As Heather mentioned, it did take us a while to get this post written, but I thought it would be good to have a record of it, so here goes...

Each year for the last several years, Paul has organized a two day bike trip for the kids of BCF.  This year, we drove to Rockwood, PA and biked to Cumberland, MD, and then to the Paw Paw Tunnel the second day.

We are supported by a number of vehicles and a big tralier and so some people drive the vans to the ending point each day, and then bike back and meet up with the rest of the group.  I (Jon) thought that it might be hard for me to pull the kids up the hill on our tandem, so I thought of being part of the group of drivers and then having the three adults on the bike, and bike up the hill and then meet Heather (who drove to the peak/lunch spot/Deal, PA) and the kids and bike down the hill with them.  That is all good in theory, and there was much joking about who would get there first, etc.

We left everyone in Rockwood and as we were gathering things together, there was a loud sound quite similar to a gunshot that turned out to be the back tire on the tandem sitting in the sun on the trailer.  The force was so great that it blew the tire off of the rim, and left a large knife-looking gash in the tube (so we promptly accused some members of our group in sabotaging us, so we couldn't get to the top first...)  I hadn't known how much pressure to put in the tire, as I couldn't find any markings on the tire, but I knew that since it was a road-bike, it needed more than the hybrids that I am used to, and we had gotten an under-inflated flat when I road with Heather one time on the tandem, so I figured with three adults I should pump it up a little higher.  I didn't own a Presta valve pressure checker anyway, so I just guessed for a reasonable pressure using the push-on-the-tire-with-your-hand test to see how much pressure was in it.  After the tire exploded, I bought a new tube and pressure checker from the bike store nearby (whose owner mentioned he was impressed with the explosion).  I checked the pressure of the tire that hadn't exploded and it was at 110psi, which is higher than I would have guessed it was.

We replaced the tube and pumped up the pressure to 90psi.  After we started driving to Cumberland, we discovered that our directions to Cumberland were not the direct route, but by way of the lunch stopping point, but we got to Cumberland without incident.

We (Patrick, Billy and I) hopped on the bike and promptly fell off (balancing is pretty hard with three adults - with the kids, I can counterbalance their weight most of the time).  We got back up, and there was a little discussion about what had happened and how we have to work together and not have everyone trying to (over)correct when the bike tips a little this way or that.  We got to a red light on an uphill and held up traffic for a bit as we fell over again when trying to start going up the hill.  We then decided to walk up the hill and get back on the bike on a flat spot.

There weren't any more problems for... maybe 2 miles when we got a flat tire due to the tires being under-inflated.  That is when we discovered that I had left the bike pump in Heather's car, which was at the peak of the hill, and 25 miles away from us (I borrowed the bike store's pump for the first flat tire, so hadn't noticed we didn't have it then).  I waited around a little hoping someone would come along the trail, and then started walking to the gas station, on the off-chance that they would have a Presta pump (unlikely, though they are near a bike path), when a biker came along and loaned us his pump, but it could only get the pressure up to 85psi.  We hopped on the bike again, and it was very obvious that we were going to get another under-inflated flat if we didn't stop quickly.  We called Heather, but the cell phones weren't working very well and so I decided to ride the bike back to a bike store in Cumberland and buy another pump (and another tube or two), and figured that the bike would probably be okay if I took it easy and with just my weight, and that worked well.

The bike store said that the law required the proper inflation pressure to be printed on the tire, so we looked some more, and found it - little tiny writing right up next to the tread (and probably in a place that would wear off once the tread gets worn down): 105psi is the proper inflation pressure!  So, pumped up both tires correctly, and back to Patrick and Billy who were trying to stay out of the sun (and probably discussing whether they should have agreed to go on the tandem or not...)

We then flew up the hill - 3 adults pedaling together can go really fast and met our group at Frostburg, PA, though we were out of water, since the stops had caused us an additional two hours.  Heather had water waiting, but she hadn't come to Frostburg at all, and so I thought the kids wouldn't get to bike at all, but then someone came biking down while holding Patrick's bike with one hand.  And they managed to think of everything - Faith and Noah went in the trailer, and used some rope to attach it to someone's bike (it has a connection piece that is firmly bolted to my bike, but the rope worked surprisingly well.  Jonathan sat on the back of Paul's bike and put an arm around his waist.  They also remembered my box of tools with the kid cranksets, etc. so I could convert the bike to the shorter leg lengths.

They hadn't brought our water, but some people had some extra, and off we went down the hill.  The trip went pretty well, though this group likes to stop a lot, and because we take a bit of time getting on and off the bike, those stops were kind of hard on us - that we would just get there and off the bike when it would be time to get back on, etc.  There was a huge rainstorm and we got really wet, but we were camping at a YMCA that night, and looked forward to the showers and the pool.

Just before we got to the YMCA, we had another flat tire - I hit a big pot hole pretty hard and so I call that the only legitimate flat of the entire trip.

When we went to setup the tent, we discovered that I had forgotten to bring the poles, so Heather, Faith and I slept in the car, which was better than I expected, but not that great.  The boys slept with Ian and had a blast with him.

The next morning, I repaired the flat and promptly got another one - this time due to the tires being poorly constructed, and it blew out right through the side of the tire.  So, I drove to the bike shop and looked into getting better tires.  I also hoped to get wider tires, since these little tiny tires can't take much abuse, and also are slippery in the mud.  But, the frame of the bike didn't support the tires I wanted to get, so I settled for tires a couple millimeters bigger, a thicker tread, significantly sturdier tire, and three times the price.  But, after I had decided to spend the money ($130) on the tires, a biker from DC (you can tell which bikers are out for an hour ride and which have been biking for days by a number of methods) said that he thought the bike was neat, and was checking out the components and pretty happy with most of it, and when he noticed the tires he said, "Oh! I use the same tires.  I am here to replace them, since I just got a flat tire...  But, they lasted 8000 miles, so I'm quite happy with them."  If these tires go 8000 miles, I am not concerned at all with the price.

After getting the tires on, I then took a look at the brakes, which had been acting up a little.  It turns out they are a self-energizing type of brake that was used for around one year for most bikes before they were deemed unsafe.  Tandems used them for longer than that, as tandems need a lot more braking power than a regular bike, and I'm not sure if you could flip over the handlebars on a tandem even if you tried (though I did get the tandem's back wheel to come off the ground once when riding by myself and taking a corner pretty fast), so I don't think the brakes are unsafe on the tandem.  But, they are harder to adjust than modern brakes, and I (and the bike shop) couldn't figure out why they were sticking.  I cut a bit of the brake cable housing and that helped a little, and then I replaced the entire brakes with "normal" cantilever brakes, but the problem persisted.  I was tired of being in the bike shop and not biking, so we figured out that once I stopped the bike, if Jonathan pulled on the brake cable, that would reset the brake pads, and so we hopped on our bike and off we went.

Shortly after that, we got a call from the rest of the group saying that they had arrived and wondered if we needed to be picked up, or if we were okay.  We said that we were fine, and would meet up with Heather.  The rest of group started on their way back to Pittsburgh, but it turns out they left one person behind and I should try to find him on our way.  We did run into him (he had a cell phone, but limited coverage and a dying battery). We all biked to meet Heather and then went to get dinner.  On the way, we got a call saying that someone had left her purse in a certain restaurant, so we decided to have dinner there, and pick up the purse at the same time.

We finally made it back to the Jorgeson's house (where there was a surprise going away party for Josh), but everyone had left by then, but we did get to eat some ice cream that we had been looking forward to.

We had a lot of fun, but next time, we'll hopefully have less time spent in the bike shop and more time spent actually biking.

Posted by Jon Daley on August 20, 2010, 2:43 pm | Read 3754 times
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