Or, March - how I hate thee.

Blizzards.  Massive dumps of snow.  Freezing temperatures.Ungodly winds.  Slogging it.  I retired the Rescue Bike at the end of September with the arrival of the Ridley X-Fire, promptly adding studs and lights so I could enjoy it through the winter.  I commuted consistently and enjoyed riding without an eye on speed or heart-rate (because it’s dark in the winter and I can’t read the Garmin).  I rode through everything nature had to offer and opted out only when the road conditions were impassable.  I had (almost) no limits.

Then March arrived.  Snowing, melting, freezing March.  From double-digit highs to double-digit lows almost back-to-back.  Chaotic, manic weather.  This wouldn’t be so bad if the paths weren’t built either on the side of, or at the bottom of snow-covered slopes.  Or if there wasn’t a big dump with many fresh, powdery inches that promptly melted, pooled and froze over.

I rode home on the 13th through puddles several inches deep and vowed that I would not ride the following day if the mercury dropped below freezing – and it did.  So I didn’t.  I stayed off the bike, annoyed at my earlier jacket-shredding fall and the unpredictable path conditions and used my time in the car to get big things, haul many things, go many places quickly.  Most of those things entailed getting parts, bits and tools for working on cars.  There’s a lesson there…

With no more errands to run and a week of glorious temperatures ahead of me, I hopped on the X-Fire this morning and headed out once more.  Stiff and sore from so much time off the bike and so much time laying under cars on the concrete floor, I was still glad to be back on two wheels.  The paths had shed some of their puddles and the going was easy aside from pedaling two weeks worth of cookie build-up.  Then it happened.

Nine kilometeres in, a short stretch of ice covering the path but a puddle I knew to be rather deep lurked underneath.  I approached tentatively and sure enough broke through the surface, getting bogged down.  Gingerly I slid the front wheel on to the grass and hobbled across.  Safe.  Pulled back on to the path, caught the last bit of shiny, polished and very slick ice and went down.  Hard.

Assuring a passing rider that I was fine, I picked myself up and noted that my brake lever had taken on an awkward angle inconsistent with it’s mounting point.  Because it was no longer attached to it’s mounting point.  Because there wasn’t one anymore.

Something's missing here...

Something’s missing here…

Great.  Wonderful.  That’s money.  Straighten the seat out, throw a leg over and discover the rear derailleur is pushed into the wheel’s spokes.  Awesome!  That’s just a bent hanger bracket though – we can deal with that with ease.  Unless of course I break it in half trying to pull the derailleur out of the wheel.  Not that I did that.  Yeah I did.

Ineffective derailleur mounting location.

Ineffective derailleur mounting location.

While a more enthusiastic individual could have brought out the chain breaker and turned it it into a single speed, I opted to test the X-Fire’s flat-bottomed top tube, designed for those sections of the cyclocross race where it’s more prudent to carry it on your shoulder than ride it.  A one kilometer walk in stiff-bottomed cycling shoes is a lot farther than it sounds, though Adam tells me it’s not nearly as far as the 15km he pushed his bike.  Adam also provided the rescue pick-up at the Max Bell centre, keenly parked next to the City TV cameras so I could do the walk of shame in front of them.

The complete lack of traction provided by the Nokian studded front tire surprised me though I suppose it shouldn’t have.   I wasn’t carrying much speed when it washed out and put holes in my jacket either.  I’m thinking these are much more of a snow-stud than an ice stud.  Or maybe a grass stud.  Whatever – they’re not for Calgary’s March ice conditions.  Or perhaps the 2500km on them have worn them out.

So the X-Fire is with the fine folks at Ridley’s Cycle waiting for it’s new parts, which is fine.  I’m annoyed with March.  I’m tired of falling off the bike and really tired of wrecking things in the process.  Maybe I’ll put the knobbies back on the Rescue Bike and dust it off.  Or maybe I’ll just wait for March to go away.