Break These Chains, Felkerino

There used to be a tech education company that advertised it’s certification programs for people chained to dead end jobs with the phrase “Break those chains!” Apparently Big Nellie is feeling frustrated with her role in this whole bike to work thing. About six miles into the ride to work I came to a stop sign at South Franklin and Union Streets in Old Town Alexandria. I stopped a little late as a car came through the intersection from left. I didn’t downshift. When I started up, I pressed hard on the pedal and BANG the chain snapped.

This chain is rather long, about 2 1/2 chains long. It has a long and sordid history. It’s first escapade was attacking my friend Flor’s pants at her farewell party in Meridian Hill Park. About a week later it snapped on the hill to Rosslyn about 1/2 mile from work. It held together for a while then this year it decided to rebel. Three times in the last two months the chain has broken. The first two times the outside plate on a link just flaked off, like it was made out of sugar.  Then today, the link just spontaneously came apart.

So there I was with my nonfunctioning bike and a chain tool on the wet sidewalk of Old Town cussing under the window of a million dollar townhouse in Ford’s Landing. After about 15 minutes of frustration , I called Mrs. Rootchopper for a ride home. While waiting I, of course, reassembled the chain except I twisted it and now my bike had a Mobius strip for a drivetrain. I thought about re-breaking the chain but it occurred to me that the bike gods were sending me a message: GET A F%@KING NEW CHAIN, DUDE!  This is exactly what Felkerino, known around these parts as The Sage of Swings, advised me to do at the last Friday Coffee Club (without the profanity, of course). And, so, it shall be. Big Nellie is going in for a bunch of maintenance on Saturday courtesy of the folks at Bikes at Vienna.

I spent the morning working at home. It poured buckets for about 1 1/2 hours. When the clouds cleared, I headed out on The Mule. With a light tailwind, I made rapid progress, a bad day turned good.

The ride home was better. After struggling to get some sort of rhythm on this bike over many months, I finally got it. The ride home was effortless. Just what I needed. And, somehow, the breathing problems that have been plaguing me for months have disappeared.

One thing that’s bothering me is that the steering on The Mule feels off somehow, like I’m pushing the handlebars to make the bike turn. I suspect that something is wrong with the steerer tube, perhaps damaged in an accident a couple of years ago. Maybe, after 20+ years, it’s time for a new touring bike.

The plan was to clean the chain…

After lounging around doing crossword puzzles all morning, I went outside to clean the chain on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent. This is not a trivial task since the chain is 2 1/2 times as long as on a conventional bike. I made it to the side of the house and saw it. The eastern redbud I planted three years ago split down the middle during yesterday’s storm. So I spent a half hour in the sun sawing and lopping and chopping.

I put the debris from my tree clean up in my neighbor’s pile of yard debris which had floated down the street to our house. Suburbs are so convenient. Mrs. Rootchopper moved the pile earlier today. It contained a mess of creepy bugs and a snake. I am amazed she didn’t go screaming down the street.

I pulled Big Nellie out of the shed and set her up for a good chain cleaning, Then I saw it. One of the master links on the chain was broken. I am thankful that it didn’t snap off completely during last night’s deluge.

I pulled out my chain tool and an old chain and went to work. Not having much experience at this sort of thing, it was taking a long time. Midway through the operation, I noticed that one of the chain guides on my chain tool had broken off. No worries. I got this. Then the second chain guide broke off. Despite all these annoyances, the chain was nearly repaired when I dropped the chain and the pin fell out. This meant I had to go back to square one.

Instead of going to square one, I drove the bike to Spokes Etc. in Belle Haven where they repaired the chain in short order. I drove home. Big Nellie kept trying to jump off the bike rack. I had to stop three times to re-secure it.

As I write this it’s four in the afternoon. The day is shot. At least I cleaned my chain…oops. Forgot all about that.