Attack of the Killer Bicycle

OK, yeah, right, not a lot of O’Grady®-label content around here lately, apologies, sorry sorry sorry. A tip of the Mad Dog propeller beanie to everyone keeping the sound cranked up to 11 in the comments so none of the other WordPress blogs can get any sleep.

Herself is on the road, helping her kinfolk marry off a youngun (no first cousins were harmed in the making of this marriage, or so I’m told). Thus, for a few days now I’ve been on my own, which is never pretty, as I revert to bachelorhood at warp speed.

Lacking adult supervision, I know that there is still a place for everything, but that place has become the floor. No one in authority suggests the use of the inside voice during attempts at debt collection. Meals tend to be infrequent, unheated and taken over the sink, and the only laundry that gets done involves colorfully sublimated Lycra.

An extra added attraction this time around is that my road bike tried to assassinate me, a titanium Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo to my all-too-vulnerable Don Vito Corleone, knowing that in Herself’s absence nobody had my back.

The treacherous titanium two-wheeler put me into a Death Wobble on a descent on Wednesday and I only survived the assault thanks to the intervention of the Blessed Virgin of Hell Is Full and Satan Is Busy But Your Call Is Important To Us And Will Be Answered In the Order In Which It Was Received.

Either that or the cats implored their dark lord to spare the hairy-legged roadie, if only until The Chosen One returns from West Texas. They have yet to master the filling of the dish and the emptying of the litter box.

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22 Responses to “Attack of the Killer Bicycle”

  1. Ben S Says:

    Well damn glad you survived. Be boring as all get out with out you. Really.

    So how fast do you have to go to get a Ti bike to want to toss you?

    If the floor wasn’t where everything belonged gravity wouldn’t always on on.

  2. Larry T. Says:

    Come OG, spill it. How whackily (is that a word?) loaded was this bike made from the “king of all metals” as titanium fans like to call it, that it tried to spit you off? Don’t tells us it was just “JRA”…must have been something more than, as we used to say in the shop after dispatching some bozo with an inane “problem”…a loose nut on the seat. As to meals over the sink and other odious signs of “batchin’ it” my trick when the smart half of our marriage is away is to invite some folks over to dinner — this way you a)get interested in actually cooking real, tasty food b)clean up the shack so they don’t trip over junk on the floor or refuse to eat in your pig pen c)enjoy the company of people who might make you think you’re less of a worthless piece of crap than you think. I usually get at least a and b out of it!

  3. Patrick O'Grady Says:

    Gents, it was hands down one of the weirdest experiences of a long and checkered cycling career.

    The most recent addition to the old beast was a new Ritchey carbon fork, back in January. Since then I’ve ridden the damn’ thing all over the place without issue — barring some slight difficulty trying to ride no-hands at low speed. This, I assumed, was due to the deterioration of my once-mad skillz. I mean, a guy who isn’t racing or going on long training rides with people who do can take the time to stop to add or subtract layers of clothing, right? No biggie.

    But after getting into this Death Wobble I did a little research, and lo and behold — problems with riding no-hands at low speed can indicate a fork with asymmetrical blades.

    According to Craig Calfee via Lennard Zinn, forks that are off by more than 1.8mm in symmetry can be prone to wobble at speeds over 30 mph (I had just topped 35 mph when my Death Wobble kicked in). The guys at Old Town Bike Shop tell me my fork blades are 4mm askew.

    The latest is that Old Town is running the gantlet of the warranty process for me. so we’ll see how that works out. In the meantime, I’ve put road rubber on the Jamis ’cross bike, so now it’s a “road” bike. All the other ’cross bikes are laughing at it and calling it names.

  4. khal spencer Says:

    Glad you escaped the 35 mph cheese grater. -K

  5. Jeff in PetroMetro Says:


    Hairy-legged roadie? Shave, man! It’s better to look good than to be good.

  6. Larry T. Says:

    Hope it’s not one of those counterfeit “Ritchey” forks someone was making. Wasn’t the story the caper was discovered when one of ’em failed and was sent back to Ritchey for warranty replacement — who then figured out it was not made by the the Asian contractor they chose but by some other outfit who decided to make some quick dough with knock-offs? I’ve never understood the carbon fork idea anyway, did a back-to-back test myself years ago (swapping only the fork) riding the same 50 kms route and decided the steel fork gave a better ride and was more stable to boot! At least if a steel fork was off a bit one can usually “align” it but with carbon all you can do is replace it. I guess SOMEBODY will closely check the replacement before it’s mounted and test ridden? If you can’t ride a bike with no hands, there’s a good chance something’s wrong with it. The wife crashed her beloved Dave Tesch years ago and it looked pretty much OK — until you took your hands off the bars and it tried to do an instant right turn! Even Joe Bell had a tough time figuring out what was wrong with it since it came back to him as a frame/fork rather than a bike he could test-ride. For all I know it’s still hanging somewhere in his shop since we figured getting it back into perfect alignment was a crap-shoot at best. A steel “Reparto Corsa” Bianchi was a reasonable replacement.

  7. Patrick O'Grady Says:

    Larry, if I recall correctly my DBR came out about the time it was SOP to slap a carbon fork on your ti’ bike. Everyone was doing it, even those of us who knew better, and the Wound-Up I got back then was definitely a step up from the shitty alloy fork that was stock on the bike. It was blue, and it blew.

    Maybe I should give my old buddy Brent Steelman a jingle, see if he has a road fork lying around taking up valuable shop space.

  8. khal spencer Says:

    Why did you replace the Woundup?

  9. Patrick O'Grady Says:

    K, the Wound-Up is nearly as old as the bike, which dates to 1994 or thereabouts, and it was starting to feel like a scientific experiment in catastrophic failure to me. Plus its steerer was cut back when I was more flexible than John McCain’s principles, and I can’t assume that low, flat-back position anymore.

  10. Opus the Poet Says:

    Umm, yeah 4mm off sounds like either a knock-off or a bad day for the QC inspector. I can do better than that at home with a 2X4 stud with a bolt for my “jig”. Of course I build “Real Forks” from “Real Steel” instead of that crabon “stuff”.

  11. khal spencer Says:

    My oldest carbon fork dates to 2002 on the Cannonball CAAD5 I bought when we moved here. I’ve never been quite as comfortable riding bikes made of stuff that can break catastrophically rather than fail gracefully, and have thought, at minimum, of replacing the all-carbon fork on the Six-Thirteen with something at least having an aluminum steerer.

  12. Jon Paulos Says:

    Patrick and others,

    Bad luck on that fork. Given the history of high speed shimmy, you are fortunate to be alive. You’re even luckier that the cause was diagnosed. Having said that, I’ve got a carbon-bladed fork on my T-wreck road bike and like it a lot. I replaced an aluminum fork with the same dimensions and noticed a big difference for the better. My brother is convinced that it is only a matter of time before the blades part company with the crown and I do a face plant, but we’ll see. It’s been on for about 15 years and no problems yet.

  13. rustlust Says:

    I had a scary karbone fork on my old LeMond, pretty sure it was a Trek/Icon–straight blade, rake? Offset? I did have a couple o’ high speed descents where I had to lock my knees to the top tube to stop the Holy Shit Parkinsons Shuffle.

  14. John Says:

    “…no first cousins were harmed in the making of this marriage, or so I’m told…”

    Goes without saying as this marriage was on herself’s side of the family. Now had this been on the O’Grady side, now that’s another story.

    I know a couple who just had a set of custom Sevens Ti bikes built up. Rather than going with a plastic….er, carbon forks, they called up Waterford and had a couple genuine steel forks custom made for them. They just got back from a month long bike ride around various French speaking parts of Europe and have been expressing abundant delight with the bikes, in particular the forks, ever since. I now know what I want for Christmas.

  15. Larry T. Says:

    No argument about a plastic fork being better than aluminum as far as ride quality. Chairman Bill (ex) of Torelli has a theory related to this of how and why plastic forks became popular on his bikeraceinfo website. A few years ago, when Antonio Mondonico was still making frames, we had a couple of guys get measured up for bikes while with us in Italy. One of the fellows was considering a plastic fork for his hand-made-to-measure, Columbus steel beauty, resulting in frowns from yours truly as well as Antonio and Mauro. The final plea came from Antonio, in his halting English. He explained a friend had built him a bike using titanium but, “frame…titanio…..fork…..STEEL!” Despite our pleas the guy went with plastic….but a year later asked us to have Mondonico make him a steel fork to replace it. Can you get a credit for the plastic fork and spend it on a steel one? If you can’t find one with the correct dimensions contact Torelli, they might have a Made-in-Italy steel fork that will work perfectly. (FTC disclaimer: Torelli’s an official supplier to CycleItalia)

  16. John Says:

    Patrick — so glad you made it out of the Death Wobble alive, and there wasn’t hamburger all over the highway (even though it wasn’t Mystic, Connecticut). You too have many Zappadans left in you, I trust.

    I’ve had crabon forks for 12 years and never a whisper of high-speed wobble. The one fork problem I did have was when the chrome-moly steering tube broke (at 0 mph, thankfully, when I was pulling up on the bars to start up) — it was an old-fashioned quill stem, and the expander bolt had been positioned exactly at the weak spot at the bottom of the threading. It simply fatigued to death.

    So, steel is real, but it does fatigue. (Neutrinos are real too, but I wouldn’t want to build a fork out of them).

  17. Patrick O'Grady Says:

    Gents, if the warranty discussion goes poorly, I’ll probably go steel. True, it gets old and dies just like the rest of us, but it seems to go more gently into that good night than does aluminum or carbon fiber.

    Which reminds me, I took my old mango Steelman out for 90 minutes today and it struck me that its Cinelli Eubios handlebars would be ready for college by now if they walked on two legs and had a free-ride scholarship. Jeez, I’m just beggin’ for it, ain’t I?

  18. James Says:

    What do they (engineers not wearing overalls and cool caps) use to build bridges, tall buildings, air-o-planes, ships, etc. out of? Plastic or STEEL?

  19. John Says:

    James – I hate to break it to you, but carbon fiber is being used a lot in critical structural applications, including in civil engineering. It’s extremely strong in tension. Steel is used because (a) it’s much cheaper and (b) it’s strong in more than 1 dimension.

  20. Larry T. Says:

    Would Superman be the “man of carbon fiber” today instead of the Man of Steel? Perhaps the Man of Titanium? When I first started in the bike biz there were still guys whittling broom sticks and such down in order to jam them up the steerer tube under the fork crown so in case the steerer tube/fork crown junction came apart, the wood might hold things together until they could stop the bike. Maybe Trek should send out some specially sized dowels for the Madone steerer tubes to keep those evil, non-Bontrager stems from snapping them off?

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