Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Brad Hawkins: The Fleeting Beauty Gone

My pal Brad Hawkins has this wonderful habit of sending out these occasionally over-the-top bits of bicycle prose that make me go "Damn! Can I post this on my blog?" And Brad, generous soul that he is, has thus far always responded in the affirmative. Today is one of those days, so the blog is blessed with another Brad story.

I will editorialize slightly and say that I always figured that when I appear in visions I would more like Yoda speak and not sound so old-Testamentish. But then my spirit guide is an old turtle who told me he probably does not exist, so I really have no right to question Brad's tale.


Dear Friends of the Wheel,

No, this is not an invitation to rise up from your soft pillow and groggily chase me down on some crazy ride. Today, I give you a ride report. A ride report that speaks to the highs and the lows of human existence. I will tell you of a righteous desire to serve my fellow man that turned horribly askew.

I took off for a church meeting from my house at 6:35 PM, January 23rd. The night was balmy, almost 50 degrees. My Surly powerful under my legs and with a light tail wind, I found myself zipping along at previously unheard of speeds. Traffic was easily conquered as they were stopped completely on Mercer street east bound and Fairview North and West bound. It was a cyclist's delight.

Cresting the top of Eastlake, I chased down two cyclists who were also making excellent time. Just before I arrived, one took the lane to miss a parking car and was honked at uninterruptedly by some little coupe all the way to the red light. After honking so insistently for the better part of 30 seconds, the coupe turned left and had to yield and wait for oncoming traffic. Strangely, the coupe didn't honk at the red light nor at the oncoming traffic. The other cyclist and I just looked askance.

But I digress. The real excitement came on the trip back. Upon starting from the stop light at Roosevelt and 45th, I started pumping down the hill in a 52/18 gear and was immediately rebuffed by a loud kerthunk!. I wasn't hit, I wasn't in pain, and I wasn't shot. All systems go. However, my right crankarm had sheared off the end with pedal intact and was laying behind me in the crosswalk. I picked up the pieces and walked the bike over to get some change for a bus ride.

Here's where things get fun: I got some juice, looked at my bike, and then was caught up in a vision, yeah a vision of great magnitude. In that vision, Kent Peterson came to me and spake thusly: "Oh great beloved Bradley, do not turn your cheek from the way ahead. Shed not a tear for this defective metal for it is as a tinkling brass in the eyes of the Lord. Cast your visage upon the distant space needle, get back on your bike, and ride with great purpose, for I am Kent, all powerful randonneur."

Realizing my options, I hopped on my bike, kicked down into much lower gear, and pedaled home with one crank. In doing so, I discovered some things. Namely, that I don't have anything approaching a rounded stroke, that nobody really pulls up with clipless pedals until something like this happens, that hills are really, really hard with one pedal, that your power output goes down 75 percent, and that nobody seems to notice. You're still some crazy cyclist out at night who would ostensibly be better served with a car.

Ride well, ride creatively,

Brad Hawkins


I will add just a couple of notes to Brad's story. First off, Brad has massive, powerful legs like a T-Rex. He regularly hauls his cello behind his bike in a trailer and I think this contributed to his amazing crank-snapping power. Second, his note arrived in my computer just as I was overhauling my Power Grip equipped pedals and I thought, "yeah one-footed pedaling is really hard with no foot retention." The streets are clear now and I'm back to riding with my Power Grip pedals and Shimano shoes instead of the bare platform pedals and Keens.


Anonymous said...

Wow, that's some ride report. Sad to here of a broken crank but I am somehow comforted by bicycle components ridden to oblivion. They were well used and used well. On the other hand, it could have been some kind of message from Brad's spiritual power or perhaps he needs to condsider switching to heavy metal on the cello.....

bmike said...

The mighty Brad should enshrine the crank as a testament to the power of lung, leg, and wheel.

brad said...

Are you kidding? If I kept all the parts I break on my bikes (tacoed chainrings, blown out rims, cracked frames destroyed pedals, broken handlebars, hubs run to the viscocity of peanut butter, worn shifters, cracked brakes and levers, twisted chains, to say nothing of tires and tubes!) I would have no room for "working" bike stuff. No for me it's enough to take a picture, tell a story, and move on. Luckily, Will Roberts was trying to sell just what I need for a replacement on craigslist today and I scooped it up. Friends are cool.

As for my tyrannosaurous thighs, I'll just keep pedaling away. Pushing is good for the body.

Yokota Fritz said...

Great story! I broke a crank arm a couple of years back and had to pedal home one-legged on a fixte. It's ... interesting. No hills to conquer on that particular ride.

monk3y mike said...

Awesome story. Brad is truly an author for our times!

Hjalti said...

That's a nice story. Good thing Brad wasn't in the midst of a full power stroke when it happened. Those can hurt more.
Like last summer to me.

Amy said...

Duane had this happen on a Fleche a few years ago. We were just down the hill from Semi-ahmoo and all of a sudden he went down. He got up and finished the Fleche within the alloted time - pedaling the last several miles with just one crank arm. Me I would have hopped the bus :-)

Anonymous said...

Good on you,Brad! I have had to pedal one legged for the same reason several times, and for extended periods when one knee or the other had been injured and need a week or so to heal. I highly recommend it as an educational experience - I'll bet your stroke was much rounder at the end of the ride than at the beginning. Rubber side down! Val

Anonymous said...

Here's another tail of parts failing from someone weighing in at around 280 pounds:

history of awesome bike failures

...misery loves company

Anonymous said...

More empathy:

Anonymous said...

These sorts of things are always nasty. I merely mounted my bike (horseback style) and happened to swing a plastic bag full of tools into the front wheel and get pitched over the handlebars. Result: bruised elbow and hip requiring about 2 weeks to get to 80%.

For those on the mend a few more "misery loves company" links:

1. Wipeiout
2. Aweful bike failures


Anonymous said...

yes, that happened to me a couple weeks ago on 45th and Meridian in Wallingford. Snapped half an inch above the pedal, though, and I face planted in the intersection.

Walked it home, but stopped for a donut at winchell's.