Day 48 – Sparta TN to Cookeville TN

Because of the daily thunderstorms and the bike problems (flats, a weak chain link), we decided to do a reroute through Cookeville TN, since they had two bicycle shops.

The ride from Sparta to Cookeville was actually quite nice, since there is a direct four lane highway with ample shoulders between the two towns. The road still featured hills, but all the grades were manageable and we made great time.

Route 111 TN

TN country side

When we got into town, I took the “bicycle shops” phone book page Mary had ripped out for us into a gas station and asked for directions.

We also ate some delicious cookies that our host, Mary, had made just for us!

Mary's homemade energy cookie

The bicycle shop that seemed easiest to find was Cookeville Bicycles. It wasn’t hard to find, but overall, and despite a few bicycle route signs, Cookeville was one of the least bicycle friendly towns we’d been in on this trip–lots of busy roads with no shoulder.

Cookeville bicycles had a great selection of bicycles, parts, accessories, and clothing. The employees were able to assess and repair our bikes right then and there, which was a relief. I picked out a new chain and rear cassette and two cycling jerseys so that my lower back would stop getting sunburnt, and Elizabeth got new tires, for hers were beginning to dry rot. We split a set of tire liners (Stop Flats or Mr. Tuffy, I believe), to be inserted between the tube and tires on our rear wheels.

Cookeville Bicycles work shop

cookeville bike shop

Interestingly, the bike shop tech had the same problem with a spontaneously exploding tube that Elizabeth had when changing her flat in Oak Ridge. However, it was the front wheel this time. We’ve speculated/concluded that the way the stock rims on the Surly fit tires makes them more prone to tube pinching. And it was nice to know that if it was user error, it wasn’t just us being inexperienced.


Fortunately, none of our problems were as bad as this next bike, which another customer brought in while we were waiting:

mangled front wheel at Cookeville Bikes

We had a great time chatting with the store’s owner(?) or manager(?), who also gave us tips on where to head next for lunch. Here’s a picture that Cookville Bicycles took of us, once we were ready to go:

cookeville bicycles

Since we had missed lunch, eating was next on our agenda, so we headed to the downtown square area and got sandwiches. Then we went upstairs to Cookeville’s Outdoor Experience, a hiking/backpacking/caving/climbing/paddling and general outdoors store. While we were inside, the afternoon thunderstorm we were expecting approached–warnings were being issued for damaging winds and hail. The employees let us stash our bikes inside, which was a huge relief since we’d just had them overhauled.

So, we hung out inside and waited for the storm.


stormy sky heading our way

Cookeville TN

The storm did not severely hit Cookeville, but we were still glad to have been safe inside. While we were waiting, Elizabeth also got to practice a climbing technique–frog style ascending.

Outdoor Experience, Cookeville TN


After the skies cleared, we rode back to the other side of town and found a hotel room for the night, as we were tired from our previous day’s ride up the Cumberland plateau, still quite hungry, and unwilling to risk more storms. We went out for Italian food and hoped for better weather.


3 thoughts on “Day 48 – Sparta TN to Cookeville TN

  1. I never heard of a tire liner. Does it really stop you from getting a flat? I should get those. I suck at changing flats and will probably be riding solo for awhile….

    • Well, They are meant to help prevent flats but I wouldn’t consider them an absolute guarantee to not get a flat. After we installed them we stopped getting flats so I fell the $20 we spent on them was worth it. They seem to be much more popular for use in areas like the south west where cactus spines or goat head stickers can really cause problems.

  2. What a wonderful adventure you two are on! I can only imagine that it must be incredibly exhausting as well as breathtakingly beautiful. I ran across your blog searching for area bloggers and stayed (reading a few posts) because I admire your courage and freedom. Have fun and stay safe!

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