Today I went on my usual quick jaunt down to Haneda, with a detour to my office on the way home to run a server security update. Along the way, though, I had a “mechanical,” which is what the racer boys call a mechanical failure. At least it didn’t involve gear falling off my bike.

Haneda Round Trip
Haneda Round Trip

I’d just come off a 45km/h downhill (how else did you guys think I reached 45?) in the tip-topmost gear and was shifting back to the normal gears prior to stopping at a light. I got on the middle chainring and then started shifting down at the rear. Down from 8 to 7. Down from 7 to 6. Down from 6 to … What?

Instead of a satisfying kerchunk! as the chain moved smoothly from gear to gear, I had a totally free sensation in the shifter, as if the cable had snapped. I checked a few things. I could shift back up to 8, but I couldn’t get any lower than 6.

I was glad this happened where it did, because I was very close to the shop where I’d bought Ol’ Paint. In fact, it was just back up the top of the hill. I crossed at the intersection to head back uphill. Along the way I tried shifting to the lowest chainring. This has always been a bit balky, and with the chain on the No. 6 cog, the derailleur refused to get me onto the lowest chainring.

I was about to dismount and walk, but I was still playing with the shifters. I went Sur la Plaque (onto the largest chainring), and suddenly I was able to shift the rear down to 5, down to 4.

Derailleurs move in mysterious ways / Their wonders to perform

Guy Jean

I put the front back on the middle chainring then, and tried the rear. No problem getting all of the gears. I tried it a few times, because I wanted to make sure it was working before I got 20km away from the shop. Fine. No worries. And with the rear on the lower gears, I was able to get the front onto the smallest chainring as well.

Back on course, then. I had a good ride. I was into the wind riding down the river, but that of course meant I had a nice tailwind on the return. I passed a guy on a Surly Long Haul Trucker who looked like could have easily smoked me if he wanted to. I also passed at least one guy on a carbon fibre racer, and more than a few similarly outfitted riders passed me.

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