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20150702_071333

 

Most everyone reading this is average. You fall, like 2/3 of the rest of the population, in a range centered around the median. Median, or middle, is our mode, it is what occurs most frequently. We are all unique, but we are more similar than dissimilar.

I certainly fit in this middle ground territory. At 54 I fall into the largest age category in the USA, 40% of us are between 25 and 54. I’m a pretty smart cookie so I fall outside the big 68% average thing for IQ but I fall short of average in many other ways. I race triathlons and it is an exceptional day when my swim time creeps up to the 34th percentile. Usually I am down in the 30th or so which does not qualify as “average.”

At 192 pounds (87 kg) I am not a big man. I fall in the middle of US males whose average weight is 196. I’m not really powerful. On a good day I can produce a little over 200 watts for an hour. A low figure is 50 watts and a high is 400 so I fall in the average zone here as well. So why do I keep breaking things?

In 1986 I broke my first crank spindle. A crank spindle is the thing that connects the two halves of what our feet push to make the bicycle go. Our feet push on the pedals and the crank arms are the levers that allow us to turn the wheels. Most bikes have sprocket(s) on the right crank arm and sprocket(s) on the rear wheel which, when we apply force to the cranks in a circular motion, drive the bike forward.

The 1986 spindle failure was a defective part. It was cast poorly and as I stood to  climb a steepish Atlanta hill me and my brand new Specialized Allez Sport went crashing to the ground. I managed to not get hurt, the manufacturer replaced the spindle and on I rode for another twenty years when we had a replay on my Trek 7000, except this spindle was 15 years as opposed to 15 days old. In both cases it was the left side that broke and in 2006 I managed to ride the last two miles to work using just my right leg.

I ride about 5,000 plus miles per year and two spindles in twenty years seems like bad luck, but not an exceptional situation. Fast forward to 2015 and let’s take a look at the two crank arms I’ve managed to break in less than two months.

High end bikes have progressed since 1986. The way the spindles are supported is stronger. The spindles are bigger and so are the bearings. Problem is, all that power has to go somewhere.

In 2009 I bought a fancy Cannondale Synapse. Carbon fiber this, carbon fiber that, Dura Ace shifters, derailleurs, groovy Mavic wheels and an FSA/ Cannondale branded carbon fiber crank. The aluminum insert for the right pedal broke free, rendering my obscenely expensive bike and crank worthless. I called FSA and they politely asked me how long I felt bike parts should last? They feel like two years is a reasonable time frame so I got nearly three times the usage out of mine than they warranty the part for. Hurrah?

The pictured crank arm broke last week and fortunately for me it did not give way as I was standing up for a big hill. I was completing a twenty mile ride and had stopped at a stop sign. When it was my turn to go I stood, pedaled three or four strokes and then sat down. When I again pushed with my right foot the crank gave way and my foot dangled in the wind. Lovely. I again pedaled two miles home using just one leg.

I’m not exceptional. I don’t ride hard, I’m not that big and I do inspect my equipment. So what’s up with two broken crank arms in less than two months?I have no idea.

I do get that I’m exceptionally lucky, though. Any of these failures could have landed me in the hospital and I’m happy to say that the last two didn’t even throw me to the ground.

Maybe I’m not as average as I think.

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