Yesterday (actually now several days go alas) I finish my work day and get my bicycle and roll it down the hall and into an elevator and down a bunch of floors and then out the door into a pretty California evening. So far so good. The lucky thing about being me is that I can park my bicycle in a secure situation that is also indoors, ensuring that when I retrieve my bicycle it still has the same parts that it had when I left it to go earn money with the added bonus that it is not sprinkled in bird poop and caterpillars. Personally, I think every bicyclist deserves to return to their bicycle at the end of the day with this kind of confidence but many companies treat our slender theftable vehicles as if they were something dirty that should be hidden out of sight. If it costs 4k per space to build a parking lot, wouldn't it be better to pay the bicyclists 2k for our trouble and let us put our delicate flowers into a hothouse where they can grow and flourish un-molested?*
Now outside I get on my bicycle and start pedaling and it is the same perfect experience as it is every day.** I think this must be what a bird feels like when it takes flight. Suddenly you are no longer clodding along on your two*** legs totally gravity bound. You glide. You're effortlessly fast. You feel free. If you do any amount of bicycling at all you barely notice the work of your legs you are just suddenly skimming through the air albeit fairly close to the ground.
So yes, that. And then I see a bus round a corner and I touch my brakes and I hear the most incredibly bad sound ever, so bad that I briefly think somewhere someone is tearing a cat apart inch by inch and we know I really like cats. The very awful noise turns out to be me. The bad noise is my bicycle, specifically my front brake. I stop and stare at it, concerned. I try the front brake. It open and closes but reluctantly on that second. I eyeball it wondering if I have worn the brake pads down to the metal. I wonder if using my brake will injure my rim. I stare at my rim. Arg, I want to go home! Damnit!
I pedal some more and experimentally brake and each time the noise is worse, if that's possible. The noise is a high pitched screaming. The noise is nails on blackboards times ten or styrofoam rubbing manically against styrofoam. The noise is ten excited toddlers trying to eat ten balloons. The noise is very very bad.
I limp along until I reach the Contraption Captain in Palo Alto and he of course offers to look into the problem but I say that we should get home first. We get home. He swaps out my front brake pads (I love this man) and they are worn but the screaming problem is elsewhere. My wheel, the metal part above the tire, the rim, the part where the brake pads clamp down on when I want to stop is...sticky. Like I rolled through something clear and very very tactile with my front wheel but not my back wheel. As if I had spent my day not working but putting duct tape down on my front wheel and peeling it off. #wat???
The Contraption Captain is able to clean my wheel with alcohol and the next morning me and Delphinium (my little flower of a road bicycle) are back in relatively noiseless business. Yay team!
This post should conclude with a post-mortem and a root cause for the failure but really? I have no idea. How did I get something all over my wheel but not on the tire? I still don't get it at all.
Update: Contraption Captain says to tell you that the sticky stuff was black, not clear. I remember the black streaks now that he mentions it. Still not sure why the front wheel got gummed up and not the back. There was some road work on the way in to the office though, could account for it. Thankfully no recurrences.
*Yes. This metaphor has gone on too long and I can't figure out what I'm talking about anymore. Yes I'm a total amateur.
**Yes. It is a perfect experience every day. Rain or shine. I really really like riding my bicycle. My only imperfect experiences are cars. I really really dislike cars.
***Yes. If you are lucky. If you are unlucky you are hopping along. If you are more unlucky you have no legs and are in a wheelchair. Interestingly enough I have seen fast bicyclists with one prosthetic leg. I have seen very fast bicyclists with no legs at all, pedaling with their arms. THis is because bicycling is the badass sport of all time.