Saturday, February 25, 2012

What a Maroon! A Utilitaire Gone Bad

Many years ago during Bike DC, I watched in amazement as a cyclist hammered up a long hill with his head down. Bam! Right into the back of a parked car. He did an Arte Johnson. As Bugs Bunny used to say, "What a maroon!"  Davis Phinney once did the same thing in the Tour de France.  He launched himself through the back window of a station wagon.  Another maroon!

How hard is it to avoid a stationary object? I mean really??

The day started out like any other Saturday.  I read the Post and managed to finish all three crossword puzzles including the tough one in the Style section of tomorrow's paper.  Then I made a to do list and set out to do it.

Item 1 was to caulk some gaps in the concrete steps leading to the house.  I hate caulking but this worked out nicely.

Item 2 was to check my records on when our two Honda Accords last had oil changes.  We're still good for a month on both cars so I didn't have to take either in for service. 

Item 3 was to take the Tour Easy in to the Belle Haven Spokes Etc. shop for a new crank arm and pedal.  I chatted with Fred, a mechanic who has been fixing my bikes since the late 1980s when he was working at Metropolis in Shirlington.  Another mechanic ordered the crank arm and I left with hope that the Tour Easy will be on the road by next weekend.

So far, so good. Three items checked off.

Item 4 was a Utilitare ride.  I needed to get my 2011 copy of Turbo Tax and some file folders from Staples.  And on the way I'd pick up some tax forms for my kids at the library.  Then I'd back track to the drug store to buy some medicine.  Then a quick stop for some bird seed and another for a couple of lottery tickets.  Very productive, no?


I started out for the library into a mighty headwind.  I could barely move!  Wasn't it 70 degrees yesterday? This was nuts.  I made it the half mile to the library after much effort. The library stop was, however, a bust.  They didn't have any Virginia tax forms.  The last time I check Virginia charged $20 to file electronically.  My kids refund would be less than that so they would be filing paper returns. Now I'll have to download and print them.  Annoying,

On to Staples into the mighty wind. I was getting no place slowly when I decided to drop my head and just grind it out.  The only problem with this strategy is that when your head is down, you can't see what's in front of you.  It dawned on me after a while that I hadn't looked up.  So I did. And there, only a few feet in front of me, was a green Honda Accord parked quite legally.  Minding its own business. I reached for the brakes. Too late. Bam!

The fall was in slow motion. As I descended I could hear a voice inside my head saying, "You are such a Maroon!!!"  I had the presence of mind to roll as I hit the pavement and I was going really slow thanks to the headwind.  This did not make the asphalt any less hard however.

Feeling like a complete Nimrod, I stood up, gathered my trusty Sequoia and discovered that my front wheel was now a half inch of so closer to the frame than it was before the impact.  Not good.

I fiddled with the fender stays as they were intersecting with the diagonal tube on the front of the bike.  Then I rode on to Staples.  The steering felt funny. So of course a fire engine had to force me into the curb and a redneck had to cut me off in her pick up truck. Can't you people see that I am having a bad day here?

After I locked my bike at Staples, I took a good look at the front fork from the side. It was obviously bent.  Ugh,

After buying my wares, I backtracked to the drug store.  I dropped off my prescription, bought the bird seed, and the lottery tickets and headed for home. Another Utilitaire ride in the bag, but a what cost? I loaded the Sequoia onto my bike rack for the drive to Spokes, fingers crossed all the way. 

At times like these you want a bike mechanic with lots of experience. Fred's been at it for well over 20 years so I was very fortunate that he was still there. I've always heard that if steel bends you can usually bend it back. You can't do this with other frame materials. I never thought I'd ever take advantage of this obscure fact. Fred checked the fork and frame for cracks and other irregularities. Finding none, he declared the Sequoia repairable. Just put it in the jig and bend it back in place. We hope.

What a relief. This bike has 29,750 miles on it.  I'd hate to lose it.

On the way out of the store I took a quick look at their stock of Surly Long Haul Truckers just in case the jig is up.


  1. Oh, no! Glad you are ok. Hope the bike is too. FWIW, I love my LHT which is what I got to replace my previously mentioned stolen Sequoia.

  2. I believe he makes forks too ...

    1. Geof

      I stand corrected. I just glanced at the shiny bike on that site and thought, no way! Can't be my bike. I've got a layer of crud on the burgundy and gold (pre-Danny) paint job on my Sequoia. I will definitely bookmark this site, especially if Fred's fix fails.

  3. Wrong Sequoia, Geof. Mine is a Specialized Sequoia.

  4. Rootchopper, the Lighthouse Cycles guy is the same guy who designed your Specialized Sequoia. Here is a helpful post:

    You'll find that it contains a link to a great blog called... Shy of a wheel? Something like that...

    1. Freewheel

      Thanks for this note. Holy cow! My paint job can't hold a candle to the ones on that site. And he's charging about triple what I paid for mine. After inflation, it's probably no different.

      Good that he has discriminating taste in blogs, too. :)

    2. Are you sure my Sequoia is the same? Mine is not lugged. (I am certainly no expert on these things, but mine looks tig welded to me.)

      I think I bought it in February 1993.

      Either way it has served me well.

  5. Holy cow! I think you might be in the running for most eventful Utilitaires. Glad to hear that you are ok, and that the bike can be repaired. Oh, and glad you got your utilitaire in, too :). Thanks to Freewheel for his link to the Lighthouse Sequoia. Lovely, as is yours!

    1. Well, then you'll be happy to know that today I rode to the drug store to pick up some Moviprep. Google it. I think I've taken the Utilitaire to a place no one expected!

  6. It sounds like you came out of this much better than I did last week. Glad to see you're ok and were immediately back on the bike. And it looks like you even get to keep your bike!

  7. Oof, what a trial. Here's hoping the bike fix is less painful than the cause. Glad that you're up and around as well.

  8. :) Glad you were okay and hope your bike is too. I haven't run into the back of a car since I was 7 yrs. old! :) It ain't fun. I was riding with no hands, because my hands were busy with one of those slide puzzles (remember those?!). :) haha!

    I was riding to work one day years ago and saw a guy hammering away on his bike ahead of me. He had his head down...pedal, pedal, pedal...and he didn't see that there was a TREE fallen across the path!! He ran right into it. Guess he learned a lesson too. :) Though a tree is a little more forgiving 'cuz the branches bend a little. :)