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When Wheels Go Bad... The Ride To Destruction

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Editor’s note: On the Aug. 28 Seattle 400K, Albert Meerscheidt had a major wheel problem. He persevered and finished in what Seattle RBA Mark Thomas called “a great testament to persistence and resourcefulness.” Albert’s account of his mechanical difficulties follows.

I’ve never ridden a wheel to destruction before.

Shortly after control 2, the hub flange cracked, releasing the first spoke.   I wrapped the fiber spoke around the axle and threaded it into the spoke nipple. In the process I lost the spoke nipple inside the rim. So I had to take off the tire and put in the spare spoke nipple that came with the fiber spoke kit—now the wheel went ‘click, click, click’.

I thought I was in good shape, but each hub flange supports two spokes and the other one broke free shortly afterwards. I only had one fiber spoke, what could I do? I loosened opposing spokes, backed off my rear brake and now the wheel went ‘thik, click, thik, click, thik, wobble, wobble’.

I picked up a hose clamp, pliers, screwdriver, and some fishing line at Rockport—but I couldn’t figure out a repair—so I went on. I picked up a carabinier and turnbuckle at the Red Apple—I thought I had it made! (and the spokes on the wheel went ‘thik, ‘click, thik’).

When the electrical tape holding the ‘spare’ spoke worked loose the wheel went ‘click, snick, thik, clink, snik, thik’.

But I had weakened the wheel so much that eventually other spokes broke loose. Then the wheel went ‘click, snick, thik, shudder, shudder’. Perhaps if I had bought more turnbuckles? I might have to try that just for grins.

If I had had either two fiber spokes to begin with or had been able to put together the jury rig sooner, the wheel might have lasted—as it was, I couldn’t keep ahead of it, the wheel was falling further apart every few miles. I wasn’t going fast, but at least I kept moving while my wife drove up from Federal Way with a spare wheel. I made it to control 4 at 8 p.m. What’s that, almost 60 miles on a bad wheel?

  Maybe it’s a guy thing, but I couldn’t keep from thinking that I’ve never ridden a wheel to destruction before—and how unpleasant it would be when the wheel pretzeled on me.

So what did I learn from this?

• Buy a wheel with more spokes, many more spokes.

• Always carry two fiber spokes.

• Don’t ignore the convenience store.