Saturday, January 22, 2011

Luck or Unlucky?

While telling my colleague about my latest misadventure, I thought about how lucky I was. His first reaction though was to tell me how unlucky I seem to be. So which is it? Do I have great luck in bad situations or am I just optimistic in an unlucky life?

This is my bike, Chaplin. Yeah, I give everything a name. Its name is an homage to Charlie Chaplin as they share the same monochrome color palette. I've been riding it about 50 miles per week since June largely due to the encouragement of the above mentioned colleague. It's been a great bike, but I have had quite a few incidents already.

The most recent incident happened on Wednesday and now Chaplin is out of operation for at least the next few weeks.

In case you've never dealt with bike repairs, in the above photo there are two circled parts: the green circle is around the rear derailleur (de-RAIL-er) and the orange circle is around the derailleur hanger (aka dropout). The rear derailleur is an engineering marvel. The upper half (silver in the above pic) is responsible for changing the gears on a bike by moving the chain exact minuscule quantities, and the cage (black in the above pic) keeps the chain taut. The derailleur does all this while the bike moves at high speeds and wheel spokes are spinning at the speed of death just millimeters away. The hanger however, is just a piece of metal that attaches the derailleur to the frame. Its sole purpose is to sacrifice itself in case something 'goes wrong' so your frame and your derailleur don't break.

So on Wednesday I'm riding to work and the gears completely lock up as I'm climbing the biggest hill of the ride. I quickly unclipped from my pedals before falling over and surveyed the damage; I saw a complete carnage. The cage was brutally ripped off the derailleur. The derailleur was curled backward and stuck in the spokes. The hanger was bent 90 degrees. The only thing I could do was carry the bike to the bus stop and bus the rest of way to work.

To give you a better understanding of the carnage, I present you with this picture:

The top two pieces of metal are the sides of the derailleur cage. The bottom piece is the hanger. They should all be COMPLETELY flat to stay out of the spokes. And this photo is after I bent the hanger back into shape. They were mutilated by the rear wheel.

This is just about the worst mechanical damage you can have on a bike. And it's not supposed to happen! That hanger was SUPPOSED to sacrifice itself before the derailleur. Not so. So I purchased a new derailleur for $26. The rear tire will need to be trued and inspected as well. Here's the weird thing...I had to order the hanger from the UK at a cost of $26. How could a tiny piece of metal cost as much as the mechanically complex rear derailleur?

My colleague's viewpoint is that this is an exceedingly rare and rather expensive accident in my already extensive line of bizarre biking incidents. Plus I had to walk a long distance to the bus stop in my bike shoes which means I now need to replace the cleats.

But as I see it, I'm fortunate that the derailleur only cost $26 instead of the typical $100+. Plus, my frame was spared from the carnage. I'm also glad that I could even buy the hanger because they're hard to find and if I couldn't secure one, the bike would be useless. I also count my lucky stars that I was within walking distance of a bus. And finally, I think I'm lucky that it happened while I was going slow on an incline instead of while going downhill...or else my bike would have locked up like this...

1 comment:

  1. I'd say you are pretty lucky, Peter. Your uphill position was definitely in your favor.

    :) Patty