Friday, March 23, 2012

Taco, anyone? (AKA breaking the chain and more)

Last Friday looked like it was going to be a great day. First of all, it was Friday. Hard to complain about that. It was also the day some of my coworkers were throwing a baby shower for me at work... there's only about a month left now until I become a dad. So, naturally I was excited about that, too.

Otherwise, it was a day like any other weekday I've had for the last three years or so. I loaded up my panniers in the morning in preparation for my regular bike commute to work. It's a nice seven or seven and a half mile ride to the office, and it's always one of the highlights of my day. About two miles into my ride, two of the bike paths along my route intersect. This is where things got interesting last Friday.

There's a small incline up from Four Mile Run to the Mount Vernon Trail. I stood on the pedals to ride up it. In a matter of a split second, I was lying on the ground on my right side, my bike still between my legs, but obviously no longer upright. My feet had come unclipped from my pedals, so getting up was pretty easy, and the adrenaline masked the pain of the cuts and bruises that were already forming.

A cyclist behind who had been riding close behind me and obviously saw me fall stopped and made sure I was okay. After I assured her that I was fine, she pedaled on, and I began to look over the condition of my bike to try to figure out why I had fallen do suddenly and what damage, if any, had resulted. This is what I saw.

My wheel had gone from a nice straight, true wheel to an item of Mexican food, severely tacoed. The only other damage to the bike was a broken chain. The only hypothesis I can come up with to explain what happened is that the chain gave way and somehow whipped it's way into and among the spokes in such a way as to compromise the wheel, damage it irreparably, and bring me and my bike crashing to the ground. I'm still not sure how even that could have wreaked such havoc, but I am at a loss for all other possible explanations. (I do, by the way, clean and lubricate the drive train fairly regularly, so I'm not quite sure even what caused the chain to go...) Remarkably, the fork and rack seem unscathed.

So, I had to make the dreaded call of shame, have my poor pregnant wife get out of bed earlier than I know she would have liked, and ask her to pick me up at the nearest convenient road for me to walk my wounded bike and body to so I could throw my bike in the back of the car and get a ride to work. Thanks again for coming to my rescue, babe!

Not how I had hoped that Friday would go. And my bike wasn't all that was damaged, as you can well imagine. I had a couple bumps and bruises, largely not too visible, except for this, the back of my right leg. 

This picture was after two or three days of healing. I'm pretty well healed  up now, though.
It's been a long week without bike commuting. I've had to readjust to taking the metro this week, a bit of a painful process since it almost doubles my commute time and makes me susceptible to crap like this, which is what I had to contend with for the commute home/to class on Monday. Took me nearly an hour at the station just to to get myself on a train that day. When Belna's (my bike) in working order, I can more or less make a round trip to the office and back in that same hour.

I have placed an order for a new front wheel and chain, which I should have in my possession by early next week. So, my bike and I will be back up and at 'em soon, once again able to relish the joy that is my bike commute.

Oh, and the wheel's a special one, so more to come for sure about it here, but for those who want the inside scoop in the meantime, it's got a Shimano Alfine generator hub. Very exciting...


  1. I think what you meant to write was "my poor pregnant SICK WITH THE FLU wife". J/K

    Also, your injuries looked much worse in person than they do in that picture. You're a tough guy...and lucky you weren't more seriously injured.

  2. Wow, helluva story. I always wondered why folks changed their chains after x miles. This must be why. (How many miles, approximately, did your chain have on it?)

    Also, WOW what a bad situation in the metro! Our regional commuter train that goes between suburbs and the city here in Chicago is not that crowded even on party days. People sometimes pretend they're asleep so they don't have to move their bag off the seat next to them. The city trains are never that bad either, even during rush hour, since they run every 7 minutes or so. Yes, they need to fix that. Situation.

    Are you healed up and have you got the bike fixed yet?

    My guess as to what happened was that your chain broke, and you "fell down" through half of a pumping stroke. This caused you to turn the wheel severely sideways, which tacoed it and caused the crash. This would have all had to happen within a split second.

    Congrats on the baby. We just had our first 4 weeks ago today. I'm not looking forward to losing the bike commute when I have to start driving her to day care in a couple of weeks, and car-commute to work afterwards. (We're both working 2-3 days a week)

    Great to find your blog, I found it through your signature link at I think I'll get my blog going again soon...

    Meghan: Kudos to you, toughing it out. Moving around in late stage pregnancy was no fun for my wife either, who was on bedrest for the last 5 weeks. When you have the baby, it will feel good to get your body back, but for a while, you'll get no sleep. Which is worse? Having a quiet house and always being uncomfortable, or a house filled with screaming every 1.5 hours? My friends tell me it will get better after a few months, and after a year. I can't wait. Best of luck!

  3. Also, do you have a back-up bike? That might be handy some times... ;)