When Bicycles Fly
By: Tom Fletcher
I'm fortunate to spend time with my family this week while we vacation at Cape Cod. While I depend on physical exercise most other times of the year, historically when enjoying a family holiday, I try my best to resemble a sloth, and do as little as possible to get by. There are consequences to my inactivity of course, but for some reason I'm always shocked at my vacation's conclusion when I hop on that scale. I'll vow to never allow this to happen again, then inevitably repeat the cycle the following year (after year, after...).
Prior to this vacation I intended to break tradition and actually physically do something meaningful for a change. I decided to bring my heavy mountain bike with us and lumber around the many miles of beautiful bike paths that populate the Cape.
With all the vacation junk stuffed in the back of the car, I was required to purchase a roof bike rack. I headed over to REI Friday evening. The salesman told me I was in luck. He had one rack left. This particular version had the advantage of not requiring the front wheel to be removed, though the bike might have more of a tendency to "wobble" when driving at high speeds. No problem. I felt fortunate to get the last rack and eagerly headed home to assemble it.
Perhaps because the manufacturer is a Scandinavian company, the assembly instructions weren't terribly clear. It took quite a while to go through each of the steps and eventually late into Friday night I had to rely on a YouTube video to help me finish the installation. At this point this rack was turning out to be more of a pain than expected, and I'm taking incoming friendly fire from family members to start packing for tomorrow's early departure.
Early Saturday morning all was well. Packing was complete and it was time to load the bike. Similar to the assembly, loading the bike with the new rack was taking longer than expected. Quite frankly, it looked a little "off" to me once it was on top of the car, but it felt OK when I tried to wiggle it back and forth. Once all systems were go, we were on Route 93 South heading to our vacation! About ten minutes into the drive I looked up through our sunroof peep hole and the only way to describe it was the bike appeared to be floating an inch or so above the top of the rack. This was clearly more of a wobble than I had bargained for! After my wife and I had a brief exchange of terse words we quickly pulled over at the nearest exit and entered a parking lot.
In retrospect, I should have probably just turned around, driven slowly and dropped the bike back at home. However after eyeballing the situation, making a few adjustments to the rack, I mistakenly felt better about the bike stability. Back on 93. Initially things seemed improved. Then they didn't. That darn floating started again. Then in the blink of an eye, we watched in horror as the front of the bike completely lifted off the rack. The only thing now holding that heavy bike on our car was the slender strap on the back wheel while the bike was thrashing against the side of the car. Cars behind us were honking and swerving to get out of the path of a potential missile from our Toyota Highlander. Fortunately for everyone involved, the rear strap held, and we were able to safely exit the highway.
The bike is now locked securely to the perimeter fence of an office building in Milton while I spend my week away doing my best to resemble a sloth. Can't wait to get on that scale next Sunday!