Over the course of this ride I've developed and refined my routines for making and breaking camp.
From half awake inside my sleeping bag to fully packed and ready ride took me close to an hour during the first week of this journey. I've managed cut that time down to just fifteen minutes (so long as “me last night” chooses to think about “me this morning”).
Today sees one of my more efficient packing sessions, and I'm feeling great as I get myself packed and ready to go just after daybreak. My head and my spirits are high as I ride out of camp to the sound of my wheel screeching against my brakes.
Not to worry, this sometimes happens when my tires are low on air (or punctured).
However, today my tire pressure does not appear to be my problem's source.
Then I see it – a spoke on my back wheel has decided that it no longer fancies being attached to the cassette (the collection of cogs attached to the back wheel). A labored (and unnecessarily audible) sigh of frustration escapes me as I drag my bike to a nearby bench to assess the situation – so much for my early start.
I take off the back wheel and see that the spoke is physically broken. It's going to have to be replaced. Luckily, while I was in Adelaide, I procured some extra spokes – not because I knew what I would do with them, but because someone told me they would be good to have.
This is what I get for having zero idea what I am doing out here.
I might as well be a monkey inspecting a shiny foreign object as I hold my wheel up in front of me, rotating it back and forth as if I have any idea what I am going to do here. One thing is clear: I am going to have to remove my tire to replace the spoke. In other words, this is going to take a while.
With my tire removed, I find a semi-rigid plastic lining around the inside of my wheel. The spokes are underneath.
Am I supposed to pull this back to get to the spokes? I feel like I may be forcing it. The last thing I need to do is break my wheel completely. There's still a chance I'm going to figure this one out.
That being said, the thought of hitchhiking to town enters my head when suddenly I'm approached by the driver of a nearby campervan.
“How you going, mate? Having some bike trouble?”
Yes. This guy is definitely about to lay some bicycle knowledge on me. Prepare to be taught how to change a busted spoke. “I'm good – except for this broken spoke I don't know how to replace.”
“Well that doesn't sound too good! Wish I could help you out with that one, but I don't know anything about bikes. I was wondering if you would like some tea.”
Dammit. “I would love some tea, thank you very much.”
As the kind stranger retreats to procure some near-boiling flavored liquid for me, I fumble with my multitool guessing at which implement is meant for spoke changing.
I heard the words “spoke key” mentioned when I bought this thing, so I am fairly confident I possess the tool (tools?) necessary to remedy my current predicament.
Emboldened by my hot cup of tea, I manage to remove the broken spoke. My focus now moves to installing the new one.
My first go at spoke replacement results in a horribly bent spare. Luckily, I have a spare spare.
As I continue to frustrate myself with my continued failure, I return to the thought of hitchhiking.
I am going to have to head all the way back to Alice Springs, because if hitch north, I am going to have problems motivating myself to come back this way. Riding through everything I will pass (twice) in a car will not be an enjoyable experience (although I suspect I already know what it's going to look like).
As I drain my tea, I have a sudden revelation and successfully thread the new spoke into my wheel. Now I just need to tighten and ride. Right?
I'll end up stopping at the next bike shop to have them confirm my workmanship.
Let's just hope my chain doesn't decide to break next.
Despite my morning setback, I manage to break 100 mi / 160 km for the second time this trip (the first time was just over a week ago).
Note to self: drink more tea.
- START: Bonney Well, Northern Territory
- END: Attack Creek, Northern Territory
- DAY'S DISTANCE: 100.33 mi / 161.43 km
- TOTAL DISTANCE: 1883.9 mi / 3,031.81 km