Thursday, June 26, 2014

Pop goes the inner tube - final Etape/Tour de Yorkshire preparation gone wrong

All dead
 My cleats are almost worn out - making clipping into my left pedal almost impossible.

I've been riding the same set of tyres since before the Etape last year. And turboing on them too. They're covered in ominous looking cuts and worn paper-thin.

My bottom bracket is clicking under stress (when I climb or sprint).

Changing from the big to small ring frequently involves so much stress that my fingers sometimes hurt.

My chain is almost 5,000km old. As is my cassette.

And I'm riding the first two stages of the Tour de France this weekend...

On the plus side, my brake pads are in decent nick.

It was time for the final equipment check/replacement.

First things first

The cleats were pretty east to swap. I'm a bit paranoid about their positioning after my bike fit (ie I don't want to undo the good work done then), but they've been outlined in permanent marker so I checked carefully and fitted new ones.

There's an outside chance they'll need to be replaced again before the Etape proper in July, but the idea of riding more than 300km in two days struggling to clip in means if I have to replace them again, I'll gladly do it.

Tyres came next. I'm more than comfortable changing tyres and fixing punctures - and had relatively recently swapped my old tyres and tubes onto my new wheels, then added old tyres and tubes to the old wheels so they could act as spares - so this shouldn't have been a problem.

It was.

I'd bought identical tyres to the ones I used last year - Schwalbe Ultremo ZXs. They've been good servants.  The reviews say "very, very fast" ; they're light, have some puncture protection and - most importantly - I can buy ones that match my bike's colour scheme.

In the year I've been riding them I've only had one puncture - and that was a pinch after I smashed into a pot hole during a sportive, so I didn't see a reason not to buy them again.

With relative confidence I stripped my old tyre from my front wheel and tried to fit the new one. It was hard. A lot harder than I remember. I slipped and cut my hand. Then did that again.

Eventually, with the aid of three tyre levers, swearing, grunting and the like I got the new tyre on. I then inflated it whereupon it instantly exploded with an ear-splitting "BANG!".

I tried again. This time I was careful to avoid a pinch, it took seemingly forever again and was just as truculent. I part inflated the tyre and checked for a pinch again and then inflated all the way. "BANG!"

My ears were ringing a bit at this point.

Third time lucky. I was incredibly careful this time, and questioning my policy of a 120psi inflation straight away to check for pinches (although I'd rather find out in the corridor by the stairs than on the road). It held.

Worried now (I was running out of spare tubes) I gingerly approached my rear tyre. It couldn't have been simpler, tyre swapped and re-inflated and wheel back on in five minutes - without even needing levers to fit.

I went upstairs to watch Belgium-Russia. 30 minutes later "Bang!".

The front tyre had exploded again - this time it looked like a dodgy tube, it had split along the seam. Three tubes had gone on the same wheel, all bursting in different places.

This was turning into a very expensive process.

I'm now scared I've got a dodgy tyre - given how hard it was to fit compared with my memories, the rear tyre and also the last version of the same tyre. But with only a few days until my mini Tour de Yorkshire, there's not a lot I can do. The new tubes are in the post and I'm just going to have to be super careful fitting one.

Servicing and the rest

The full service (where bottom bracket, cassette, chain etc were to be checked) I had planned has also fallen by the wayside, as there are now no slots left before the weekend, and with the bike out of action thanks to tube fears I can't even do base training until the new tubes arrive.

On the plus side, the bike held up well on Saturday - getting me up the 1.5km, 9% of Ditchling Beacon pretty stress freely - so with luck it can wait until Monday when it's booked in for a full check-up.

Hopefully you can all learn from my mistakes and get everything checked out and in order now - with a month to go before the big event, not a few days.


  1. Hi James - sounds a nightmare - how is the training going??

  2. Not well, mid-week riding/training has sort of died. But a big effort this weekend will give me some idea of my condition...

    How's yours going?

  3. Similarly to be honest - been away with work a lot during the week so struggling to get as much done in the week - hopefully get a couple of good rides this weekend - hope your tour rides go well this weekend

  4. I know the feeling - a week to go before the Marmotte and I've had 2 broken spokes and a seized headset bearing. Waiting for a crank to fall off now...