Near the end of my recent post celebrating my 1,000-mile-plus riding season, I mentioned it was time for some maintenance. Looking back, I realize I failed to mention that, during that ride that put me over the 1k threshold, I managed to jump the chain completely off the front chain rings, and the front derailleur would no longer shift down from big chainring to small. It cost me between 15-20 minutes in riding time, BUT I managed to get back rolling and finish the ride, albeit with grease coated hands and gloves.
After watching a few videos on adjusting front derailleurs, I felt it was another task I could manage. Y’see, as this pandemic year has rolled on, and the essential bike shops that are open are overwhelmed with work, I’ve managed to become a bit of “shadetree mechanic,” for my own sake (trust me, you don’t want me wrenching on your bike). Owning and using an “uncomplicated” 40-year-old bike is a little more approachable for me than some of the newer things many videos reference. I will say, though, that videos from Park Tool and Global Cycling Network (GCN) were the most helpful.
Growing into being a bike “mechanic,” I don’t have all the cool and swanky gear that one might utilize to comfortably perform routine tasks. So, I had to improvise. As the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Since I needed the back wheel off the ground in order to check the shifting, I came up with this “system:”
Using a foam kneeling pad (for gardening) to protect my knees from the garage concrete, I set about getting a closer look at that derailleur. It initially appeared to my novice eye that things were in order, yet it still wouldn’t shift down. It seemed like the clearance was “close enough” when on the big chain ring. But then I noticed a small, thin piece of metal with a jagged edge and, well…THAT didn’t seem normal. Turns out, it wasn’t.
The derailleur cage had been destroyed by the effects of the errant chain. Now what?!
I began an online search for parts, figuring this was enough to really bring an end to this year’s riding. But then, I remembered my wife sharing a resource with me that was Recycle Bicycle Harrisburg, a non-profit that provides donated bikes to community members AND teaches them how to fix them, for their own sake. I contacted them via email, as they have limited hours, sent a photo and a verbal description. They assured me they could help. They did insist that I bring the whole bike with me.
I arrived on a Saturday morning to find a busy “warehouse” space filled with racks of parts, racks of bikes, and bustling with activity. I was led to an aisle where, on a shelving unit, a 5-gallon bucket of front derailleurs awaited sorting. One of the volunteers offered a few helpful tips on locating the most helpful parts. After I decided which to use, I expected to simply take the parts home and install them. Instead, they provided a professional stand and all the tools I would need to replace the derailleur. And in a matter of a couple of hours, I had a functioning bike again. And they didn’t charge me anything! (Note: I made an online donation when I returned home to support their efforts)
Now, back home, I’m ready to ride again. And, off I went. After the first few successful shifts on the test ride. I felt confident enough to extend this ride. Until the new front derailleur decided to become uncooperative in the downshifting. WTH?! Back to the garage.
A few adjustments, another test ride, a few MORE adjustments, and…VOILA! I also took time to try to reapply some extra grease to my right pedal that was developing a decided *squonk/squeak*. So I made plans for a day-off morning ride. Due to early morning temps this time of year, I delayed my start. At that time of day, I have learned it best to avoid the local roads due to traffic. So, I put the rack on the back of the car and took off for a quick trip to do a test run of a longer route I planned over a year ago.
I parked unloaded, got everything prepped, started the tracking app and my right foot immediately hit the ground as my pedal broke away under it! Apparently, I had not sufficiently secured the metal tabs after reapplication of grease. And I had no tools on hand to help.
Frustrated, a tad angry at myself and feeling like I was just going to waste the day, I determined to check out Pedal Pusher bike shop (no website/link). They are always very helpful, even if a bit annoyed that I keep this particular “cost effective/economy/budget-class” bike rolling. As the pandemic has disrupted their supply chain, they did not have an inventory of new pedals. But, lo and behold, shop owner Ted scavenged a used pair of pedals and even installed them for me.
Once again, renewed, but not “restored,” I headed back and completed a vigorous 23.2-mile ride, during which no further incidents arose.
Reflecting back on these incidents, my previous lack of maintenance efforts, and my novel skills I can’t help but ponder how this bike has lasted, even if it is NOT 100% original. And I am confident that CheapCyclist not only approves, but whole-heartedly endorses and encourages my endeavors.