This past Sunday was sunny and pleasantly cool, so I decided it would be a good day for a quick bike ride to Belle Isle. Unfortunately it didn’t work out, because as I soon discovered, I had two flat tires. Plus, over the past few weeks I noticed some unusual flex in my bike’s front forks and handlebars that needed investigation. Since I had to remove both wheels to patch the flats – the eight and ninth of the year by the way – I decided to pop off the handlebars and check out the flex problem.
The first thing I looked at was the mounting bracket. It’s something I had welded earlier in the season because it had cracked due to stress and fatigue. That looked fine. Next idea, the fork bearings must be worn, loose or need replacement. I loosened the handlebar stem bolt and slid out the stem. Much to my surprise, the stem was broken off close to the bottom and barely held in place. Not good. Having a 15-plus year old bike, my first thought was, “No longer available, I’ll need to buy a whole new fork assembly. Big bucks!”
So off to the local bike shop I went, prepared for the worst. Lucky the stem was still available and they had both a new and used one in stock. The used stem looked as good as new, and it was only $10.00! I gladly paid the man and headed home to put my bike back together and to hopefully get a few miles in. Unfortunately, by the time I replaced the stem and fixed both flats, the sun was setting in the west.
Okay, reading this, you’re probably thinking, as I would, “Who cares about your flat tires and bike repairs?” That question leads me to the main reason for so many flats and miscellaneous broken parts over the summer – Detroit road hazards!
Detroit has no shortage of stuff in the streets that can be quite hazardous to unsuspecting and seasoned urban bicyclists alike. Cycling across Detroit’s large footprint, I’ve come across the obvious; broken bottles and shattered glass from car windows, 3” to 6” deep chuck holes that will cause havoc to your bike’s suspension and spokes, open manholes (ouch), illegally dumped tires and other dangerous objects that can cause unjust harm to both bike and body.
Glass is the winner when it comes to flat tires. Nearly all of mine have been caused by slivers of glass that I don’t even see while riding. I’ve also pulled tiny metal shards, finer than hypodermic needles, from my tires. Even small twigs or thorns can be problematic when it comes to biking. A thorn I picked up while riding through the inner woodland trails on Belle Isle caused one recent flat.
Not all things on the streets are harmful to bikers, (in a riding sense). Some are just plain disgusting. I’ve ridden past and around rotting dead animals; I’ve dodged fly covered soiled diapers, ridden across chicken and rib bones from someone’s lunch or dinner and I’ve seen shattered vials of blood and other sickening things people have tossed from cars. Nasty!
Some items found on the street are not hazardous to bicycling. I’ve come across a few interesting street-level gems on my travels as well. Take a look.