Sunday, September 18, 2016

Just Be Glad: When Wheels Break


It's not supposed to be like this, but wait for the whole story. Expelled Slime sealant evident, but tire not flat.

"In an upstairs bedroom of Mrs. Florence Johnson's former home, I came across a dusty but beautiful blue padded box labeled 'Old Programs -- New Century Club.' Most of the programs from 1923 to 1964 were there. Each listed the officers, the club flower (sweat pea), the club colors (pink and white), and the club motto ('Just Be Glad')."
--from "Becoming Native to this Place," by Wes Jackson

I bought these wheels six and a half years ago, on sale, put them on my commuter bike, and rode them until the rear one broke. Six and a half years represents about 20,000 miles of commuting @3000 per year, so that's not bad at all. Excellent, in fact. When the wheel finally gave up the ghost, it did so gracefully. Although one spoke connection location was completely broken, and at least two more were close, I still rode home on it. It failed just when I pulled into work that morning, I think, because the wheel started making a funny noise with each revolution right about then. That it lasted so long, and still got me home when it was used up, is what I ask for in bike parts: last 20,000 commuting miles, and let me know gracefully when replacement time comes. Thank you, cheap commuting wheels: I'm glad like a member of the New Century Club may have been, in the ordinary things of everyday life which do their jobs well, without complaint or excess trouble.

Another one ready to go

Used up. Duty completed.
These rims have two layers, the spoke bed and the inner tube bed, so that explains why the top photo didn't mean a straight tire blowout when the spoke broke through. I'm sure they've been cracking for a while, since I noticed the back end feeling slightly wobbly on certain turns. Like the tire was a little low, or the rear rack a little loose. Both of which have been true, too, at times, so failing rear rim was not my first thought.

I explained in the first "Twenty Dollar Rule" post why sturdy, cheap parts that still ride fairly well are important to me on my commuter bike: since it could get stolen and/or vandalized any day, I don't want to invest much in it. If I had a more secure place to park, I would probably be riding Schwalbes on a Rivendell with a hub generator and lights, but my urban parking situations mean more risk and more abuse than I would be willing to put a bike like that through. So I try out different, less expensive, sometimes ugly components to see which ones work but don't attract unwanted attention at the rack.

These wheels with the stickers peeled off do the trick for me. Your mileage may vary. I think my riding style, the desert weather where I live, and my specific road conditions are unique and may not mean these would work as well for anyone else. But, since you may be wondering, yes: I replaced this one with another Vuelta Zerolite. Next time I see them on sale, I probably buy another set, too. So, 20,000 or so miles from now, I'll be ready.

    

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