On the Road to Recovery

Two months since my latest bike accident that broke 6 ribs [4 in multiple places resulting in 11 fractures] and my collar bone. It has been a long couple months, especially the first month. I had to move, and had no clue where to go. Nevertheless, I had to sort, dispose and pack things back in Orange County; it was difficult with pain from fractured ribs, soar back, clavicle still in 2 pieces, plus shortness of breath caused by my punctured lungs resulting from my broken ribs. I did a little at a time and had reduced things, disposed of years accumulated junk, and all packed.

I still had nowhere to go and prepared to live on the streets if necessary, but received a call from a friend with a possible place to stay. We went and looked at the room in a lovely house. A few days later I decided to move in (October 20, three days before my move-out date). Now I’m living in Long Beach again (Los Angeles County).

On my fourth day here, my brother-in-law brought the trike from the accident. I was surprised it was in such great shape. I’ve been riding it since October 27; the first few weeks 3-5 mile rides and now 15-20 mile rides. It is awesome back in the saddle!

I’d like to ride my bike again. It averages speeds similar to my trike, but geared lower with superior aerodynamics so the energy required to pedal is less. However, the stabilizer wheels where defective and Bike USA did not send me proper replacement wheels as promised (even with a friendly reminder). Hundred mm standard hub wheels are too wide, and I can’t find 85mm hub wheels for the mounts. I’m going to attempt cold pressing them to fit a set of 16” wheels with 100mm hubs from the co-opp, but when I first tried, I didn’t have enough strength. Now that my collar bone has healed, I’ll try again… but want to give it more time to build strength.

I’m considering an electric trike. There are advantages to traditional human power bikes/trikes, but after years of huffing and puffing on hills and lower speeds than other light weight racing bikes beyond my budget, e-bikes are coming down in price and may give me a boost in performance. They are still expensive but maybe I can afford an entry level one and ride more comfortably… after all, California took my driver’s license due to my head injury caused by another driver, so a pedal cycle is now my primary transportation.

Bike Accident: Broken Ribs/Clavicle

On Monday, September 20, 2021, I was in a bike accident. What caused it isn’t clear, but my guess is, ‘was a hit and run’. It happened on Warner near PCH in Huntington Beach. I remember ridding down Warner, and then my conscience mind is blank until getting in the paramedic. There was a police officer on scene, but if I gave a statement, I have no memory of what it was. The fist stop was Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach. The paramedics were talking to the medical staff, and said I was in a possible hit & run. It makes sense; west on Warner just before Pacific Coast Highway, the right most lane changes into a two lane right turn only, so I have to get out of the bike lane and cross two lanes of fast traffic continuing to the beach. I’ve taken that way many times the past several years, and when the road is clear I begin my lane change. However, often before I finish, a fast moving car come from behind. Usually they can stop in time to yield the right of way, but probably not this time.

After Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, they brought me to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo because they wanted me in a trauma center. They first took a CT scan which confirmed I had 6 broken ribs (4 with multiple fractures – 11 in all) and clavicle (collar bone). They kept me there 5 days running tests and taking x-rays. I was released Friday, September 24. It has been a couple weeks and my ribs/clavicle are starting to feel better; the clavicle is one piece again, but I want to rest longer and let it grow stronger.

I also need to move October 23. I’ve been looking for a new place to live, but haven’t secured one yet. Being injured makes the last few weeks harder. I haven’t seen the bike after the accident, I hear it is at the Huntington Beach Fire Station on Warner near PCH. It’ll be interesting to see…

Back to the Bicycle Tree Co-Op

Alamitos Bay Parking Lot

My search for new balance wheels that fit my current Stabilizer Wheel Mounts has been unsuccessful. The hubs are narrow (standard hubs are 100mm, but the one’s supplied in the kit are 15mm thinner; with cones and lock nuts a standard is too wide and the supplied wheels are too thin and degrade in a few miles). I ordered a set of 16” wheels (one review claimed they were 3.75” from nut to nut; that would’ve fit if it was true) but they were too wide and now returning them is an expense. I brought my original destroyed 85mm 16” balance wheels to the Bicycle Tree to see if I could rebuild them there; I need the axle hardware, but they didn’t have it. They did have a digital measure tool that allowed me to discover they are 85mm hubs, and got a set of 100mm standard hub 16” wheels to bring home and try. They did not fit my stabilizer wheel mounts; 100mm will fit snug, but with cones and lock nuts, they are too wide.

The original wheels should roll smooth longer with flat washers as spacers. I bought some to use after the damage was done; they seem to take up the gap and absorb the side pressure that prematurely wore them out, but new wheels of that size have been problematic to find. I wrote the company I purchased them from, so hopefully they’ll respond with a solution. If not, the Bicycle Tree can order a stabilizer wheel set for $100. The last couple I’ve tried were $200 & $250. The first set branded as training wheels rolled >1,000 miles, but with a warp on the right mount causing an extreme right lean resulting in unlevel riding. This current set branded as stabilizer wheels has rolled 250 miles, but the last 150 miles have been hard miles with wobble and metal grind resulting in shaky noisy rides. I’d hoped the company would’ve sent wheels that work with the mounts, but I got high quality mounts with non standard wheels that only work a few miles (100 or 4 [original or first replacement] before wobble/grind).

My bicycle is so much easier to ride than my trike. It’s not the best quality bicycle, but it was what I could afford with COVID stimulus and would be wonderful to get rolling smooth again. When I removed the balance wheels to bring to the Bicycle Tree, using my trike, I sat on my bike with a swaying side to side motion. It’s been a month and a half since decades of earwax buildup was removed; my hearing improved right away, and I have sensed some changes in the ability to adapt to air pressure changes. My balance on the bike has improved, but when I last tried riding in April, I got a black eye, sprained wrist and lots of road rash. I don’t know if I’m ready to try again; not here anyway. I don’t have a safe place to practice, like when I lived on Alamitos Bay that had a large marina parking lot with little traffic.

New Wheel Master Wheels

I slowly realized the hubs of the 16” balance wheels are too narrow. The setup was strange from my perspective. I’d always seen the cones on the axle go up against the cup on the hub, sealing the grease and bearings between the cup and lower part of the cone. I’ve built that part of a wheel, and prior to that, 40 years worth of random tire tube changes requiring wheel removal and mounting, & the setup was always similar. These cones were smaller than the cup; one side was hiding deep inside so I thought it was missing (but my latest ride vibrated it out). The bearings are not loose; rather, they are in a cage which when aligned fits snug between the cone and cup leaving the spacer in tack. However, the hubs are too narrow for the forks of the BikeUSA Stabilizer Wheel Mounts. Being inexperienced per narrow hubs with standard forks, I assumed BikeUSA sent me parts that worked together considering the high price they charged. I installed them as is per their instructions. The mounts are solid, but the wheels only rolled smooth for ~100 miles.

The side pressure of turns in the wider forks degraded the wheels. Now the cones slide out of the cups, so the wheels wobble and metal grinds (cups to cones without bearings). When this first happened, I asked BikeUSA about it and they sent me a replacement wheel. It only rolled smooth a couple miles before degrading; now both wheels grind/wobble… the lock nut does not have a cone to tighten up against; I was tightening daily and they held up for a few miles but even short 25 mile rides were uncomfortable with all the shaking from wobbly wheels and metal grinding. With these mounts, most of the ride is on three wheels so one balance wheel is causing problems. Sometimes I’ll ride like 5 miles on two bike wheels, but then 10-15 miles on three wheels with more wobble/metal grind. It just isn’t right…

During the last phase, I tried some large washers; my though was if the washer is larger than the cup, it’ll give the lock nut a wall for support while keeping it out of the cup; because the cone is too small for that purpose on this setup. It worked, but still getting wobble. The lock nuts on each side were coming loose because of the space; although the axle is tight with the axle nuts on the outside, the movement of the hubs turning the cups/cones would loosen the lock nuts. For that reason, they must fit in the forks snug. Because BikeUSA sold me narrow hubs and standard forks, I tried using more washers to take up the gap. That worked, but with the wheels already destroyed beyond repair, I ordered some new wheels from BikeWorldUSA. Hopefully they’ll fit snug. Measurements of hub width from other customers range from 3.75-3.9”. My space is ~4”, and the forks flex in a little… ETA is 1.5-2.5 weeks, so I’ll find out when they get here. They are just wheels: rims, spokes, hubs, axle and hardware. So I’ll use the OEM tires and tubes and plan to be rolling smooth again.

The past week++ I’ve been riding my old adult trike. It is so much more work and harder on my joints. My knees feel the extra stress the most, so I’ll be excited to get back on my bike! It’s been a rough 4 months getting back on a bike, but it is slowly getting better! These new wheels will lead the way to smoother riding… finally.

Wheels are problematic!

The original training wheels I installed on Electra rolled over 1K miles. However, the right bracket was warped causing an extreme right lean; hence, making those miles uncomfortable. Then, the right balance wheel broke 7 spokes. The company sent me a replacement balance wheel, but it only rolled 5 days before breaking 6 spokes. Next, I spent even more for stabilizer wheels. They mounted great (no extreme right lean!) However, both wheels were loose by the cup that holds the bearings, so they wobble. The right wheel more than the left. Yesterday the right wheel became so loose that the bearings were exposed (must of been sticking on the grease) making a metal grinding noise and the wobble became severe. I used my cone wrenches and tightened it, but today the right wheel loosened after a mile and started making that sound again. I contacted the seller; hopefully they’ll make it right.

I don’t know… I ♥ riding the bike but can’t afford new stabilizer wheels so often. I might have to revert to riding a trike. The adult trikes I rode the past 5 years were bulky, not aerodynamic, and uncomfortable opposed to a cruiser bicycle, but reliable ~5K miles +/-. But the prices have increased 400% +/-. I bought my Electra Townie 7D Equipped with COVID stimulus money, but the spare trike I have left needs a new bottom bracket. I tried removing the right crank arm to repair/replace it, but it is stuck good. I installed them at ~1,000 miles, but now at 6,700 miles the right side is stuck. I removed the left crank arm, but put it back on when I discovered the right side is stuck, and decided to ride it until the chain wheel falls off. That hasn’t happened yet, but last week they would freeze during rotation. Besides the freezing, they wobble and sometimes the chain drops. The Meridian I paid <$300 for finally is available with gears (internal 3 or external 7). And it still offers forward pedals, but the current price is >$1,200. Yes, I’m stuck with Electra (an excellent bicycle) but riding sans stabilizer wheels is bloody. Balance used to be automatic, then conquered by building muscle memory, now I haven’t figured it out yet. Maybe it isn’t suppose to be figured out!?

Oh Baby… These New Stabilizer Wheels Rock!!!

To recap, when vacated from my home on Alamitos Bay Shore, I lost access to the large marina bay parking lot I was practicing riding my 29er mountain bike in. It was a shame… I was improving building up core muscle memory to override the random corrupt balance signals my brain randomly sends my core muscles for balance adjustments. Most people don’t understand even when I explain, so I usually don’t waste my breath (but know from 30 years experience living with TBI). I’ve done it before and it is bloody. The rewards outweigh the pain though. Next, I was temporary living near the traffic circle. I discovered a set of EVO stabilizer wheels and thought they may help me ride my 29er MTB in the bike lanes. They didn’t mount on the seat stay of the frame, so only 2 points were mounted on the chain stay part of the frame. I tried riding it anyway and thrown off one day resulting in a broken hip that was replaced.

Fast forward 4 years, I bought some Safety Guardian Training Wheels from Cycle Deal for my Electra Townie. They were never right and forced me into an awkward right lean most of the time. After the first week, I adjusted the wheels into the lowest position, so the drive wheel would be off the ground unless I was sitting in the saddle. Riding was better, but in an extreme right lean. I was happy a month later when I raised the balance wheels to the second position again; I learned they are always to have a maximum of one balance wheel on the ground at a time, for safety reasons such as the drive tire always in contact with the ground for proper braking, but I didn’t know that when I contacted both balance wheels on the ground raising the drive wheel off the ground unless sitting in the saddle on mostly flat ground (sometimes in leans or on grass, the drive wheel would come off the ground resulting in no power or rear brake). For the most part, I built enough muscle memory the past month to better handle the extreme right lean and riding in the awkward position on unlevel roads with heavy traffic. The other 2/3 of the time, I was riding on level enough road that I could ride upright 80% of the time (naturally would be enough speed to avoid the extreme right lean). I finally discovered the source of it: a warp on the right bracket causing an extreme right lean. The company would not honor their lifetime warranty and replace the defective bracket. After 2 months (1,011 miles) of use the wheel broke 7 spokes; the company replaced the wheel, but the replacement wheel broke 6 spokes after 5 days use. I had to ride my worn out trike for three weeks between wheels.

That brings me to my current Stabilizer Wheels from Bike USA. I ordered them after the replacement balance wheel broke in hopes of receiving quality parts for once. And 7/29/2021 was the 30th anniversary of my motorcycle vs car accident, so I wanted to have my bike rolling for a symbolic ride. They didn’t arrive in time for that, so I rode my trike that day and the bike 8/3. Even on the first day, I rode one of the most uneven bike lanes with ease. They balance the bike in a position that allows easy weight shift/handlebar press to adjust the balance point on slow rides below the 5 MPH self balance point. That is the way it has always been for me (except with the warp on the Safety Guardian Training Wheels). Theses new stabilizer wheels are 16” opposed to the 12” wheels of both previous sets, and they have forks so the 16” wheels only have one position. They roll smoother though. I’ll put more miles on them for a stronger opinion, but they are off to an excellent start!

30 Years Beyond that Crazy Elephant

On this day in 1991, my life changed forever. I lived in the Sonoran Desert, Colorado Desert section, Palm Desert, California, 27 years. The next city to the west, Rancho Mirage, has a landmark, the Rancho Super Car Wash sign. On that day, 7/29/91, I was riding an old family BMW motorcycle from Palm Desert to White Water, but only made it part way through Rancho Mirage. A lady made an illegal left turn from the car wash onto east Hwy 111. I was traveling west at 55 MPH and not wearing a helmet, t-boned the car and flew 100 feet through the air landing on my unprotected head. I went into a coma and transported to Desert Hospital in Palm Springs were I had brain surgery. The doctors did not expect me to survive beyond midnight, but after a 90 day coma and three decades of living with TBI, here I am…

New Balance Wheel + Setup Change

Left Balance Wheel Mount
The Left Balance Wheel Mount.
The Right Balance Wheel Mount; Removing the Chain Guard Reduced the Extreme Right Lean!

A week ago seven spokes on the right balance wheel broke, and a spoke went through the rim puncturing the tube. I’ve been battling an extreme right lean since I started riding Electra May Day with the balance wheels installed. When I originally put the mounts on the frame stays, I left the primary chain guard on; two of the U Bolts attach the right mount to the chain stay and because it is the drive side, the chain guard adds an extra 5mm of thickness. In combination with the warp on the metal, it creates an extreme right lean without an easy way to get out of it. By easy, I’m referring to my own experience of 50 years riding (~30 inactive). On an uneven road, I could lean (shift my weight) to counter the uneven road leveling the bike. With this extreme right lean, mild handlebar presses or weight shifts were unresponsive. I could press the handlebar with enough force to bench press 200 pounds and pull out. However, with cars passing at 50 MPH+/-, it is a safety concern (too much force would bounce me into traffic coming from behind).

While I searched for a replacement wheel, I removed the mounts and chain guard. The right mount still looked like it is extreme bent, and the left looks like it is bent inward. The company, CyclingDeal_USA, sent me a replacement wheel. With the left balance wheel in the second position and right in first, the bends are not noticeable while riding, and gentle presses on the handlebars and/or weight shifts straighten the bike on two wheels. It is a break through, after 1,627 kilometers with an unresponsive bike (on level straights, the bike would naturally self balance on two wheels, but on uneven road the extreme right lean would prevail so riding posture was awkward). Now the game has changed.

I used training wheels when I was 3, but don’t remember the details (just getting them off). Ironically, I’m living about a mile from my old neighborhood where I learned to ride and started school. We then moved to Palm Desert and I never thought I’d be back in my early childhood neighborhood, but here I am. And refreshing with training wheels. Brain injury is hard on my balance, and the Huntington Beach suburbs are more intense than the Palm Springs area. The training wheels let me practice on the main streets, but with the responsive results just achieved, I’m rolling slower and requiring more space right now. Therefore, I’ll practice in the residential area until I begin rolling smoother in less space (such as the space of bike lanes on highways).

A Basket in Front

I can’t use a rear cargo rack on my bike yet. The mounts for the stabilizer wheels block the space required for the rack. I thought they would but ordered one just to be sure. I also ordered a couple wire baskets for the rack to use as saddle bags. They can be used on the cargo rack or handlebars. Because I can’t install a cargo rack until I remove the stabilizer wheels, I decided to try a basket on the handlebars. The fit is tight because of the dynamo headlight, but it fits snug. It’s not as large as the baskets on adult trikes, but since I’ve been riding this bike (2 months {1,500 kilometers}) I’ve been buying smaller amounts of groceries, several times a week opposed to just once; I carry most of my groceries in a backpack, and carry delicate items like bread and eggs in a bag hanging from my handlebar. They swing and hit my knee, so hopefully the basket will work better.

Last Friday

It has been an exciting couple weeks in my bike world! I was planning to write at least one entry every week, but life happens and two weeks passed. Last Friday, I rode my bike up to San Pedro for BBQ and see The Amazing Grace Shannon perform on guitar. It was a beautiful day; the winds were not too strong and it was sunny (~77F). Riding through the industrial areas where all the trucks transport products from the Port of Los Angeles, I found myself climbing and descending many steep hills. Then GPS took me to a park… so I stopped to stretch and drink protein. Once I started rolling again, I arrived at the BBQ place to see Grace perform and enjoyed the company of Dr Margaret Shannon and family. The food, company and music made the 25 mile bike ride more enjoyable. However, I only made it 13.5 miles back home before I was completely flat without a spare…

When I left the BBQ, my balance wheels were not functioning normal. I stopped several times attempting to adjust them with the wrenches in my back pack. That wasn’t working but I discovered setting my bike on her side and pushing down on the balance wheel mounts helped a few miles at a time. In Long Beach my bike had gone completely flat. I thought I was going to have to push my bike twelve more miles to Surf City, but my roommate came and picked my bike and I up. On the ride home we saw the last super moon of 2021 (aka Strawberry Moon). I also thought about my bike’s slow leak; the lower air pressure probably caused the balance wheels to operate different, and the changing pressure points caused me to stop every few miles to adjust the balance wheels.

The following day, I replaced the tube in the drive wheel. I had to remove the left balance wheel mount to remove the drive wheel. Then I discovered the U Bolts were abnormally bent; probably from laying my bike on her side and pushing down on the balance wheel mounts every few miles. I’ll need to check the PSI during rides in the future to prevent this mistake again. I check PSI before I leave home, but that is not often enough. Sometimes I quickly check it during a ride, but must do it regularly. For now, I’m using the OEM bent U Bolts, but need to go to the hardware store for replacements. I also need to tighten the rear brake; the cable loosened while replacing the tube. Often, one repair leads to many mechanical issues.

Regarding the steep hills through parts of Long Beach and San Pedro, my bike has a granny gear I’ve never optimized until now. Electra has 44 teeth on the chain wheel and 32 teeth on the largest freewheel cog {1.375:1 ratio for 35 gear inches}. Mostly that is too low for the flatter roads in Surf City; seventh gear has a ratio of 3.14:1 for 81 gear inches, so I mostly ride in 5, 6 and 7th. I’ve considered increasing the teeth on the chain wheel and increasing the gear ratios, but for occasional steep hills, the lower granny gear is a nice option. The top speeds are not as fast, but accelerations are faster. I’ve achieved similar average speeds with ratios of ~3:1 opposed to ~4:1, but with the ~3:1 I can get close to 1:1 when necessary (rather than 2:1). The cardio is less intense but on 2 hour rides I have more energy for the duration. Just an observation from years of pedaling both ways.