Sunday, 6 July 2014


I recently suffered a terrible and bizarre mechanical incident not two miles into my commute to work. Pulling away at the set of lights that regulate the traffic where Sheen Road – the A305 – and Church Road – the B322 – intersect each other, I observed that my bike was in an inappropriately high gear. I moved to remedy this situation but quickly reneged after realising that I'd need to overtake a Swiss Family Robinson dawdling along a road that's a major arterial for commuters of all vehicular types – bikes, buses, cars, vans, lorries. My bike did not take kindly to this expeditious gear reversal. The chain detached from its moorings and somehow twisted back on itself, violently intermingling with spokes as it did so. The situation was not helped by the need to brake fairly suddenly, rather than coasting into the gutter, where the Swiss family pedalled on obliviously.

After carrying my bike home I managed to extricate the chain from the spokes. Closer inspection revealed the rear hanger to be newly bent inwards. The rear derailleur was more than likely damaged too. That my chain should need replacing was a full gone conclusion. The free-wheel might also be ruined.
My immediate concern was the rear hanger, which is attached to the drop-outs and connects the rear derailleur to the frame of the bike. It was welded there when the ‘Brev’ Campagnolo drop-outs were forged in the first instance. It could not be replaced and straightening it carried risk. I would need someone of skill to attend to this.
I was also troubled by the reduced hours of cycling that would now follow. Preparation for the RideLondon-Surrey 100 depends on a couple of commutes a week to set me up for longer rides come the weekend. I'd already had my Saturday run cut short by a puncture sustained whilst cycling along Esher Road – the A244 – and encountering a smattering of green glass in the gutter. (I'd moved to avoid this, but the evidence was conclusive: a rhythmically intermittent slapping noise emanated from my rear wheel demanding my immediate attention. Good practise, at least – the first puncture I've had to redress on my carbon bike.)
Finally, I was wary of the amount of time that would be required to fix the thing, if indeed it could be fixed at all. The replies to my investigatory emails concurred that any move to straighten the hanger might resolve in it snapping off. I felt that maybe I'd overplayed the extent of the deviation, but I didn't want to waste time taking the bike into London for this to then happen, so I called in to talk to the guy who plies his trade in Richmond Station, hiring bikes mostly but repairing them too, and he agreed to take on the job.

The hanger was comfortably realigned but the derailleur was damaged and could not be repaired. I asked Vintage Bike Cave if they had any derailleurs of a suitable age and specification to replace it. They were slow to respond, as is their way, and in the meantime I pondered alternative training solutions. I concluded that I should remove the cleated pedals from my Look 566 and install the clipped ones for commuting purposes, to ensure that I covered some miles in the coming weeks. This I did, and then tried a new run-out to Staines, using Thorpe Lea Road and Thorpe Bypass to redirect me towards Chertsey and the familiar fast roads through Byfleet, Cobham, Esher, and then home through Kingston. Only 36 miles, but fast miles and physically satisfying. (I have now devised a route out to Windsor that should involve similar terrain but will cover over 50 miles.)
Losing patience with the Vintage Bike Cave, I found a replacement rear derailleur for £15 plus reasonable postage. The guy who works at Richmond Station will install it, as the gears will need re-indexing anyway. Otherwise I may have worked it out myself.

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