Near-death experiences…

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We can all make the joke about having them. Some of us more than others. (I’m looking in your direction, BJ.) What makes this site special isn’t just the beer, bikes, boobs mentality; it’s that we all stick together when shit goes sideways. Info about Jonny went up all over and people responded with well-wishes and sympathy galore.

We hear all too often about bikers down, so I’d like to share a close call and a ‘Damn, I’m glad I saw that’ that happened recently.

My good friend Michael (aka : wunnspeed) went down in a race and spent some time in ICU. I’ll let him tell the story, as I wasn’t there to see it.

For those who haven’t already found out, on Sat. July 17th my buddy Andre’ and I were racing as a duo team at the 12 Hours of Külsheim in Külsheim, Deutschland. Andre’ had already done his two laps and off I went on mine. Through the first bit of single and double track, down the tricky decent and back up the long hill which takes you to the Tank/Panzer practice range. I rode through all of that at a pretty good pace, while passing people every 1/2 km or so. Then I rolled up in to my favorite section of singletrack and passed two more people. I then rounded a corner to a fun descent (when it’s dry) and spotted two riders ahead that I wanted to try and catch………

This Curtlo wont be seeing any more dirt.
This Curtlo wont be seeing any more dirt.

The next thing that I remember was being lifted into an ambulance and looking down to see the front end of my bike missing (yes, the Curtlo is dead). Somehow, some way, the head tube (where the fork goes through) snapped off the front of my bike and from everything we can patch together, I went face first into the dirt and rocks. Strangely, 90% if my injuries are in the facial area.

You can read the rest here.

Now on to the too close for comfort stage. I try to ride. I really do, but I have a 2-month old son who needs a bit more TLC than my Karate Monkey. So I’m limited on time right now. Hell, even the missus wants me to get out, as she sees me getting stir crazy when I don’t. I was raised to step up and take responsibility, and in this case that means being present, as many of our own dads weren’t. I’ll be damned if I do that to my kid.

Looking good there, champ.
Looking good there, champ.

So I try to ride to work and back. If I have late shift, I try to get in some riding before heading home. Monster is probably sleeping anyway, so let’s git ‘er done!
So the close call comes in when I get home, shower and get some sleep.

Next morning I find this as Im adjusting my lights for night riding.

better not push my luck...
better not push my luck...

So there you go. Check your equipment regularly, wear a helmet and don’t be a dick. Drink beer, ride bikes and listen to Slayer. Go to a punk show. Kiss who you love, and fucking live a little.


Edited to add : Looks like I’ll be taking Wunnspeed’s place at SiS. Wish my fat ass luck.

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About bikepunk

“Cuts, scrapes, bruises… all in a day’s riding. Then it’s off for some good german beer in a local biergarten.” Munich, Germany

35 Replies to “Near-death experiences…”

  1. Yikes. I had a similar close call experience riding across Iowa. After pedaling into the Mississippi River I look at my seat stays, both are cracked 90% through. I just descended an 3/4 mile long 18% hill, topping out at 57 mph. I thanked somethings, drank some beers and hitched a ride back across Iowa.

    So, I second the, “check your equipment regularly.”

  2. To be fair, that stem is 10 years or so old, and started out on an Ellsworth ID. I really thought the bar would fail first. Looks like it’s time for a new cockpit. Maybe I’ll stick to a cromo bar. Weight weenies be damned.

  3. Bikepunk – Who are you and where are you? I live in Orsfeld. Are you in the Eifel too? See you at Sleepless!

  4. “Drink beer, ride bikes and listen to Slayer”

    The triple play of awesome.

    Hope your buddy is ok. Good on ya for being a (real) dad.

  5. What the hell is the deal with Thomson stems? I had mine break in the exact same spot/way as yours BP. Thomson was cool and sent me a faceplate for free, but why there? At least it is there and not shearing off at the steerer tube while you’re riding…

  6. @Teamfubar: When you crank down the bolts, the front of the faceplate gets pulled in tension, which makes it susceptible to cracking. (Same deal with the very bottom of the weld between the head and down tubes. That crack always starts in a place where you aren’t going to see it.) The problem could be exacerbated if the back side of the face plate is cut out slightly larger than the bar side. There’s been a lot of debate out there about whether four bolt stems are more danger than they’re worth. Extra bolts sound like a good idea, but they put a lot more stress on the bar and face plate than two.

  7. Rob, I’m stepping in for someone on Phaty’s team. Don’t know what their team name is though. I’m in Munich, same as Michael/Wunnspeed.

    I’ll be wearing a kilt and riding one of the only 29’ers there for the singlespeed race.

    AND I’ll be bearing the DC standard as well for the overnight race.

    No derby for me. Im old and fragile these days.

    As for the faceplate, I was thinking the same thing; cut out a bit on the larger/more oval side of things, but thats better than too small for your bar. That would end up cutting into the bar and causing IT to fail. Ah well… I doubt Ill get a new faceplate from them. It IS 10 years old with quite a few miles on it.

  8. Bummer on the Curtlo.
    Looks from the photo like it was cracked for a while (rusty edges).
    Wiping down your welds and using a good high powered flashlight to look for cracks every few rides is not a bad idea. In 20+ years as a mechanic I’ve found dozens of broken frames, not just a few of which were total surprises to the owners.
    Glad dude didn’t get hurt worse.

  9. I don’t know, BP, those guys at Thomson are pretty cool. I once launched my bike 10-12′ in the air, in a spectacular crash, and when she returned from orbit, landed on the seat first. My Thomson post broke off in the frame. At the time, I was working in a shop, so I called to employee purchase another post. In chatting to the Thomson employee, I mentioned what happened. The lady starts apologizing profusely. I kept asking, “Didn’t you hear what I said? I crashed my brains out! It was my own fault.” She wasn’t hearing it at all. They sent out a new post right away, free of charge. Their factory is a couple of hours from where I live, and they even have a 5-6 mile singletrack trail on their property, that’s open to the general public. Nothing spectacular, but worth a ride if you’re passing through, and it says something about their sense of community. That’s something a few others in the industry should take a look at.

  10. If I recall correctly there was a recall on their face plates about 10 years ago, for that type of failure. I think you can tell the old plates because they didn’t have a serial or batch number under the Thomson. In any case, stuff is to light to use the old elbow/wrist torque wrench anymore. Get a proper torques wrench if you don’t have one. Proper torque, proper torque, proper torque. Glad everyone is on the mend or o.k.

  11. …sorry about yer pal wunnspeed…

    …glad you as the new dad didn’t get ‘faced’ by your stem…that was prob’ly only a few more rides down the road…

  12. Spooky shit. My fullie is ten years old and I haven’t ridden it yet this year. Maybe I won’t.

    (Disclaimer: I got a little singletrack yesterday—on my ‘cross bike… about rattled my teeth loose descending over the fucking roots.)

    I find myself, as usual, in agreement with Mr. jefe. I’ve been paying a proper mechanic to torque stuff for me, it’s all too goddamn light and fragile and the torque specs are too tight any more.

    Last winter, I was trying to swap grips on my carbon skating poles, got spooked and took it to the hoity-toity mountaineering shop. Sure as shit, the guy got the old grips off no prob, then shattered the carbon putting on the new one. He promptly comp’ed me a set of new poles, I took the lesson to heart.

  13. Crashing in a race is a far cry from being hit on the road and left for dead. Still, I hope Wunnspeed heals fast and is riding soon.

    Crap, the things that coulda taken you out and didn’t-Your cracked stem is probably just a visual sample of the things that we don’t see, but barely miss us every day.

    Dang, I think I oughtta hug the Mrs. and the kid. Repeatedly and like I mean it. And in no particular order.

    Rubber side down, y’all. For real.

  14. Can’t argue that. Got tig welded (Surly, Fuji, Gary Fisher) but I consider them to be disposable.

  15. @littlejar: A good heat treat after welding takes care of the heat affected areas. The real problem is with customers demanding to see a nice tidy row of filler drops around the welds instead of having them filleted out smoothly. That weld is essentially cracked at the factory, and it’s just a question of when it’s going to fail completely.

  16. +1 on heat treatment to address the HAZ.

    But. +1 also on fillet brazing. An excellent joining method for thin wall steel tube. Looks sexy too.

  17. I’m glad to hear Wunnspeed is recovering from the nightmare of a headtube separation. No one should ever go though that. Gnome did something similar once. He told me he was on the ground and he had lost one of his gloves. How hard you gotta hit to lose a glove?

    And, BP, my wife says the same thing – you, get outta here. Seriously. Pedal your bike already.

    It’s obvious to everyone when we need to get out and ride. May the wind always be at your back and the sun upon your face…

  18. Shit.
    Found another broken frame today at work.
    Carbon. Road. 160 lb rider.

    If yer gonna brag about how lite yer bike is…don’t turn bitch when it breaks.

    I also did a full frame-off o haul of a late 60’s race bike for it’s original owner. A joy to work on. Is that old Campy steel like old growth redwoods…can’t get it anymore? The bearing races (hubs, bb, h/s, pedals) were stunning. Also saw a 3 month old XT disc hub with grenaded cones. WTF?


  19. I used to have a set of old (70’s?) Campy Record high flange hubs (they went with the ex… bitch…) Things were as perfect as the day they were built. Smoof like butta’. Sold me on the quality of Campy. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford another full Record bike. Got some early 2000’s Chorus now. Will keep it for as long as I can.

    As for the XT, poor adjustment and mud will ruing any hub, but Shimano just doesn’t harden and polish their cones and races like they should/used to. I’ve seen the older DA and first gen XTR hold up like it should, but the newer stuff doesn’t seem to quite do it.

    Cheap, light, strong. Pick two.

  20. …carbon = disposable (can’t even recycle)…

    …old school campagnolo = speaks volumes for itself…

    …bombed out 3 month old xt = speaks volumes for itself…

    …damn…nothing left to ‘discuss’

  21. I too remember when XT was bombproof shit worth the extra duckets. Now it’s XTR-light or something. All the heavy duty stuff is geared toward the downhill crowd rather than the put-a-ton-of-miles-on-it crowd.

  22. Yeah, it’s funny the trade offs we’ve made technologically in the sport over the years. That vintage bike rode super smooth frame-wise and the tubulars were dope as ever. The hubs and bb spun so nice. BUT, the shifting (campy bar cons) and brakes were atrocious. The bars were narrow and felt like a tiny diameter to hang onto all day. I then hop on my Tarmac and ride home from work and I’m reminded of how much I love STI, teflon lined cables, and flat topped ergo bars.
    loved my ’65 Plymouth Fury….my Passat is way more pleasant to drive.

    Kilgore’s 2 pennies

  23. @ el jefe: I’ve heard of some of those old Campy hubs taking 100k miles. There were some problems with the high flanges cracking, but the bearings just go forever. My otherwise Veloce/Centaur bike has a pair of wheels with last gen monster axled Record hubs. Super smooth and just old enough to still have the hot rolling sex polished finish rather than the newer black ano.

  24. In my experience the old high flange hubs only cracked when they got radial laced (there really wasn’t a lot of aluminum on the outer edge of those hubs) or the the wheelbuilder didn’t use a tensiometer… There’s lots of reasons a hub flange can fail, not properly seating the spoke heads, or changing the direction of spoke pull on rebuild can also contribute…

  25. And chains? I’ve seen 8 gear chains with 20 000km where you could not detect wear, with 9 gears you are lucky if the chain even lasts that long… And now 10 and 11 gear chains that the manufacturer recommends tossing after 3 t 4000 km… Crazy.

    And that’s with proper maintenance… Fuck.

    I can only speak for road and for Shimano (I love the look of Campag, but my hands don’t like the shape of the hoods and the thumb downshift) and I state loud and proud that the last great groupset was the Dura Ace 8 speed.

  26. So there I was, in the middle of our Tuesday night crit, and I notice there’s a ‘bump’ in my pedal stroke. I assumed it was a little gear slip, but the next day I (finally) found the problem:

    Broken link on my ultegra 10sp chain – I just replaced the chain+cass last year, though that may be in the 3-4000 km range Glidas mentioned.

    Check your equipment regularly with a magnifying glass, and make your peace before pulling up to the start line!

  27. Totally— I use one of those cheesy “go/no go” chain checkers, and I’ve been replacing Shimano 10-speed chains after ~2000 miles. Just slapped a chain on the ‘cross bike last week. Fuckin’ consumables, these days!!

    And tars? 1500 miles on the rear is GOOD wear any more.

  28. Yeap. Use a chain checker (I’m partial to the Rholoff. No moving parts.) About 2000mi is right for regular use (and that’s been the case for decades…) The rollers wear and the chain “stretches”. Chains are much cheaper than cassettes and chainrings. If you stay on top of it, you should get a few chains through each cassette. If you let it go too long, you’ll need to replace it all.

    Also, don’t pull 9+ speed chains off the bike unless you have to. Clean them on the bike. You used to be able to get away with replacing the pin, but tolerances are so tight now that any movement of the pin creates a weak spot in the chain. Shimano chains have been directional for a while now. Not on the plates, but on how the connection pin pulls. If I recall correctly, the outer plates are supposed to pull the inner plates…

  29. One nice thing about fixed gear-If your drivetrain is not dead silent,then you know it’s time to give it some love.

  30. @el jefe. How does changing the direction of spoke pull contribute to potential failure? My record hubs have been rebuilt (3x) at least a couple times and I would have never considered the pull direction as a potential issue.

    ..otherwise my take on those old school campy hubs is the warranty should have a field for “next of kin” cause they epitomize bombproof.

  31. Kark,
    When a hub is laced and tensioned the j-bend of the spoke pulls against the spoke hole with enough force to deform the material…sometimes visibly, sometimes not. Either way, an area of greater density is formed…thus changing the inherent strength of the material around the spoke hole. If you re-lace the wheel with the heads pulling the opposite way the theory is that it could pull apart the spoke hole. Key word being THEORY. For my two cents..I dunno. BUT, since you’re building a wheel anyway, why not do it right…it might matter.

    Plus, radial lacing is just bad all around for everything.

    Hope this helped.

  32. On most hubs, it’s never an issue. Most hubs are overbuilt. The only regular failures I saw were on defective designs (Rolf/Bontrager had a run of bad hubs…) Those old high flange Campy hubs were really svelte, and even so the only ones I ever saw fail were radial laced. On a standard hub, 3X should be pretty bombproof. The rare times I saw failed flanges on other hubs, did relacing conribute? Maybe. Didn’t happen enough to say for sure. I always tried to match lacing unless something was downright wrong…