Completed: 2017 Eastern Sierra Double Century
Weather was superb, relatively mild being cool until the June Lake area and then only a little warmer as cloud cover broke. Wind was strong coming south from Lee Vining (a boost going north, quite an impediment going south), but Hwy 120 was no problem. Even Chalfant valley was only in the high 80s and the wind was mild by comparison to last year.
I had gone up a week in advance to acclimatize and I was feeling great, having watched my diet, done some climbing, etc. I was all set up if not win then finish in the top few riders, but alas my rear wheel/tire tubular glue job screwed the pooch. It was a comedy of problems for me:
- My SRM power meter failed at around mile 4—no wattage, no cadence, but still had speed and miles and altitude.
- The rear tire started rubbing on the left chainstay right away, more on that below.
- The Di2 Shifting was flaky at times at mile 100 on out.
My rear tubular tire screwed my race, or rather the bad glue job did. My local bike shop has always done a good job, but this time the results ruined any chance I had of being competitive—
- The night before I had noticed some slight rubbing; the rubbing went away when I retightened the skewer, so this fooled me into thinking I had fixed the issue. I ought to have checked more closely, but not having a spare rear, I’m unsure what I could have done anyway.
- Within the first few miles, the rear tire started rubbing on the left chainstay. Mild at first it steadily worsened. I stopped four times to tighten the skewer, but this did not help.
- Climbing the big grade past Paradise, the rubbing was very noticeable, robbing me of a lot of power, and fatiguing me prematurely from the braking effect. Downhill, I could not catch any riders except those air-braking themselves, showing that the friction was substantial.
- At mile 60 or so, I went to 140 PSI, thinking that this would slightly narrow the profile (by not allowing the tire to deform as much)—I did not want to peel the tire if I could just avoid the rubbing. This seemed to help at first...
- By the June Lake area at mile 80 or so, the rubbing become a thump by each revolution, with a huge frictional drag that I could feel with every wheel revolution.
So at mile ~80 just shy of the village of June Lake, I stopped and peeled off the Veloflex Criterium. The Criterium was OK except for some smeared rubber on the sidewall, but the base tape was torn in one place, so the tire was kaput except as an emergency spare. The Moots Vamoots RSL chainstay was well polished and with stuck-on rubber pieces around the polish area. I mounted a Veloflex Record 22C race tire (one of two spares I carried), thinking this would clear the chainstay. Indeed it did for a while, until it blew-out 50 miles later, the tire destroyed and useless with its sidewall worn away.
At mile 130 with the first spare destroyed, I mounted my 2nd Veloflex Record spare incorrectly, intentionally: I decentered it as well as I could away from the chainstay. This seemed to work OK, because I finished that way, and the tire appeared undamaged. I think the glue might also have softened because when I peeled it off post-ride, the glue had mushed out even more, letting the tire seat more deeply (the first spare was sitting on top of ~3mm of glue in the problematic area.
The problem? WAY too much glue on the wheel:
- So much glue that it was hard to stretch the exceptionally pliant Veloflex Record onto the wheel, noticeably more difficult than usual due to the increased circumference. In one area, the glue appeared to be ~3mm thick!
- Most of the glue had all mushed to one side of the wheel, thus forcing the tire towards the left chainstay. It was impossible to seat the tire properly; it would seat only skewed 2-3mm to one side. This is why even the 22C Veloflex Record blew out at mile ~130 by rubbing on the chainstay.
Below, excessive glue mushed over to one side of the rim makes it impossible to center the tire properly.
What might have happened: I had biked up Lee Vining Canyon with a daypack and on the steep descent I used a lot of braking power. My theory is that this heated up the wheel and softened the glue. Normally that would not be an issue, but the amount of glue was excessive. And so, unknown to me, the tire mushed over to one side. Then the glue hardened again, and the tire and glue were stuck fast, decentered by ~1-2mm. At first it was not enough to rub badly, but enough to just start to rub, which is why I was fooled into thinking it was a skewer-tightness issues. But as it turns out, a little rubbing begets more and worse rubbing, as smeared off rubber on the chainstay increases friction on the tire, causing more rubbing/pulling, causing the tire to shift even more until ultimately I was probably losing 50 watts from friction near June Lake with a pronounced thump at each wheel revolution. I think also that when pedaling uphill, the torque of ~250 to 300 watts must have been forcing the wheel just a bit closer to the chainstay.
Bottom line: an event that I was hoping to win turned into 18th place of 105 men and women (#6 in age group), along with two destroyed tires: the rim tape on the Criterium was torn off when peeling it, and the Record had its sidewall blown. But by mile 130, I didn’t have the energy to be upset about it any more!