Ride a bike enough and the out-of-the-ordinary noises they make become readily recognizable, such as the sharp sound that emanated from the front wheel after I’d angled off of La Brea onto Redondo yesterday morning on my way to work. To the ear of the unfamiliar rider it might have sounded and felt like you’d done nothing more than run over the side of some small piece of debris, like a pebble or a locknut. There’s a snap and a slight jarring motion.

But I knew right away: broken spoke. Confirmed by the immediate warped rotation of the rolling tire. And after pulling to the curb I quickly located the damaged support separated from the wheel’s hub.

It used to be that I worried about riding on a wheel in such condition, fearing that with one broken the added stress created would have a domino effect on others. Now, if I don’t have time or inclination to change out a spoke right then and there, I just loosen up the corresponding brake to allow clearance for the wheel’s warp and I proceed on to my destination, in this case the remaining seven or eight miles to my office in Westchester (in the middle of which my semi-disabled 8 Ball and I had this my latest close encounter with a put-the-ass-in-passing motorist).

That’s right, I wrote “…if I don’t have time or inclination to change out a spoke right then and there…” See, in a past life when I was 60 pounds heavier and subjecting my roadbike to both that added mass and looooong grinding rides (like up Highway 126 from Magic Mountain to Ventura and back), I snapped more than the average cyclist’s number of spokes. Enough so that I finally ended up stocking up and carrying them with me, along with the required spoke wrench.

It’s a habit I’ve never broken.

And it came in handy yesterday evening, when after finishing up the day’s work at my office I then sat down with 8-Ball’s front wheel in my hands at about 7:30 p.m. and commenced removing the old and lacing in the new. About 20 minutes later the rim tape, innertube and tire were back on, the wheel was back in 8-Ball’s forks and I was field-correcting the wheel’s warp, tightening up the brakes and ready to get on my way. And I’m not ashamed to say I was so DAMN PROUD of myself, I tweeted a little rhyme:

No joke,
This here bloke,
He broke,
A spoke.

But no cares,
Made repairs,
‘Cuz I dares,
To carry spares.

Bikes will always give you that opportunity to boost your esteem.

If you’re prepared.