Nothing changed, that’s what I kept thinking, as I sat on the curb, scratching my chin and absentmindedly rolling my chain backwards through its derailleurs. We were 25 miles into a 30 mile ride, sunny day, dry roads, mild to warm temperatures. The pace was decidedly moderate. I’d not been out of the saddle, or even the big ring for that matter.
But my chain was skipping.
I’d assembled this bike myself. The chain was all but new, having been installed on another bike for photos only. I’d pinned it in the old-fashioned way, without a master link, and then lubed and worked the pinned link to make sure it could run freely through pulleys and over cogs.
But now it was skipping.
I fiddle-faddled with it, by which I mean, I tightened some cables and added some tension to the set screw. I rolled the chain forward and back. The skip was regular, once per revolution, and that eventually led me back to that pinned link. Admittedly, that should have been the first stop on my diagnostic tour, but I had forgotten about the bike’s assembly, and as I’d been gliding along smoothly moments before with no good answer to the question, “What changed?”
Once I discovered the bad link, I worked it back and forth in my fingers thinking it might loosen. Eventually I gave up, shrugged at my riding companion, and with just five miles to go, resolved to ignore it. I could be wrong. I don’t believe in magical thinking, but after trying to smooth my pedal stroke, with no positive impact on the skip, willfully ignoring it did seem to make it go away.
I am not a wrench. I live on the word side of this industry, not the hand side. Things are mostly better if I don’t touch them, but I have some personal pride (character flaw) that forces me to build my own bikes and fix my own problems (mostly), and that leads to episodes like this one more frequently than I’d care to admit (but just did).
This week’s Group Ride asks you to rate your own bike mechanic skills on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being pro-level mechanic with a new idea for rear suspension design, and 1 being not entirely aware of what to even call some of the parts of the bike. I speak to a lot of bicycle-enthusiast humans whose blindness to the machine is really stunning, but also a little inspiring. I give myself a 5.