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I'm Sponsored and I Have No Brakes!

About two weeks ago I got sick again, catching a bug Carolyn caught a week earlier. This cold has a couple of distinguishing features. It caused a low fever that left both Carolyn and I sapped of any energy to do anything. It also turned us both into mucous factories. You can't imagine how gross it's been around here. Soggy tissues cover every flat surface. Try and throw one away, two soggier ones appear to replace it.

Right in the worst part of this snot-fest I got a call from Joe to let me know that Sappo Hill Soapworks wants to sponsor me this year.

My initial response was to cough half a lung up all over the phone, the coffee table and a cat that was walking by. I think Joe reflexively reached for the hand sanitizer down in Ashland. Once I was able to talk again, I asked if they remembered that I'm - oh, what's the term I'm looking for - oh yes,  really slow. I suppose this could be a clever way to increase their product exposure since I'll be out on the course for hours longer than the rest of their team.

Seriously, I'm very humbled by this. They know I don't race at their level. But I showed up at nearly every race last year in a Sappo Hill jersey Joe gave me for Christmas and I managed to get on the podium a couple times. Racers on pro teams fill lots of rolls. Some race to win, some in support of stronger riders. Some serve as ambassadors of the products they represent. I'll do my best for them, but for the last two weeks, the only training I've managed has been to finish three books I'd been meaning to pick up again, organizing a closet, and hauling a couple loads of firewood on the porch. Oh yes, did I mention Echo Red to Red is this Saturday? No? Well, it is. You know, the one my sister said was worse than childbirth. So, I'm not just unprepared for this race, I'm unprepared AND sponsored too!

I'm so doing this wrong.

In an effort to do something before race day that included a bicycle, I did try to get the Yeti cleaned up and ready to go. I'd kept it out of the muck most of the winter so it wasn't in too bad shape. I tore it down, cleaned everything up. Put a new tube in the back wheel and started to put things back together. The back wheel was putting up a fight and my usual response to that (pound on it) got the wheel back in place but it sounded awful when it spun. Metal on metal is not good. I pulled the wheel off and had a look at the brakes. Something was metal curled around in between the pads in a "I didn't come from the factory like this" way. Great. It looked like I bent the retention spring clip that keeps the pads in place. Out go the pads for a closer inspection.

I should pause at this point to say that I really love my brakes. When I find myself in an especially terrifying descent, my mind fills up with images of impalement, helicopters, traction braces, wheelchairs and colostomy bags. Experienced racers know how to still their minds and flow down technical descents. My mind immediately fills up with torture porn. So while some racers use their brakes to modulate their speed, I tend to grab mine with the same conviction a skydiver has when pulling a rip cord. I am trying to arrest a psychic and occasionally physical free fall.

It still worked!
So it shouldn't have surprised me to find that over the course of last season, I had not only worn down the pads of my rear brakes, I had worn them off. I had also worn away much of the retaining spring and a substantial amount of the backing pad too. Yes, a display of appallingly sloppy maintenance but one could argue it was also an outstanding extension of the service life of a part. Maybe I just get a thrill out of destroying things in interesting ways. I should probably check the oil in my car.

I made this discovery last Sunday evening and my musings on product durability were all fine and good, but I had less than a week to my first race. A quick trip to Amazon Prime and I was set with new pads by Tuesday.

Maybe Wednesday.

Or not.

Wednesday afternoon I'm staring at order tracking for my items that were due to arrive that day, it became clear that they had vanished somewhere between the warehouse in South Carolina and UPS.

Panic is not something I  succumb to as a rule, but right about then, it was the only response I could think of. It's not like you can run over to the local bike shop and pick up a pair of sintered Avid Elixir Disc Brake Pads. This is exotic stuff. I was looking at a panic drive to Portland that afternoon. In desperation, I called Tommy's, the local bike shop in McMinnville.

They had them. Two pairs, actually.

It's going to be a crazy couple days getting the bike together, getting packed and getting to Echo Oregon for a race that I will almost certainly embarrass myself at, but for now I can say this with great confidence:

Tommy's Bike Shop rules.


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