Back on the Bike — Sort Of

I thought I was out of the woods. After my derailleur hanger blew up last weekend, our club mechanic took a quick look at it and told me to order a new one from I did. They sent it out midweek, and the other day, I installed it on the bike.

So far, so good. It’s a simple job of screwing the new hanger in place. If you order the correct model, there’s no problem.

But when I tried to mount the derailleur to the hanger — problem.

What neither I nor the bike mechanic noticed was the extent of damage to the derailleur itself. I was less shocked to see the broken arm than I was to see that a large chunk of the jockey wheel was gone. I’m not sure if that happened when the hanger broke, or if it had been wearing away stealthily for a long time.

I hauled the bike back to the mechanic, and asked him to find a replacement and give me a call when everything was shipshape. He figured he could find one locally, and that it would cost about $100. Ouch.

But one of the benefits of being a semi-famous biking blogger surfaced the very next morning, when one of my readers emailed me to tell me he had a spare derailleur in his parts box. (I gotta get a parts box going myself.) Not only that, but he was generous enough to offer it to me gratis. I jumped at the offer. Maybe, by this time next week, I’ll be back on my own velocipede.

In the meantime, I still had to get some riding in. Saturday morning, my wife wanted to do her long ride of the week, and I took the mountain bike down from the hooks in the garage, pumped up the tires, and joined her. It’s not in the greatest shape, but it goes all right, if I can ever get used to the way the front suspension dives when I put on the brakes. I feel like I’m going to launch myself over the bars sometimes when I stop quickly.

That’s okay. On the return leg of our ride, I found myself behind two young lovelies at the stoplight just before HEB Hill. Now, this isn’t a steep hill, but it’s long enough to be a tester. I recalled being passed by mountain bikes going up the hill, and felt cocky enough to think that I might be the mountain bike doing the passing this time.

The light turned green. The young women pushed off slower than I expected, given the fact that they were a lot slimmer than I, and were on some decent road bikes — a Scott and a Bianchi. I stayed on their wheels up the hill, past the entrance to the supermarket parking lot, when I saw that I probably could pass them. But I didn’t. You’ve gotta know you’re racing to be in a race, right? They were chatting with each other while pedaling easily up the grade. I could feel myself starting to push hard just to stay with them. At the top of the hill, I crossed over to the left turn lane, and while doing so, drew even with them. They glanced my way, then kept on at their steady pace. No reason for them to care about another old fart on a bike, right?

It’s good that I have the mountain bike as a backup if I need it, but I prefer my road bike. That afternoon, I visited my friends Rick and Penny to once again borrow Rick’s titanium Airborne — the same one I had used several months ago. “The rear tire has a lot of miles on it,” Rick said. “You’ll want to keep an eye on it.” No big deal, and I was glad to have the option to ride a decent bike.

It rained Sunday morning, canceling our regular 8 a.m. club ride. But the skies cleared rapidly, and in another hour, the club president was posting a 10 a.m. start for those who didn’t mind riding on wet streets. I was among the first to show up.

The sun was shining brightly, but the streets weren’t drying as fast as they might have if the humidity hadn’t remained so high. We planned to head south to Buda, then across Interstate 35 into a rural area before heading back — perhaps 50 miles or so. As we pulled onto the bike lane along the major thoroughfare that runs past the coffee shop where we start our rides, I could see that the usual grit and gunk was heavy on the road surface after the rain. I made sure to keep the bike’s wheels pointed away from the trouble as we turned east.

But it was bound to happen. Pffffstt! I heard. “Flat!” I shouted, as I braked to a stop. The peloton zoomed ahead, but one rider, Rob, stopped along with me.

I was grateful that he did. Not because I can’t fix a flat — it’s one of the few bike maintenance tasks I can handle competently — but because my seatbag with the spare tube and the tire levers, along with my pump, was still on my own bike, which is ensconced in the bike mechanic’s garage. Rob gave me his spare tube, and the use of the mini-pump he carries. By the time things were back to normal, he was well behind the group.

“I’ll pedal like crazy and see if I can catch them,” he said. “If I can’t, well, I’ll have a nice ride of my own.”

He took off. I turned back the way I had come. It was just prudent to head home, rather than risk another flat. Anyway, I got a new personal best out of it — at about five miles, it’s the shortest club ride I’ve ever ridden.


  1. says

    A parts box is a very needed thing. I have just about enough parts to build a whole other bike, after all of my projects.

    Also it sounds like you’re using a bit too much front brake if the suspension is really diving so much, or maybe you’re just not used to it 😀

  2. Jeff A says

    I hope you are moving “up” in your next rear derailleur. Nice that a fellow reader made the offer. My parts box isn’t that big, or I’d be in trouble with the Mrs.

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