Thursday, September 22, 2011

If It's Broke Then Fix It

The offending chain
 At a recent seminar on bicycle camping, I neglected to mention the importance of checking out all your gear before you head out adventure cycling.

Here we were, first thing in the morning back on the Kettle Valley Railway, having spent three days riding from Castlegar, taking a day off and now back on the trail with Grand Forks as our destination.  My two cycling friends, Perry and Roy were in their usual spot way ahead of me when I needed to lift myself up a steep part of the trail.  In cockiness (born of 4,300 miles of saddle time this season), I downshifted my rear gears and then stupidly downshifted the front gears at the same time.  With a swiftness that surprised me, the bike and 40 pounds of crapola strapped to it came to a sudden and complete stop.  The left crank was immovable in its uppermost position and, still attached to the bike, I fell over as in a cartoon.

Upon inspection, I soon discovered that not only was the chain bound firmly in the front crankset, but broken as well.  My cycling partners were just disappearing around a corner maybe a quarter of a mile ahead of me when I had the foresight to fumble in my handlebar bag for my whistle.  It is a little known fact that with a whistle, you can make a louder sound than you can shout (or in my case I wanted to scream).  But to no avail.  Roy in his advanced age couldn't hear the sharp report of the whistle and Perry because he was so far ahead was too far away to catch the sound.
Roy and Perry in their usual spots

Donning my disposable mechanic gloves, I did what any sensible bike camper would do.  I slumped to the ground and began to pout.  Just kidding.  I took everything off the bike such as:  my water bottles, heartrate monitor, sleeping bag, Thermarest, tent, panniers etc.  And then proceeded to turn the bike upside down so that I could get at the broken chain.  Half a link was missing and I walked back down the trail to find it.  The other half of the link was twisted enough to be unusable.  All the while giving two blasts on the whistle to try and contact my friends.

As it was early on a Saturday morning, the town of Midway was just beginning to wake up.  A pickup pulled into the gas station to fill up, a young boy was throwing newspapers from his bike which were smartly landing on front steps.  If it wasn't for my unhappy predicament, I would have enjoyed watching the town wake up as the sun began to burn off the morning mist.

Eventually my friends, full of concern, returned and thank God, Roy had had the foresight to pack a spare set of "Quick Links" in his repair kit.  I had been dragging a pair around the Kettle Valley for the last four years and in a misguided attempt to save weight had decided this year to leave them at home.  With a lot of luck (and removing some other links), we were back on the trail within an hour and a half.

I felt foolish that I hadn't checked over my bike thoroughly and done a simple task like inspecting my chain with my handy-dandy Filzer chain checker.  I had a seminar to present in two weeks and what was I going to say about this?  There's always the old axiom: "For the person who feels they must always tell the truth - there's one other option: Silence".

My two friends, in a touching gesture, rode one in front of me and one on my rear wheel until I implored them to go ahead since I like riding in the rear and being able to watch them chase off dogs and dodge wildlife since they are in the lead after all.

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