The Summer of Bizarre Trailside Mechanical Issues and Repairs

Disclaimer: We are quite vigilant about bike maintenance in our household.  If we’ve hit mud puddles during a ride, the mud gets washed and brushed off as soon as possible. Tires get changed, chains get lubed, brake pads get replaced, and Stan’s sealant gets added to our tubeless tires on a scheduled basis.  We take good care of our bikes.  The following bizarre maintenance issues are ones that occur rarely, yet for some reason happened to us all in one season.

The Egg in the Tire

The start of our bike problems came about mid-season, sometime in late June.  Out for a ride on the Horsethief Bench trail with Adelle, we noticed a small bubble forming in her front tire.  Bubbles sometimes occur in tires that are using tubeless tire sealant instead of a tube.  It seems this is more likely to happen if the tire being used isn’t a “tubeless ready” tire, but it’s still a rare occurrence.  The inside of the tire gets a blister, delaminates, and then these weird blister bubbles form on the outer portion of the tire. What happens next can sometimes ruin your ride. If the bubble is really big, or continues to grow, it can make riding difficult.  If the bubble pops, well, you might have to duct tape or use a “boot” in your tire to survive the rest of the ride.

On this particular day the bubble was small.  We kept riding, stopping frequently to check the bubble.  We got lucky because it stayed small and didn’t grow at all on the rest of our ride. It didn’t pop either!  Still, when the ride was over, the bike was taken to the backyard bike shop and the tire was immediately replaced.

Tools required: just eyes on the tire during the ride; afterwards a new tire, tire tools, and Stan’s sealant were used

The Case of the Disappearing Sealant

In another tubeless tire-related incident, Adelle and I were out later in July in Loma for a bike ride.  Our day had already gotten off to a rough start because I locked the keys in the car.  After discovering that we could “break in” through the slightly open window with a stick of sagebrush, we celebrated and were on our way.  We climbed up Mary’s, and as we were cruising along on the doubletrack I noticed my back tire seemed to be skidding.  I stopped to check and heard an audible “ssssssssssss.” What the heck? This isn’t supposed to happen with tubeless tires! The whole point of running tubeless out here is so when we run over briars or goat heads, it doesn’t matter!

First Adelle and I tried the “pump up the tire and take off riding quickly in hopes that Stan’s sealant will fill in the hole” method.  That didn’t work. This is when our skills, only theoretical to this point, came into play.  “How sure are you that you can put a tube in this tire?” Adelle asked me. “Pretty sure,” I replied.  We got busy taking the rear wheel off.  I knew our only problem would be getting the rear wheel back on…I wasn’t worried about the tube.  Sure enough, we got the tube in the tire and got it pumped up with no problem. But for the life of us we could NOT get the wheel back on.  (Hint: it’s always best to shift into the smallest ring on your cassette before taking the tire off.)

Luckily some guys came along and helped us get the wheel back on.  Even though we needed help with that one issue, I felt like we’d done pretty well for our first ever trailside tire repair.

Tools required: one 26″ tube, tire tool for removing the tire from the wheel and getting it back on, pump

Was that a gunshot?

Duct tape helped protect a blown tire on a ride in Steamboat Springs.
Duct tape helped protect a blown tire on a ride in Steamboat Springs.

While on a ride in Steamboat Springs, we were relaxing with a snack when we heard what sounded like a gunshot.  Ka-POW!!!!! Dust flew up a few feet away from us.  “What the heck was that?” I asked.  Adelle stood up and walked over to her bike.  She let out a loud gasp and squatted down next to the bike.  The BF and I ran over to look at what we now knew to be the cause of that loud pop: her back tire.

The outside of the sidewall had blown! There was a clear gash in the sidewall of the tire, but it wasn’t going all the way through the tire itself. Still, there was a small hiss filling the air.  So we began by adding a tube to the tire since it was clear the Stan’s sealant wasn’t going to fix this problem. After that we added a duct tape reinforcement to the outside of the tire to protect the tube and the sidewall. It held for another 8 miles or so; all the way back to the car!

After this incident we did stop at a bike shop in town to pick up a new tire.  We put a tube in it since we didn’t have any Stan’s sealant with us, and the tire and tube held up just fine.

Tools: 26″ tube, tire tools, pump, duct tape

You always wanted to try a singlespeed… right?

It seems most of the incidents this summer, bizarre though they were, happened to Adelle’s bike. Though it too received regular maintenance, it seemed strange things just continued to happen.

Lion's Loop at the Kokopelli trail system, Loma, CO
Lion’s Loop at the Kokopelli trail system, Loma, CO

See Adelle off in the distance? That was right before her derailleur cable snapped. Yes, it snapped. How often does that happen? A chain break? Sure, that might happen if you try to shift under pressure, but a derailleur cable snap? It was like the gods were all against us this summer. Fortunately the BF was with us, and he took out his little blue bag of parts (which, by the way, we lost right after this incident).  There was nothing to do but force the bike into a single speed by shortening the chain. There was no way to shift and no way to fix the snapped cable. So the BF shortened the chain so that it was basically a single-speed in 1 and 4, and we continued on our way.

Adelle is a great sport.  She climbed steep hills in a higher gear than I ever would have and hardly had to walk anything. Again, after this ride the bike got taken to the backyard bike shop for a new chain and new derailleur cable.

Tools: chain-break tool, 9-speed quick link, duct tape (to tape down the broken cable so it wouldn’t get caught on Adelle’s legs or on anything else)

Hey, is that a snake on your bike?

Let’s get one thing straight: I have an overactive imagination.  Out on a bike ride on Western Rim with some visiting friends, my imagination went into overdrive.  We were on the climb from the end of the Western Rim singletrack back to trail #2, on the Kokopelli trail.  Slowly climbing along, I was deep in conversation with my friend when all of a sudden there was a very LOUD HISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS coming from right by my feet.  Assuming (as anyone would, right?) that a giant anaconda had wrapped itself onto my bike and was trying to kill me, I pushed a magic “eject” button and somehow flung myself, even though I was clipped in, off of my bike.

In turning around I realized of course that there was no snake, but there was a tire with a gash in it.  Who knows what I ran over? I’d just been noticing quite a few pieces of bike junk: screws, and random bits of metal on the trail before this incident happened.

Once again, here I was with a tubeless tire needing a tube.  Never in the 6 years that we’ve been running tubeless tires have we had problems like this. So in went a tube and we did our best to patch the tire just so the tube wouldn’t end up getting popped again because of the gash.  We had a successful ride after this with my friends both shaking their heads at my bizarre behavior.

Waiting for us at home was the BF and a new tire… and then he discovered that in my haste to get off the bike and throw it down (because of the snake, you know) I’d also broken a spoke.

Tools: 26″ tube, tire tools, pump, self-adhesive patch, a trip to the actual bike shop to fix the spoke

Well now you’re really clipped in, aren’t you?

I don’t want to get into the clip vs flat debate again, but I do love my clipless pedals.  On our last trip to Moab all but one of us had clipless pedals and we all have used them for years… and then this happened:

bike maintenance on the Rockin A in Moab, UT
bike maintenance on the Rockin A in Moab, UT

That guy sitting on the ground? He’s there because his shoe is stuck to his pedal. The screw came out of his clipless cleat and so instead of allowing him to twist his foot and get out of the pedal, the cleat just kept turning.  There was no escape! He ended up having to take off his shoe, leave the shoe affixed to the pedal, and sit there in his sock feet until the BF (who always has a million screws for incidents like this) was able to replace the screw and get the shoe loose.

Tool: a multi-tool, random sized screw for this particular brand of clipless pedal cleat

So as you can see, as prepared as you might be, and as much maintenance as you might do, sometimes things just happen.  Tires get cut, screws fall out, and even cables can snap.  You can take care of your bike, give it a good once-over before every ride, and still things might happen to your or other bikes in your group. When they do, it’s best to just follow the boy scout motto and “always be prepared.” Always have a spare tube, a pump, and tire tool at least.  Always have duct tape and a way to fix a broken chain (like a quick link).  If you want to carry more supplies, keep a small container or baggy of random sized screws for things that might need them: a cleat, your dropper seat post lever, etc.  Finally, always carry a few zip ties: you just never know when those might come in handy!

I hope you’ve all had to deal with way fewer trailside repairs than us this season!

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