What's Cool In Road Cycling

Lee’s Lowdown: Tech Trouble!

New bike, new kit or new wheels, all great things to lift your motivation for a ride. The problem that Lee Rodgers has on his ride is not the ‘bling’ but the modern technology, well, any technology. Electric gears, tubeless tires and power meters are all there just to wind Lee up and ruin a good bike ride.

Last week’s ride started off promisingly enough. I was bedecked in my new 2016 PEZ kit, had on my recently purchased and very sparkly white Sidis, my sunglasses from my sponsor 720 Armour had arrived the previous afternoon (shameless plug, yes) and I think I might even have brushed my teeth before I left the house.

Abu Dhabi Tour 2015
New white sidis, not just for Esteban Chaves

It was an auspicious start. Heck, I’d even washed my bike the night before. I say ‘my bike’ but actually I was on a friend’s bike, a Focus Max Izalco that I’d had to borrow for one reason or another. I’d ridden an Izalco before, it’s a great bike, truly underrated, and was excited this time to try out the much-vaunted Shimano Di2 over an extended period. I was also on tubeless tires for the first time on a road bike, testing some wheels for a manufacturer.

I had that new-bike excitement coursing through my veins, a feeling I’m thankful to say I get every time I try out something new. Feeling bright and chipper, this, I knew deep in my bones, was gonna be a great ride.

pezkit2015-full920
The new PEZ kit – You can get your own here.

I met up with my buddy Bjarke and off we rolled through the city streets to one of our usual routes, a pan-flat 30km before we start to climb up a beautiful tree lined road up a gentle rise to a rolling plateau criss-crossed with small concreted paths. These serve as access roads for the little farmer trucks they use to gather in the harvest of lychees that grow up along the slopes.

It’s one of those gentle, dream-like rides that remind you with a velvety forcefulness that you are; a) a lucky bastard to be out there at all and that; b) all is well and good with the world, even if just for those moments when your arse is in the saddle. Such a cozy ride it is, in fact, that next time I might head out there in a smoking jacket and slippers with my granddad’s pipe packed up with a hit of rough shag in it just to top it all off.

All was gong very well until, on the way up the hill, my gears stopped moving. Chain and crank still whizzed around but I couldn’t change gear. Perplexed, I called out to Bjarke and climbed off.

lee-rodgers-920

What’s up? Bonked?!

Funny. No the gears won’t shift.

Bjarke’s an engineer. I’m not. Whereas my brain rushed straight to: ohfrigthebike’sbrokeni’mgonnahavetocallataxi, as it usually does when even the simplest thing to fix breaks, Bjarke’s brain reached the obvious conclusion in a second.

Battery’s flat.

……….

Did you charge it up?

He just gave it to me. I presumed…

Lesson of the day, do not presume, ever, that you mate is giving you a Di2 rigged bike and has actually charged it in the past 6 months or however long the infernal thing lasts. I thought I was going to have to ride home the last flat 40km in 34×27 (aka the Hummingbird Gear), but Bjarke was already on it.

Wait, I have an idea.

He flipped up his bike, then positioned mine so the two BBs were alongside, then whipped out his cable and connected it to my battery charge point, told me to start hand-pedaling and boom, we had a connection! Passing motorists must have thought we were forcing our bikes into mating but we didn’t care, we’d cracked it.

He shifted it to 50×15 and, one high five later, we were off again. Genius!

octave-lapize-tourmalet10-920
Di2 trouble?

Once again, equilibrium having been restored, we were all smiles and chugging along quite merrily when I suddenly felt the dreaded mushy tire at the back.

I got off again and have a look. It’s not really flat, maybe at 90psi, but I decided to give it a quick pump anyway.

I attached my hand pump, one of those with the threaded heads, and after a few swift shots it’s good to go. Then I unscrewed the pump and all we hear is ‘pfffffffffftttttttt!’. The valve core had remained screwed to the pump thread rather than staying in the valve. Air rushed out immediately and it was flat in a second. No worries, I thought, I’ll just reattach and pump it back up.

Except… Well, except that when all the air rushed out the tire decided to come unstuck, the seal not working when it was completely flat. OK, deep breath, no worries, new tube in, except… well, except my old, deep-packed in the saddle bag tube has a valve that was too short to reach out through the 50mm wheels I was riding.

Bjarke…?

Bjarke has a small grin on his lips. He’s enjoying this a little bit, the bastard.

Have you a tube, good sir?

Yep.

Thanks.

Except…

What?

Same valve as you have. Too short.

old-puncture-920
Things used to be much easier

The taxi ride home was faaaaaantastic. The guy not only chain-smoked a brand called ‘I Want To Die’, he also spoke to me very in loud Chinese the whole way home, either oblivious to the fact that I don’t speak Chinese very well or perhaps enjoying himself because of that very fact.

For all I know he might have been berating me in the local dialect for bringing a spare tube WITH A VALVE THAT WAS TOO F*CKING SHORT FOR THE RIM!

Or something like that.

That ride was a microcosmic example of my relationship with technology, and especially with bike tech. Back when I was racing the Asia Tour, SRM sponsored me with a power meter. It was great, all shiny and slightly menacing, until it broke after 3 weeks. To be fair, I hadn’t used it at all in any real sense except to scare people who think that if you have a power meter then you must be a PROPER rider, but I left it on there anyway for the rest of the season.

You’re a pretty big guy but you got up that hill ok,” said one guy after a stage somewhere. “What watts were you pushing?

No idea.

You have a power meter though.

Oh that. Nah it hasn’t worked in 4 months.

So… why do you have it on your bike?

‘Cos it makes you look PROPER!” I said, laughing. He didn’t seem to get it though. An awkward silence ensued.

All this new stuff is sweet to look at and to ride too, but I like things simple, like me. Give me a bike, make as many things on it unbreakable, and let me just ride. I have enough trouble wrapping bartape, finding my socks and working out why it’s frigging impossible to buy a pencil anywhere anymore.

Anyway, thanks for reading. I’m off back to the 1950s now, cheerio!

Fausto Coppi, Gino Bartali stockphoto BC
Lee yearning for the old times


Lee Rodgers is a former professional road racer on the UCI Asia Tour circuit now racing MTB professionally around the world. His day job combines freelance journalism, coaching cyclists, event organizing and consulting work. You can keep up with his daily scribblings over at www.crankpunk.com.

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