That’s right, my friends. Numero uno. Not 1,621 or some made-up number… The Big Kahuna.
I’ve alluded to a major problem over the last couple of days but wasn’t ready to write about it. A friend of our local cycling community, a friend of mine and many around here, and the top shop mechanic most responsible for keeping the high-end bikes quiet and on the road passed away Saturday night after crashing his car through a roundabout in the wee hours of the morning after a volleyball match/tournament a couple of nights earlier. The hard thing to cope with is his parents. I am much tighter with his dad than I was with him and I’ve got quite a few friends who read my blog so… it can be messy writing about something like this. His dad is an A Elite rider and we’ve turned quite a few weekend miles together and the thought of his loss is crushing.
Our friend was in his early 40s and about a mile from home at the time of his crash. Sometimes it’s gone, that fast, and it just sucks.
And so there I was last night. Chuck is in Utah testing a new truck, so I was on my own. It was unbelievably hot, sunny and with only a mild breeze from the west, it was going to be gnarly. Extra-gnarly after my hundred the day before. With Tuesday Night looming, I knew exactly what I needed; a nice, easy ride to get my legs stretched out for tomorrow. I chose the Trek, hoping I’d be able to work out a shifting issue from the other day.
I rolled out on my usual route and simply took it easy, enjoying the 90 degree (30 C) heat and sunshine (I really do like it – I’m weird that way). I’d developed a mysterious shifting issue on the Trek that I desperately wanted to figure out (it’s been driving me a little crazy – big ring is fine, shifts in all gears, everything is great – little ring, any more than 300 watts and I drop the chain… and that can hurt when you’re laying down some decent wattage on the way up a hill).
For the first eight miles, it was just me, my bike, the road and the sun… and my thoughts. Into the breeze and up a short little hill, I decided to shift into the small ring and get out of the saddle. Nothing – perfectly normal. Still in the breeze, I switched my thinking back to my friend. I tried to wrap my head around the crash and I just couldn’t. That’s when I started thinking about how grateful I am to be a part of our rabble of cyclists. That produced the proper line of thinking; “Just enjoy it while you’ve got it, Jim. This only ever ends in a casket. Slide into it in a cloud of dust, exclaiming, “Wow! What a ride!” That’s the goal.
And that’s precisely when I made peace with it.
After the headwind, I turned into a subdivision and shifted to the little ring to climb a dinky hill. Bam, dropped the chain immediately. I replaced the chain and continued on… and about a quarter-mile later I noticed the chain skip on the cassette. Just a faint click and a resetting of the chain. I shifted up and down the cassette – no noise, hit every gear, so I pedaled on. The one truth in mechanical sleuthing was ever thus; if you can’t figure it out or locate the issue, keep going. It will get worse.
I relaxed into my ride and switched to the big ring. Sure enough, every 30 seconds, if I shifted my weight just right, the chain would reset. I pulled over to the side of the road, in the grass, and flipped my bike upside down and pedaled… click, click, click. Upside down I could see the chain jump.
Two full turns on the barrel adjuster before the click faded into a beautiful whir… another turn and it was clicking again. I backed it off of that last turn, then fine-tuned it. On the road again and down into the small ring, a slight adjustment to the front cable tensioner, and butter. Out of the saddle, full power, it’s all good. How the barrel adjuster moved that much on the trip down south after I had it perfectly dialed in for months, I could rack my brain for hours trying to figure it out.
I could have done the Homer Simpson, “Doh” and slapped my forehead, but I was just glad to get it figured out easily and simply. I went for three years having to have the tension dialed in within a 16th of a turn for the derailleur to hit all of the gears 90% of the time… with a new derailleur, chain and cassette the shifting works so well I’ve got three turns of play on the rear derailleur and it’ll still shift right – I can only look as that as a win. The rest, I’ll work out in the wash.
And that brought me back, full circle to the driveway. I pulled in with a smile on my face and gratitude in my heart. 19.75 miles and I went from being torn up over my friend’s passing and the pain his parents are going through, to being grateful for the time and friends I’ve got. I love being on the right side of the grass – and that’s as it should be.
I can figure out anything on a bicycle, in 20 miles or less. More (much), or less. Number one on the long list of why I love my bikes.