My choice to follow the 50 East from Gunma Prefecture on my ‘fixie’ track bike was meant to be challenging, but it was also unexpectedly enlightening. I was energetic and optimistic for what lay ahead when I hit the road at 5:30 a.m. The sky was clear and the air had the slightest bit of May morning coolness to it. About 15 minutes into the ride, my first obstacle for the long distance ahead presented itself.
Born from the combination of my passion for biking and my need to personalize things, my bicycle has been the recipient of many modifications. The most recent was a new paint job. Two coats of flat black over the entire frame looked good enough to warrant painting the handlebars and seatpost to match. Once on the road, after only 15 minutes of riding, I realized my seat was too high but the new paint made it too difficult to lower. I loosened the seatpost tension screw and predicted that my weight would slowly lower the seat over the next few miles. It did not.
Due to my seat’s slightly high position, my pedal strokes were causing my hips to rock side to side. When riding on a thin racing seat, a little side to side motion can quickly erupt into painful chaffing. A high seat also changes the natural angle of a rider’s feet on the pedals. Those without pedal stirrups would hardly notice, but unfortunately I was wearing them. As the bike path approached a bridge staircase, I slowed down to dismount. However, I quickly realized I was hung-up in the stirrup. In a second I was gracelessly splayed on the ground with my foot still securely attached to the pedal. It was time to take a break and make some roadside modifications.
The first task was to get the seat down. I had made a mark earlier to watch for while riding so I would know when to retighten the seatpost adjustment screw. After several miles of riding, the seat still had not descended from its original position despite the tension screw being completely off. Without a mallet to finesse the seat down, I resorted to brute force. I removed my seat and the few other seatpost components, that control angular adjustment, so that only a bare pole projected from the top of my frame. Flipping the bike over and using its own weight to strike the seatpost seemed like a good option. Two strikes and the seatpost was at my target mark. With the seat back on, I turned my attention back to the stirrups.
In the fall, the steel pedal had managed to become cross-threaded within the aluminum crank. That meant there was a slight angle to the pedal that misaligned my ankle enough to notice but with no uncomfortability. I worried that over the hours ahead even a little side-stress like this could result in major riding pain or injury later. The best solution was to remove the stirrups, which is disconcerting because it eliminates the opportunity to pull-up on the pedal. After the ride was over, I actually found the stirrupless pedal to be quite comfortable. I am considering leaving them off permanently.
The full extent of the cross-thread damage was not revealed until I returned home and tried to unscrew the pedal. The results from the combination of the cross-threading from the fall and the continued stress from hours of rotating a misaligned pedal were not good. The pedal had completely seized within the crank, and my home tools proved useless to free it. at the local bicycle shop, the mechanic pulled out the biggest pedal wrench he could find and managed to free it. Unfortunately, out came the pedal and all of the threads from the crank. The store where I had this done did not sell cranks. As an expat with very limited Japanese, I have to resort to purchasing products from easily recognized stores like those at the Aeon mall, but a crank is too specialized to be carried by general retail bike shops like those. Instead, I plan to purchase a new crank on Amazon.co.jp, but I am still open to suggestions. If you have any suggestions for bicycle parts supply sources in the Ota-shi area, please leave them in the comments section below.
It has been said that wisdom is gained when the experiences one has are combined with one’s knowledge for good decisions. My aspiration to ride my fixie along the 50 from Gunma Prefecture may not have resulted in the experience I expected to have, but the lessons I learned about safer bicycling and the best way to acquire a new crank around my home in Ota made the ride well worth the fall. I think the enlightening fact here is: Don’t paint your seatpost.