and tried to regain my balance, and gently squeezed the right
brake lever. I heard Nita unclip her bike shoes behind me. She
was breathing hard. Just as I thought I might lose control, the
wild oscillations began to subside.
When metal is repeatedly flexed and stressed, it begins to
breakdown at the microscopic level. The insidious nature of
this process is that usually no visible cracks are present before
the part suddenly fails. You could demonstrate this by
repeatedly bending the straight part of a paper clip back and
forth. Eventually, it will just snap in two. That is what had
happened to our aluminum handle bar.
Nita and I turned our crippled tandem around, and began the
trudge back to the main road. Fortunately, we were no more
than 1/10th of a mile into the woods, so we didn’t have to
walk far. Just as we arrived at the main highway, a white
pickup truck began to slow and pulled off onto a side street. A
man with a familiar face popped out and waved. It was Joe
Thomas! Joe has been a fixture in and around the bike club for
years, and recently has been organizing the facilities for the
yearly club picnics at the Farnsley Moremen house. It didn’t
take Joe two seconds to recognize us and offer a ride back to
the start. We smiled at our good fortune. Margaret was waiting
for us when we arrived.
The two ladies and I dropped the tandem off at the bike shop
for repairs. The mechanic just shook his head, totally
nonplussed, “I’ve seen broken pedals, derailleurs and even
damaged frames, but I’ve never seen a handlebar do that
Lunch with the ladies was anticlimactic, but very tasty down
at the Bunz Burgers in the Highlands. So, have you ever
wondered how you would react if your handlebar snapped off
while you were riding hard? What would you do? What
should you do? I think I like Nita’s answer best, “It’s time to
buy a new bike.”
Tandem Team with broken bar (photo courtesy Larry Preble) The serendipitous Joe Thomas to the rescue!The right man at the right place at the right time with the right vehicle. (photo courtesy Larry Preble)
Broken bar (photo courtesy Larry Preble) Stem with broken bar (photo courtesy Larry Preble)
by Dr. Larry Preble
December, 2011
Have you ever wondered how you would react if your
handlebar snapped off while you were riding hard?
How about while riding with a partner right behind
you on a tandem? I cannot say it had ever crossed my
mind before last Thursday.
Job responsibilities had been conspiring to keep us
off the double bike; so when we finally got our
chance, it was with enthusiasm that my stoker and I
took off from the Yellow Lot on the 50-mile morning
ride. Nita and I rode hard. A surprisingly strong
newcomer, Brian, kept us company all the way to the
store stop off the Levy Trail in South Louisville.
We stopped to catch our breath and enjoy a quick break
at the Five Star Food Mart off Cane Run Road as the
rest of the group began to filter in. Just before jumping
back on the bike, I called my wife Margaret to see if
she would meet us both for lunch. She agreed to join us
back at the Yellow Lot in an hour and 20 minutes.
We were underway, this time separated from our
companions. Nita and I were on our own. As we
passed Mike Linnigs Restaurant, we gradually ramped
up the pace. Several miles into the route, we passed
Nana’s Country Kitchen, and the bike path turned off
into the forest.
We were accelerating out of the curve, just past the
railroad tracks where the path enters the woods, when
it happened. There was no warning, just an abrupt snap
as the left handlebar came off in my hand. My left
shoulder pitched forward and lurched to the side. I was
too startled to say anything other than, “Whoa!” The
bike wobbled like a bridge in an earthquake. I sat up