In a pinch to finish RAGBRAI, a ride across Iowa, a Minneapolis man had to swap his crumpled high-end bike for a girl's battered 10-speed.
In his pricey cycling shoes and Spandex, 6-foot-3 Scott Sponheim conquered the final miles of his maiden ride across Iowa -- on a girl's 10-speed loaned to him in a pinch from a farmer.
Sponheim's high-end bicycle had crumpled out from under him Saturday along a country road on the last day of the weeklong, 471-mile RAGBRAI, one of world's premier distance rides.
A seasoned cyclist from Minneapolis, Sponheim ran into trouble about 16 miles into the 69-mile final stretch of the RAGBRAI (the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa).
First his chain came off. After pedaling a few times, Sponheim said he heard a "terrible crunching sound [and] suddenly my back wheel has broken off."
With his busted bike on his shoulder, Sponheim walked into the town of Hale and checked in at the mechanic's tent for a replacement. No luck.
Sponheim, a psychologist with the Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center, said he became "more and more demoralized and depressed" about the prospect of failing to finish.
Then he spotted three girls, their father and a grandfather tending to a lemonade stand.
"'You know of a bike anywhere I could use for the day?'" Sponheim said he asked them.
The grandfather, Carl Markmann, piped up: "I have a bike I ride around town, but it's not going to make it to Clinton."
Just the same, Sponheim checked it out in the back of the shed. After pulling off cobwebs, adjusting the brakes and getting Markmann to inflate the tires, Sponheim noted that it had a water bottle holder and declared it fit for the road.
He handed over a $20 rental fee and mounted the girl's Roadmaster. "I was getting all these looks from other riders," he said, but what really bothered him were the hills. The bike was so small for him that "I couldn't stand up much," he said.
Yet he finished the ride and dipped the front tire in the Mississippi River.
Sponheim met up with the group of riders he started with, they got in their RV and headed back to Hale to return the Roadmaster and pick up the broken bike.
"It rode all the way," Markmann said when Sponheim handed back the Roadmaster.
"I think Carl was surprised" that the old bike made it, Sponheim said, "but he wasn't shocked. He's kind of an understated guy."
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482