Time to Break the Cycle (Day 16)

Day 16: Bismarck, ND – 11 miles past Napoleon, ND

Distance: 90 miles

Vertical: 1,686 feet

Time: 5:40

Today didn’t go exactly as planned. I like to think that I am pretty good at “going with the flow” when things don’t go the way I would like them to, but I actually really, really hate it. It upset me enough that I decided to make this post a little more serious by ignoring the unbelievable opportunity at a pun in the title.

We knew that today was going to be a late start from the outset. As you may know, Nigel broke one of his spokes yesterday. Initially we believed that we were going to be able to fix it last night as we found a bike shop in Bismarck that was open until 8pm. However, the Broken Spoke Bike Shop was ironically unable to repair Nigel’s broken spoke. Despite the shops inability to hold up to solving the problem it’s named after, the guy was really helpful and pointed us in the direction of a few other bike shops that might be able to help. The bad news, they weren’t open until 10am, which is an hour and a half after we like to start riding. More bad news, the next day was our longest day planned thus far on the trip. My innate positive nature used the inevitable morning delay as an opportunity for us to sleep in and make up for the lost time by crossing another time zone yesterday.

The morning started off slow. We all woke up later than we planned (honestly, my fault) and didn’t leave Ben’s apartment until 10:15am.

Quick side note: big thanks to Ben Pederson who is a brother of ours from North Dakota State University. When we didn’t have a place to stay yesterday we connected with him via Facebook and welcomed us into his apartment. We also had dinner with him at Sickies Garage Burgers and Brews where I had a sandwich that consisted of two grilled-cheese, patty melts as buns with four pieces of thick-cut peppered bacon in between as well as a mount of sweet potato fries… I ate it all. Nigel had a burger, sweet potato fries, onion rings and chicken wings… he ate it all and he didn’t even finish the bike ride that day because of his broken spoke.

Anyways, the combination of heavy (delicious) food and the opportunity to sleep in got us and we were all pretty lethargic. After checking out the first bike shop referred to us it was revealed to us that Nigel’s wheel was abnormally large and would require a spoke size that the shop did not possess. The next bike shop on our list was Epic Sports.

Here we found some hope, we told them the issue and they brought Nigel’s tire to the back. 20 minutes passed by, how long does it take to repair a broken spoke? Another 20 minutes… seriously how long? Nigel asked the guy at the front desk for a status update, it shouldn’t be more than 5-10 more minutes. Another 20 minutes… at this point I started to get pretty upset, it was already 11:30am and we haven’t even started biking our longest day yet. Negative thoughts were running through my head. I decided to check Yelp for reviews on the bike shop and was considering writing an awful one myself. What really upset me was that I saw people moving around the shop doing what appeared to be nothing and didn’t see anyone working on Nigel’s wheel. Another status update, only a few more minutes… yeah sure. It takes a lot to make me mad and I was playing through scenarios in my mind where the shop would try to charge us $50 for the repaired wheel and how I was going to become the infamous, aggravated customer who blows up and demands to speak to the manager.

Finally the wheel was done. Apparently someone had been working on it the whole time. They told us that the spoke that the wheel required was really uncommon and that they didn’t have it. They knew we had to hit the road though so they tried a few different spokes and were able to make one work by making some modifications to it. The mechanic told us that there might be some wobble and that we should consider ordering the part to a bike shop in one of our next cities that we were stopping at, but that it would hold up for now. Finally they only charged us $7, which was actually really reasonable for the cost of service and the spoke. Now I was just kind of mad at myself for preparing to freak out. The guys at Epic Sports were actually really great, they had an awesome store, and the spoke worked out great.

Still, it was late. We didn’t get biking until 12:15pm and I had put myself in a bad mood. I didn’t have a particular reason for being mad, I was just mad. Just ask Matt or Nigel, I was not a fun person to be around this morning. We finally got going and I realized there’s nothing like riding a bike to relax. I still didn’t want to talk to anybody, not for any reason in particular, I just didn’t.

Another mood booster was the fact that we were cruising. Nigel and I were taking on some decently sized hills and we were flying up them at 22-23mph. That was a massive improvement from when we started the trip where we’d go up hills at a max of 15mph.

Everything was going great, we thought that we might actually make the 120 mile day that we had planned even with our late departure. Then, about 20 miles in headwinds struck again. They didn’t just find us, knowing that we had avoided them the last few days they sought us out with a vengeance. Immediately Nigel and I went from averaging nearly 20mph to 14mph. We trudged through and met Matt in Hazelton, ND where we took our first break 55 miles into the ride. We were both in awful moods again, today just was not going our way.

We started riding again and the headwinds started to pick up. Headwinds are tricky because sometimes it’s hard to tell just how much they’re affecting your speed. We were working our asses off but we were just barely breaking 15mph, even on the downhill segments of the ride.  Occasionally we turned and the headwind became a crosswind which would help us regain our sanity because we’d speed up to 20mph.

At our next checkpoint, only 80 miles into the ride, we were physically exhausted. For awhile we were contemplating stopping and we just about did. It was 6:30pm, way later than we normally ride and we still had 40 miles to go. We resolved to go for a little more because we knew that it would be unsafe to bike much later.

That gets us to now. This is, surprisingly enough, the first time in our ride that we are actually behind schedule. We still are staying the night in Jamestown, but we have a lot of ground to catch up on. If we want to make it all the way to Fargo tomorrow we have to bike 155 miles which means waking up early...

This is what it feels like to write a cliffhanger,

Josh Bean