This happened a week and a half ago. I went on a long ride into the country to enjoy one of the last hot days of summer and to buy farm fresh tomatoes and eggs. On my way home, with about six more miles to go, my rear tire suddenly seized up totally. I skidded to a halt in the shoulder of the road, and saw that my wheel was hung up on the brake. When I freed the brake for a closer look, the inner tube BANG! exploded like a gun shot. As soon as I recovered from my heart attack, I took a closer look. Sure enough, the rim was cracked almost in two, right at the hole for the valve stem. A very serious and unfortunate circumstance, indeed.
It seemed that I had no choice but to walk home, even though I knew it would take me two hours in the hot sun, with only half a bottle of water left. It would also be late in the day, the shops would be closed, and I would have to cancel my evening plans. However, after walking a few hundred feet, I saw a kid by the roadside, and noticed that he was standing at a bus stop. I had forgotten that the bus ran that far out into the country. What's more, a bus was pulling up just at that moment. My luck seemed to be turning up! I put my bike on the rack and rode downtown, enjoying the A/C. I transferred to my local bus, and was home within 30 minutes. I put my poor sick horse in the barn and made a PB&J to get my strength back. Things were definitely looking up.
I thought about taking the cracked wheel to the LBS and having them build me another one. But I knew they would charge at least $40 and worse yet, take forever and a day to finish the job. How would I survive without a bike for that long? And then, as suddenly as that old inner tube blew, I decided to just buy another bike. I dug up the two $100 bills I keep in the house for emergencies and hopped another bus to the pawn shop where I'd bought my last bike.
They had a half dozen mountain bikes in stock, as well as a handful of cruisers and miscellaneous bikes. There were no road bikes, which I would have considered. Of the MTBs, one was a great newer model Trek with 9 speeds and disc brakes. But it was $250, which would have taken all the money I had with me. I tried to bargain the guy down, but he said no deal because Christmas is coming up, and he really thought the Trek was under-priced already. (I had to agree.) So that Trek is the one that got away.
The next best bike was a hardtail Giant with one of those aluminum mini-frames. It wasn't a high end model, judging by the components, but it looked like it was in real good shape, and everything seemed to work on it. I took it out for a long test ride and I did enjoy the way it rode. The compact frame felt funny at first--the top tube was down under my knees, practically. But it seemed like a nimble bike, steady with good acceleration. The front suspension felt smooth for my poor decrepit wrists. And it even had a computer that worked fine. I thought the computer was a bonus worth maybe 20 bucks, and it would be something fun to play around with. I rode the Giant back into the shop, turned it over and inspected it more carefully. Everything--frame, forks, drive-train, wheels--looked straight and in good alignment. There was a little wear, but no corrosion or noticeable blemishes. I knew I wanted it! This is where you're supposed to bargain the guy down a few dollars, but I'm no good at that, and I really thought it was fairly priced at $119. So I paid up and rode it home. Even though I had just finished a 30 mile ride on the old bike, I definitely took the long way home!
I'm still grieving a little for the old bike, and probably I'll get a new wheel built for it soon. But it's so exciting to have a new bike, or at least one that's new to me. I took it out on the trails that evening, and had so much fun that I decided to keep the knobbies on for a while, rather than switch to the slicks I usually run in the good weather.
So, all in all, this is one catastrophe that turned out real nice for the rider!