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Anatomy of a Failure  //   Wednesday - June 14, 2006

Check, check. One-two, one-two. Is this thing on? Hey boys and girls, welcome back to another episode of your favorite single speed show. Some of you may have been wondering if this program got canceled but don't fear, we were just on a little break following sweeps week.

So, what exactly happened to the fork pictured in the post below? Good question and I wish I had an answer. I can only surmise that constant abuse and the fact that I like to frequently put air between my tires and the dirt led to material fatigue that eventually became what you see in the picture. This didn't happen all at once and it's probably been going on longer than I had realized. When I look back and recall the first time I developed some creaking that I ms-diagnosed as a worn BB, I have to wonder what part was failing first. Was it the crank arm or the fork? Both were putting out similar sounds before I discovered them and both were on the Kelly 29er.

At this point, who knows. I must say I'm glad I'm not missing any teeth because of this. The day I pulled the bike out of action I had just greased and tightened my BB. A consist clicking sound had developed in a certain part of the pedal stroke when I was really putting power to the pedals. The BB didn't have any play in it, put there have been plenty of deep stream crossings and the non-drive cup wasn't dead tight, so I figured this little bit of maintenance would solve my problems. Besides, the sidewalls on the rear rim of the Surly were seriously concaved, sanded down from many miles of use and rim braking, so that bike was not my first choice. I was headed on an all day ride starting Gambrill and going into the depths of the Frederick Watershed. I needed reliability.

Leaving the house in the early AM the Kelly was running smooth, but the first few miles of road and flat. Once things started pointing up and I needed to stand and pedal the creaking began again. Hmmmm, what to do? Keep plugging away or turn around to switch bikes and be late meeting Billy at the trail head? I opt to press on and hope the creaking goes away, figuring it can't get worse since I just checked the BB out last night. The road up to the trail head grinds on for a couple of miles and the pitch continues to increase. The creaking gets worse. When it started it was consistently on the down-stroke of the non-drive side. It soon becomes noise on the down-stroke of both crank arms and it's getting louder. I soon realize whatever problem is going on will probably leave me stranded in the woods if I press on. I finish a noisy ride to the trail head and reluctantly ask Billy to drive me to my house to swap bikes. For once it appears I made the smart choice. Considering our all day ride involved more rocks, drops, jumps and miles than I can catalog, I'm pretty sure the fork would have completely failed and probably left me maimed.

As it turns out, my worries about the Surly's rear rim came true too. Getting air on some of the downhills that are filled with rocks means that many times, like it or not, your landing zone is not smooth terrain. You do your best to find that one little spot to briefly touch down on dirt before hitting more rock or you look for the smoothest non-jagged rock to use for a landing strip. Sometimes you make it, sometimes you don't. Other times you make it but something else - sometimes you don't even know - takes it's toll on your wheel. Over the course of the ride that weak rear rim got severely dented, buckled out so that it was whacking the rear brake pad. Luckily I was packing a magic little tool that has saved me many times: a very small adjustable wrench. It measures about 4 inches from tip to tip, weighs hardly anything but comes in real handy from bending the sidewall of a rim back into shape. The second dent was so severe that there was a crack in the sidewall. Being that we were pretty much at the furthest point we could possibly be from the car, I decide to reign my riding in a bit so we could complete the ride with out me having to walk out. Especially since Billy is new to the area and had no idea how to get back.

In the end it worked out, the rim was cooked but we were able to do the whole ride. The Kelly fork was dead but I still had my teeth. And we had a great ride in some fantastic early summer weather.

Time to wrap this up, got more bike work to do so I can get out today. More broken parts and more maintenance, I'll get to that later.

Registration for SSWC06 is open, check here for details.

- riderx


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