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Thursday, April 29, 2010


Me, needy? You betcha! And I don’t think I’m alone here, but that’s for you to decide. Now, let’s get back to me. My current need - a new chain. Not technically, I guess, as I have riden my bike twice since realizing this new need. There were climbs up Bliss Road and County OA. Stretches of riding over gently rolling terrain, some descents. Nothing that I normally do on a ride that I can’t do with the chain I have. So, why then, do I need a new one? Glad you asked.

Need is contextual. It starts with articulating some outcome we might be pursuing. If I were totally indifferent to anything except being here 5 minutes from now (I’m not, by the way; totally indifferent, that is), then I only need one thing: oxygen. And maybe some shelter to protect me from the asteroid that may, at this very instant, be drawing a bead on the space I happen to be occupying. Anyway, you know what I mean, right?

Extend my outlook to the next few months, then my list of needs grows. If I add to the goal of simply being alive things such as being useful, satisfaction or simple pleasure in what I do, that sort of thing, I’ll have to get an 18 wheeler to haul in everything I need.

So, regarding the latter thought - not the 18 wheeler thing, the one about satisfaction - I need a new chain. Hope the sudden jump from the profound to the pedestrian didn’t startle you too much, but I am just writing about bicycling here. How deep can it get?

There’s a lot of satisfaction in riding. Enjoying the wonderful area in which I live in a rather intimate way as it is when you ride. Feeling good about being able to make it up the climbs. Getting beneficial exercise. All good things. And of course, I need a functioning bike. Now, if you can remember way back to the start of this treatise, you might recall that I am able to ride with the chain I have – the bike functions. BUT NOT VERY WELL, THANK YOU! There. I got that off my chest.

A bit more than a week ago, I set out on a late afternoon ride that was to include climbs up Bliss Road and County OA. On the way up Bliss, my bike started misbehaving. The best description I can come up with is that the chain would suddenly “skip,” as if it had jumped off of the rear cassette. It wasn’t that, but that’s what it felt like. It was so very annoying. Crank, crank, crank, SKIP! Crank, crank, crank, SKIP! Function wasn’t affected. I was climbing as well as I ever do (not very). But nothing else mattered. Not the scenic beauty of the winding, tree-lined road, not the satisfaction of actually gaining altitude on a me-powered vehicle. Nothing but waiting for the inevitable SKIP. I got to the top of Bliss, rode to the end of FA then went home.

The bike was immediately taken to River Trail and left in Dan’s capable hands. In addition to this problem, my rear wheel needed some work. He did some looking, simple adjustments, but figured the wheel really did need to get fixed so the final adjustments could wait.

A few days later, I found out that it would be some time before the parts for the wheel would be in, so I decided to pick up the bike, put on my Swiss wheels, and get in a few rides.

I started up Bliss. About half way up, crank, crank, SKIP. #$%&#!@% I toughed it out, so to speak, and did the ride I had planned. The pedaling actually smoothed out a couple of times - I had about 20 minutes total of SKIP-free riding – but in the end it got really bad. Skipping on every turn of the crank in any gear.

At home, I put the bike up on the stand and spun the crank. Standing off to the side, as I was, I could see that there was a sort of “bump” on the chain as it passed over the rear cassette. One time for each lap of the chain. I stopped cranking and took a close look at the chain. This is what I saw:

Not what you want your chain to look like

Mostly you don’t want a kink in your chain. The link was almost frozen. It would flex a bit, but if it did straighten out, a pass or two over the cogs in the rear would be enough to bring it back.

I’m happy to report that cleaning, lubricating and gently separating the link with a chain tool has made a world of difference. It is still a little tighter than its neighbors, but a 25 mile, 2 climb ride was executed without a single SKIP.

I’m about due for a new chain anyway. And, on the last ride, I could hear a little click that would come and go. I suspect that the problem might reappear. I do not want the aggravation of the SKIP'ing chain. Or the worry that it might suddenly decide to break while I'm miles from home. And that, my dear friends, is why I want need a new chain.

And now, I need to go. No, really, I NEED to go. You’ll just have to take my word on this one…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Some interesting chain info: there are 80 chains in a mile, 100 links in one chain. One link = 7.92 inches. Maybe this is ship chain info rather than bike chain info. Anyway, sorry about your chain of events!!!