Friday, May 25, 2007

things fall apart

I find the contrast between my last post and this one quite striking. The last one was about my pastoral little weekend up at my parents' place in Bancroft. This one is about the shredding of metal on my bicycle on the busy rush hour streets of Toronto.

I don't even really know how the dumb accident happened actually. It was my own fault, I can admit that at least. Every afternoon when I leave the Danforth Go Station, I have to cross over Main Street and then start heading south. Main Street is always busy with cars so it's a tough cross (this is a complete "jaywalking" style of cross incidentally - there's no crosswalk or streetlight) and as a bonus, Main Street isn't flat right here, it swoops up over a high peaked bridge so that when I'm looking to my left at the northbound traffic, cars can suddenly crest the bridge at 50km an hour only 100 metres away from me.
Oh yeah, and there are streetcar tracks along Main Street. That's the other fun bonus here.
Anyway, yesterday I let the traffic clear, I pedalled my bike across the streetcar tracks and started heading south. Another guy on a bike was crossing the street diagonally ahead of me, and I figured I could speed up a bit and scoot through between him and the curb before he got fully into the lane. BUT - I somehow angled myself at the curb and plowed into it with my right foot still clipped in. I fell forward and off the bike (onto the curb), the rear end of the bike jumped into the air and came down again on my rear (Shimano 105) derailleur.

I picked myself up. Called "Yep, thanks" to the biker ahead of me who was kind enough to shout back and ask if I was alright. I put my chain back on and worried a little bit about the angle my derailleur was now on. But I spun the cranks and the chain was moving okay so I figured I'd ride home and deal with it better there.
And I rode home happily enough, though totally embarassed about the bonehead crash. About 200 metres from my apartment I figured I'd better shift the gears a bit to see what was and wasn't working, and the derailleur immediately threw itself into my wheel, snapping it off the hanger, and breaking a spoke at the same time.

Goddamnit. I just had the Cannondale tuned up as well. Now I have to figure out what to do - just replace the derailleur and fix the wheel? Since the drivetrain has over 5000km on it, do a complete drivetrain upgrade? Finally buy a cyclocross bike?

To buy some decision making time I might set the Cannondale up as a singlespeed for the short term, throwing on the Easton Circuit Wheels that I just bought at half price from Wheels of Bloor.

It's weird. I've heard about derailleurs snapping off the hanger, just like I've heard of chains getting thrown up over your biggest cog into your spokes, but nothing like that has ever happened to me. It's funny - you can pedal thousands of kilometres and still not experience everything that could happen to you on a bike.

P.S. - Bike helmets really work apparently.
"I didn't see it coming, but I sure felt it roll over my head. It feels really strange to have a truck run over your head."
Ryan Lipscomb, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, on being hit by a delivery truck after he fell from his bike. Lipscomb, who wore a helmet, suffered only a concussion.


Melissa said...

i actually did wander over there and had a lovely time. thanks. :)

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, the classic "derailleur in the spokes" syndrome. When you landed on it, as you noticed peripherally, the hanger was bent inward at a slight angle. As you also noticed, the derailleur will still basically function in that position. The problem is that when it is perfectly aligned, the derailleur has about 3-5mm clearance between the pulley cage and the spokes of the rear wheel when in the low gear. With the hanger bent, all is well until you finally shift into the low gear, at which point the pulley cage grabs the spokes, the momentum of the rider is pitted against the thin aluminum of the hanger, and...the rest is history. It's happened to the best of us, and the lesson is that if you look straight down at your derailluer and notice that the pulleys seem not to be directly above and below each other, you need to get to a mechanic as soon as possible, and definitely stay out of low gear on the way. It can even happen as a result of having someone else cram their bike up against yours in a bike rack, so keep an eye on it; it's easy to glance down there when you're getting on. You should also be able to replace just the hanger. If your LBS has it, this should be about a $20.00 part, which is made to be sacrificed in order to save the derailleur.
By the way, while it is true that Ryan's helmet saved him some traumatic injury, it really didn't do much to save his life. Once the shell cracked, all the force of the truck tire was being transmitted by his skull to the pavement. In order to keep the weight of the truck off of his head, the helmet would have had to remain intact. I'm sure his injuries would have been much worse without it (road rash on one side of his face, possible torn scalp, etc.), but he probably would have lived, just the same. What would really have saved his life would have been to anticipate the truck, and brake in a controlled fashion, avoiding the performance of a headplant in front of a motor vehicle. Education and awareness are much more poiwerful than styrofoam, though styrofoam helps. Val

Jerome said...

Crappy deal man! Best of luck with the decision process. New bikes are always so tempting aren't they. And always soooooo good! Sorry, don't mean to sway you. Peace buddy.