and good company. At any rate, as we are on the farm the plan was for him to drive up from Clarkston and meet me in the Orofino Park where we would both ride up to Kamiah together in my truck.

However, I erred in telling him how long it would take to drive to the park. (I based it on how long it would take me.) As it turns out, he was about a half hour late which put us 20 minutes late getting to Kamiah and the bike club departs on time.

So we take off up Highway 12 in hot pursuit averaging about 19 mph to Kooskia. Our pace slowed to about 17 mph up Highway 13 toward Harpster. I knew their first rest stop would be about 21 miles out at Harpster and, sure enough, that’s where we caught them.

The only significant climb on the ride is the Harpster Grade which must be about a 5 mile climb of a couple thousand feet. At about 2/3’s up the grade I was just behind the two lead riders when I felt a regular puff of air on my left calf. I knew what that meant – a flat. Shortly the puff quit but I knew it was still leaking but with not as much pressure. It was a very hot day and as this grade is open to the south I kept going until I found a rare shady spot to stop and change the tube. When a couple of riders behind caught up they stopped to help. I removed and replaced the tube only to find that the replacement had a leak too (and it had only one patch). One of my friends who had stopped gave me a new tube which got me going.

No sooner had I resumed my climb up the hill that I discovered I could not shift. Then I noticed that the cable housing for my rear derailleur cable had ruptured. In all my years of cycling I have never seen that happen nor had anyone else in the group. The chain was in about the middle of my cassette which was not nearly a low enough gear for that hill. I found that I could pull the cable with my hand at the down tube and shift to a lower gear but I had to hold it the whole time with one hand on the handlebars and straining up the hill. When we got to the top of the grade we still had about 5 miles of rolling hills into Grangeville so the situation was marginally better but very tiring.

My first stop in Grangeville was at a hardware store where the clerk gave me a piece of Gorilla tape. I took the tension off the shifter cable and wound the ruptured cable housing tightly with the tape. Problem solved – not perfect as up shifts were a little delayed and some were not precise, but all in all, it worked pretty well.

We stopped for lunch at the Subway where I got a well needed rest. The second half of the trip was the fun part – mostly downhill. There were a few rolling hills out of Grangeville before we hit the four mile descent down to the South Fork of the Clearwater. That was some hill! You can hit speeds in 40 mph range with beautiful views all the way. We all agreed that we would never enjoy going up that hill.

It was a very hot but pleasant ride along the river into Kooskia. The road had just been resurfaced (Grandson Jack and I had experienced delays on it this summer when they were working on it) and it was smooth as glass and mostly downhill. We stopped for a few minutes in Stites and I had leaned by bike against a newsstand in the shade of a store. Suddenly there was a bang and shssss from my rear tire. Another flat, same tire, new tube. At least I was in the shade again. I was offered a new tube again but this time I elected to patch the one I had already been given. I believe those are the only flats I’ve had this year on the 1,200 miles I’ve put on that bike.

Happily, my bad luck for the day had run out. We made a fast trip back down Highway 12 into Kooskia arriving about 4:30 after a beautiful day of riding. (Sorry, no pictures) M/W


Kathy said...

And I was the one who was tired at bedtime.

Leah said...

This is why many people choose to walk or run. But then, the body can sabotage you.

Were you the only one in the group to have so many flats?

Mike said...

Yes, Leah, I was the only one to have a flat. Actually, I believe it's the first club ride I've been on this year that anyone had a flat.

Leah said...

Oh gee, talk about a little black cloud over you. As they say, these situations are character building. It’s not what happens to you that matters, it’s how you handle things. You’re a trooper.

Hallie said...

Boo! Flats are a drag. Have you started on the permanent fix for your derailleur? Did your friend stick with you for the whole ride?

Mike said...

The problem is the cable housing, not the derailleur. I believe I have some cable housing in town to fix it.

Yes, my friend hung in there all the way. He rides a lot more than I do and is planning a ride from Butte to Alaska next summer.

Chris said...

What a day!! That's why I travel by car. LOL! :-)