A day of preparation

Sugino crankset after chainring replacement

Kuroko needs a little more work before she’s ready for the crankset and bottom bracket replacement, so today I prepared the new crankset with a chainring swap. The default chainring was 46 teeth, and I wanted to change this to 44 teeth to reduce the gap between the two chainrings.

The Sugino crankset was available with the 44T chainring, but at double the price. By buying the standard 46T crankset and a separate 44T chainring, I saved myself half the difference.

Sugino crankset box
Spirit of Japan

The bolts took a T30 and were surprisingly hard to break loose. Upon reflection, they’re probably held in with Loctite (and not coated with grease, as would be my first inclination).

Crankset with torx wrenches
More force needed

46T and 44T chainrings compared
Just a couple of teeth apart

I need a special tool, which will arrive tomorrow, to fully tighten the bolts. I’ll probably need to remove the inner chainring to do that, as well. (It would be a great Catch-22 if I then needed to remove the larger chainring to fully tighten the smaller one … )

Sugino crankset after chainring replacement
Sugino crankset after chainring replacement

I’m expecting other bits and bobs tomorrow to finish the removal of Kuroko’s existing crankset and bottom bracket. But I won’t know until I’ve tried if I can get the job done in time for the weekend.

The postman always rings twice

Two packages of Jagwire cycling cable for brakes and shifters

I checked the mailbox when I got home from work today and found a delivery notice from the post office. I checked the time on the notice: 16:32. And then the time on my phone: 16:39. I’d just missed him. (I’d stopped on the way home to shop for toilet paper, and I’m happy to report I got some.)

As soon as I’d changed and made myself a drink, I got onto the Japan Post website to reschedule the delivery. To my surprise, I was able to reschedule it for the same evening! I chose the 18:00-20:00 timeslot and sat back and waited.

The postman rang from the delivery entrance just two minutes before Nana walked in the door with her grocery shopping. A few minutes after that, our doorbell rang and there was the man, dripping wet from the rain, with my package.

Two packages of Jagwire cycling cable for brakes and shifters
Jagwire cables in carbon silver

These may be the last bits I need for Ol’ Paint’s rebirth — Jagwire cables. They’re not the top of the line (and neither is Ol’ Paint), but I think the carbon silver color will contrast nicely with the new paint.

(I still need to pick out a water bottle … or two.)

Japan Post is scaling back service considerably in the face of a labor shortage. I have to say I’m really spoiled by this kind of service, and I’ll miss it terribly when it’s gone. (Maybe I can work there after I retire … )

Discretion

Bicycle in front of Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery, Meiji Jingu Gaien

Following yesterday’s tune-up I was really hoping for a mechanical-free ride today. Things didn’t go exactly as planned, but I nearly got my wish.

Busted

As usual after a maintenance session, I carried Kuroko from the Workshop in the Sky to the elevator and hence down to the bicycle parking in the basement. From there I take a special bicycle elevator up to the ground floor. Today, there was a security guard waiting for me at the ground floor. He said I’m not supposed to take my bicycle on the regular elevator from our 33F aerie down to the basement: I should use the freight elevator. That’s fine — preferable, even — but the freight elevator is always locked. So he told me I should call the disaster preparedness center (aka the security office) when I want to transport my bike, and they’ll unlock the freight elevator for me.

All well and good, but a rather inauspicious start to the ride today.

Iffy weather

Preliminaries out of the way, I loaded up my Tokyo Landmarks route on the Garmin and set out. The sky was grey and threatening, but there wasn’t much rain and it wasn’t too cold. I had my fingers crossed (not literally) for a nice, relaxing ride without having to invoke Rule #9.

The front shifter did give me a couple of bad boy moments, pretty much right off the bat, but I was able to employ the workaround I’d discovered yesterday to get up onto the larger chainring when I needed it. I’m going to have to have a good look at the shifter and try to sort this out on a permanent basis. (I can start with the one that I previously removed from Kuroko.)

Other than that the ride went smoothly, and I reached Meiji Jingu Gaien almost before I knew it.

Bicycle in front of Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery, Meiji Jingu Gaien
Meiji Jingu Gaien

The better part of valor?

Tokyo Tower viewed through plum blossoms
Tokyo Tower with ume

From the park my route winds around to take me past Akasaka Palace and then through Akasaka Mitsuke to the Imperial Palace and Diet Building. I got into traffic here and went up onto the sidewalk to get around the construction that was causing all the congestion.

After some brisk climbing, I passed through Roppongi and descended to Shiba Koen, where I took a break to take stock and top up my water bottle. I sent a photo to Nana to let her know my progress, and she told me that the weather was getting worse. I weighed my options for a couple of moments and decided to return home rather than try to complete the route and get caught in a sudden rain.

Heading back the way I came, I didn’t bother to try to turn off the Garmin navigation. So it was beeping every few seconds to let me know I was off course and telling me to turn make a U-turn. Fortunately I knew the route home quite well. Turn onto Gaien Higashi and pass Roppongi and then Midtown until I’m back at Meiji Jingu, and from there retrace my route home.

Along the way there was no change in the weather, and I arrived home without having experienced more than a scattering of drops all day. I pulled up to the tower entrance and pushed the button on the Garmin to save my ride, then pulled out my phone to let Nana know I was home.

Up the elevator (after having left Kuroko in the basement parking) and into the shower. When I cleaned up and dressed, I went to the Garmin site and discovered … I hadn’t recorded the ride! I thought the Garmin had been behaving differently, but I put it down to a recent software update. (And it was giving me navigation the entire time.) So after heaving a sigh, I set out to recreate my jaunt via MapMyRide, and I came up with a grand total of 26km for the day.

Hand plotted route map of Tokyo
Today’s curtailed route

In sum, I was pleased with Kuroko’s performance, although I’m determined to do something about that front shifter in the long term. The burgeoning rain did not materialize by the end of my ride, and in fact the weather cleared up somewhat by the time I got home. With my luck, if I hadn’t turned around the heavens might have opened up.

Working from home

Shimano XTR pedals in box

I’m working from home today and taking advantage of the slow trickle of work e-mail to get some bike maintenance done. (It’s a beautiful day and I’d love to be out on the bike, but I’ve already had one phone call from the boss asking where I was … )

Work gloves and bicycle tools on a workbench
Still life with tools and gloves

The first order of business was sorting out the balky front shifter. On my commuting ride yesterday, the front derailleur got stuck on the smaller chainring and wouldn’t shift up to the larger one. This has happened before, and the problem has survived through a replacement of the shift lever, the derailleur and at least two cables. (I’ve even got another cable on order in case that turns out to be the problem.)

I started by peeling back the shifter hood to make sure the mushroom head at the end of the cable was thoroughly seated inside the shifter pulley. It’s difficult to see in the photo (and as I was staring at it in the sunlight on the workshop in the sky), but the cable end is right where it’s supposed to be.

Collage showing shifter on the handlebars and crankset / derailleur
Balky shifter

Next I made sure the derailleur was not sticking. I could move it easily by hand, and if I pulled the cable manually then I could shift the chainrings with no problem.

I took a break at that point and did some searching. My Googlefu failed me this time as I found a number of videos explaining how to solve the opposite problem to the one I had: when the shifter is stuck on the larger chainring. In that case it’s usually dirt and dried grease inside the shift lever, and the solution is to give it a thorough flushing out and lubrication.

Mystified, I returned to the balcony and loosened the shift lever from the handlebar and retightened it, then pulled the hood back into position. After making sure the hood was not interfering with the lever operation, I worked both levers a few times while pushing and pulling the cable manually. And I got it moving again. I ran through several dozen shifts from small chainring to large and back again, and everything was fine. Once it was all in working order, I spent another couple of minutes fine-tuning the adjustment of the front and rear derailleurs. While the bike is on the stand, at least, I’m satisfied.

You realize your travails do little to encourage others of us to take up your hobby …

Buck

Having replaced virtually every bit in the shifting mechanism, I’m left with a few possibilities:

  • There’s a problem with the cable housing (the one bit I haven’t replaced because it would involve rewraping the handlebars, and I want to avoid that for now) or the shift lever is binding against the cable housing.
  • There’s an issue with Shimano shift levers that I’m not seeing others reporting.
  • Kuroko is haunted, or hates my guts for some reason (or possibly just has a perverse sense of humor).
  • As always, there’s the possibility I just don’t know what I’m doing.

At any rate, I’m planning an undemanding ride at a relaxed pace tomorrow, so we’ll see how it goes.

I haven’t bought any new toys in weeks

With the necessary maintenance out of the way, my final job today was to replace the pedals. The current pedals are working fine (although they’re scuffed from use), but they are designed to work with either cycling cleats or regular shoes. I never ride Kuroko wearing anything but my cleats — even just for the office commute — and sometimes when I’m starting off I get the wrong side of the pedal and it takes me a few tries to get properly clipped in.

Shimano pedal with cleat and non-cleat sides
To cleat or not to cleat

I saw these Shimano XTR pedals and they caught my eye: The same combination of cleat and platform that I’m used to, but with cleat mechanisms on both sides. As a bonus, they’re slightly lighter than the pedals I’m replacing.

Shimano XTR pedals in box
Shimano XTR pedals

It only took me a minute to remove the old pedals with my Park Tool pedal wrench and then clean up the crank.

Bicycle crankset without pedal
Naked crank

I wasn’t making any progress installing the new pedals with the wrench, and then I realized the nut is not attached to the spindle. I got out an 8mm hex wrench and that did the trick. I just have to remember now to take an 8mm wrench when I’m traveling and have removed Kuroko’s pedals for delivery (and probably bring the 6mm as well if I’m serving as mechanic for the group, as most pedals use the 6).

Shimano XTR pedal showing cleat mechanism on both sides
Both sides same

I’m looking forward to giving these a try tomorrow, and hoping I’ve heard the last of the derailleur issues.

Update: I am not alone!

Not long after posting this, the following video appeared on my YouTube home page (demonstrating that YouTube and Google are indeed linked):

If I have more trouble with the front shifter I may give this a try. (Or I may have a look at the parts indicated to see if they’ve bent.)

(And I’m not jealous that David L has superior Googlefu. At least not much … )

I’ve now had this problem with two series of Shimano 105 shifters, while the Halfakid and Tomo both use Shimano 105 and haven’t had any trouble. (To be fair, Tomo rarely uses the front shifter.) I don’t know if other Shimano series — Ultegra, GRX — have the same issue.

A Farewell to Head Badges

The head badge succumbs

The Halfakid joined me in the workshop today as we got Ol’ Paint even closer to the point of being ready to paint. We used some new attachments for the Dremel to get into some hard-to-reach spots, polished up the previously stripped areas using 3M sheets, and tapped new threads into the water bottle bosses. Finally, we removed the head badge, which had become scuffed up beyond salvation.

Polished fork crown
This fork is just about ready

Polished fork ready for painting
This is as good as it gets

Stripping the bottom bracketStripping the bottom bracket
Taking turns working the bottom bracket area

The new Dremel attachments worked quite well and allowed us to reach some areas that the larger fittings wouldn’t. But there are still some very tight spaces we weren’t able to reach.

Working around the seat post area
Working around the seat post area

This head badge has got to go

I’d hoped to keep the head badge. The record will show it entered this project unscathed. But I had already scratched it up a bit, and after the Halfakid finished cleaning up all the paint around it on the head tube, it was pretty much done in.

The head badge succumbs
The head badge succumbs

It just took a moment with the putty knife to remove the badge and glue, and then a couple of more minutes with the sander to get the head tube bright and shiny.

Paint remaining after the head badge removalShiny head tube ready for polishing
Head tube cleans up without the badge
Sanding paint off the head tube
Hard at work on the remaining paint

Cuttin’ threads

Tapping a thread in a water bottle boss
Halfakid taps a thread

With the lion’s share of the sanding and polishing done, we turned our attention to the water bottle bosses. The bolts had snapped off in both these bosses. I’d tried extracting them to no avail, and so I’d drilled them out and filled the holes with JB Weld. Today we drilled 4mm pilot holes and then tapped them with a 5mm x 0.8mm tap.

The holes aren’t perfectly aligned but I think they’re close enough, and the tapping seemed to go cleanly once we got the handle tight enough. The proof of the pudding will be in the tasting, after we’ve painted the frame and try to mount a water bottle cage.

Water bottle bosses drilled out, with one showing threads from tapping
Drilled and tapped

Are we done yet?

Now it’s decision time. There’s still some paint in the very hard-to-reach places. I could spend some more time to trying to chase that out (sandpaper wrapped around a popsicle stick, etc.). Or I could say it’s good enough and we’re going to go with this. The paint I’ve bought is formulated to go over existing paint, so that shouldn’t be an issue. I’ve got at least a week now to decide if I want to try more (and I could probably spend quite a few more hours getting the remaining paint) or to decide it’s good enough and to start masking before the paint.

(Without the head badge, I only need to mask the bottom bracket and the brake mounts, I think. The headset bits. I guess that’s everything.)

I’m still thinking whether to try to replace the head badge or let it go. A brief search has turned up some related head badges and decals, but nothing that was an exact match. Sometimes less is more, and the naked truth might be more attractive option in the long run.

Polishing and adjusting

Detail of bicycle frame with most of the paint sanded off

I’m mostly done with the power tools for cleaning up Ol’ Paint now and I’ve gone back to hand sanding, this time with 3M abrasive pads.

Sanding a bicycle frame
Scrub-a-dub-dub

The 3M pads turned out to be very good not only for removing any remaining paint and getting into the nooks and crannies, but also for removing the swirl marks (and even scratches) left by the power tools.

Bicycle frame detail before final sanding
Before and …

Detail of bicycle frame with most of the paint sanded off
Shiny shiny!

I’d meant to keep the headset the original black, but whatever finish it had came off a lot easier than the remaining paint. So I ended up polishing the whole thing silver.

Head badge of bicycle with part of the finish sanded off
Less is more?

Ditto the head badge. Now I have to decide if I want to try to just polish the raised areas, completely clean it up, or repaint it.

I put in a good hour and a half this morning on Ol’ Paint before the workshop closed. When I got home, I pulled Kuroko out of the basement parking to take care of a couple of adjustments left over from the recent drivetrain overhaul. First I tightened up the front shifter cable and readjusted the derailleur.

Rear derailleur with protruding shift cable
That’s too long!

The last bit was to shorten up the cable housing for the rear derailleur. I knew I would need to do this when I replaced the derailleur, but at the time I put it off. Today was the day to clean it up.

Rear derailleur after cutting the cable housing to length
This one was juuuust right

Of course, shortening the cable housing meant cutting the cable shorter and then readjusting the rear derailleur. Hopefully I’ve got it all right and tomorrow’s ride will mark the return of Silent Running.

Headwind home

Biker selfie with helmet and sunglasses in front of Japanese torii
Fujisan reflecting the light of sunrise
Clear skies and windy

Today dawned clear and windy, promising some good riding. Kuroko was still at the office following last week’s debacle with the chain and the midweek almost perfect recovery. I have access to the workshop at the office — where I’m stripping the paint off Ol’ Paint — until noon, so after Nana woke up and made some onigiri, I packed my riding clothes in my backpack and set out.

More shiny

Dremel tool with new and spent sanding discs
Dremel sanding discs

I’ve already done as much as I can with a full-sized drill and paint removing discs so I got some smaller sanding discs for my Dremel and worked with those today. They did a good job, and the smaller dimensions of both the discs and the Dremel tool allowed me to reach areas I couldn’t reach with the larger drill. Unfortunately, the sanding discs were disintegrating almost as quickly as I could put them in the chuck. Despite the short life, though, they were doing a good job of cleaning up the Ol’ Paint’s frame.

Top tube, seat tube and seat staysSeat tube and seat stays
Top tube, seat tube and seat stays

Top tube, seat tube and seat stays
Top tube, seat tube and seat stays

Spent Dremel sanding discs
And then there were none

Once all the sanding discs were wasted, I continued with a cylindrical grinding stone. As this was even smaller than the discs, it allowed me to reach into even tighter joints and crevices. By the time my noon deadline arrived, I had nearly finished cleaning up Ol’ Paint’s frame — at least as much of it as I can reach without investing even more into time and tools.

Practice makes perfect

With my access to the workshop done, I returned to my office to eat a couple of onigiri and to practice emergency chain repair with Kuroko’s chain — the one that broke last week — and my Topeak Hexus tool.

Breaking a chain with the Topeak Hexus II
Breaking a chain with the Topeak Hexus II

Now that I’ve seen the video, I know that one of the tire levers has a 4mm hex key to use with the chain tool. It took a couple of tries, but I was able to remove the bad links and rejoin the chain using one of the rivets that I’d pressed out of the chain.

Bicycle chain and tool on carpet
Never break the chain

With the preliminaries out of the way, I was finally ready to ride! It was already 1 p.m. and I was in Futako Tamagawa, so it was an easy choice to repeat last week’s ride (without last week’s disaster, I hoped!) to Haneda. I changed into my bike gear and stashed my street clothes in my backpack.

Kawazuzakura buds against a blue sky
Kawazuzakura — not yet

The bicycle was behaving and shifting well, although making a bit of noise. I fiddled with the shifter cable tension as I rode. Before I knew it, I’d reached the kawazuzakura trees at the first rest stop on the Tamagawa cycling course. From the looks of it, they have another week or two before they’ll be in bloom. At the picnic table, I ran Kuroko through her gears and made a couple of adjustments before continuing on.

From there it’s less than 5km to my usual rest spot, where I messaged Nana and took a few minutes to really sort out the gears. I knew at this point I’d resolved the chain and cable tension issues, and I set out with more confidence for the final 10km to Haneda.

Biker selfie with helmet and sunglasses in front of Japanese torii
Haneda Peace Shrine

My confidence was well founded, and before I knew it I was rolling into the Haneda Peace Shrine. The skies were blue, although the wind was up, and after taking a picture I sat down in the shade and ate another of Nana’s onigiri.

Headwind

The ride down to Haneda had gone smoothly and at a very good pace, so I was expecting a headwind on the way back home. In this I was not disappointed. While I’d been making 28-30km/h on the outward leg, I was now concentrating on keeping my pace above 20. For the most part I was succeeding. I wasn’t really willing to push too hard at this point because I knew I had nearly 30km to go and was fighting against a two-month riding hiatus.

Apart from the headwind, the only notable thing about the return was that the front derailleur was making noise, and lagging on the shift up to the larger chainring. Before I’d covered the 10km back to the usual rest stop, upshifts had become a no-go. At 20km/h this is not a big deal, and I kept on in the lower chainring until I rolled into the rest stop.

An inspection of the derailleur quickly revealed the issue: not enough tension in the shifter cable. I used the barrel adjuster to add tension until the derailleur was behaving properly once more, and set out into the wind once again.

Everything was going quite well at this point (apart from the obvious issues of me being old and fat and riding into the wind) and I spent an enjoyable hour working my way back to Futagobashi (the bridge over the Tamagawa at Futako Tamagawa). When I got to the bridge and dismounted to work my way through the pedestrian traffic there, I had a sudden and intense cramp in my right calf, and I had to lean against a bridge abutment for a moment before continuing. Once on my way, I took every opportunity to stretch the calf out fully, and that proved to be just what the doctor ordered.

At last I was on the climb out of the Tamagawa valley, the one that I always whinge about at this juncture. There’s a bit of construction going on not far from the foot of the hill, but the worker quickly waved me through and I was on my way up. Of course I was working my way downward through the gears, but I stopped two sprockets above the lowest as I made my way up at more than 10km/h. It wasn’t my fastest time up that particular climb, but neither was it the slowest.

After a brief stop in the park at the top of the hill where I filled my water bottle, I donned my riding jacket, removed my sunglasses and continued on. I’d messaged Nana that I would be home before 5, and I was confident I would make this deadline. Meanwhile, though, I’d turned on my lights as I knew that shadows would be lengthening by the time I reached Shinjuku.

Things went mostly smoothly on the way home, but the front derailleur began acting up again — in precisely the same fashion as previously. It finally dawned on me that the cable was slipping: the pinch bolt was too loose. As I was nearly home by this time and I was not exceeding 25km/h for the most part, I simply didn’t use the larger chainring. After the final swooping descent down to our tower condo, I rolled the bike into the parking space.

I checked the pinch bolt: Yes, it was not tight enough. I tightened it up and once again increased the tension in the shifter cable. In the bicycle parking, at least, the derailleur is working fine now.

GPS map of Haneda ride
Haneda ride

I didn’t set any records on this run, but that was as expected. The time I posted is quite an improvement over last week’s, when I ended up pushing the bike more than 5km. Along the same stretch today, into the wind, I was averaging more than four times my walking pace. All to the good.

Fujisan sunset with obscuring clouds
Fujisan sunset

On arriving home, after adjusting the shifter cable and locking up the bike, I relaxed in the tub with a beer. Clean and relaxed, I had a look out the balcony window in time to note the sun setting behind Fujisan.

The Halfakid is not available for riding tomorrow, and I have a few things on my list to take care of. I may yet go for a quick ride, but it’s not pressing at this point.

Meanwhile, here are some of Kuroko’s siblings in the wild:

Disaster strikes

Cyclist selfie in front of red torii

Following the completion last weekend of Kuroko’s drivetrain upgrade, I finally set out Saturday on my first ride of the New Year. It’s a bit late for my first ride of the year — last year I did it on Jan. 6, with the Halfakid going for the first ride on his new bike. This year the Halfakid wasn’t available, but at least I was getting a Chinese New Year ride in.

Silent Running

The day dawned grey, but not too cold: the forecast high was 13C. It was chilly enough though when I stepped out on the windy balcony to do some fine-tuning of Kuroko’s new derailleurs before setting out with a double-handful of Nana’s famous onigiri. It took me a couple of minutes to convince the Garmin that we were riding — perhaps the two-month hiatus had affected it as much as it had me — and then I was in cruising mode.

The new drivetrain was performing flawlessly. There was no noise apart from the snk, snk of gear changes (and of course the ratcheting of the freehub). Shifts were swift and sure. The bottom bracket was free of play and not making any grinding noises.

As my pace increased I reached a gear where there was a little bit of rattle. “I’ll have to have another look at that,” I thought. I glanced down and discovered I was on the ninth gear and the lightbulb lit: The derailleur was fine, but it was time for me to move to the larger chainring. With the larger cogs on the cassette, I have to move onto the larger chainring at a lower speed than I’d previously done. As soon as I made the shift, we were back to the Silence of the Cogs.

I spent the first part of the ride, in city traffic, getting used to moving up to the larger chainring when I reached cruising speed. I’ll be shifting the front a lot more often this way, so it’s good the front derailleur was also working flawlessly.

The bike was working far better than I was, as the two-month break from cycling and the Christmas and New Year’s partying have taken their toll. I was sure I wasn’t going to set any records, but I just kept grinding. When I neared my office, I took a slight detour to make the climb there (the one I usually have on the way home) to try out my new lowest gear. It worked a charm as I slowly but surely made my way up the hill, and I arrived at the top feeling a lot fresher than I usually do there.

I can hear the steel pipes sing

I stopped at the workshop to spend another hour stripping the old paint off Ol’ Paint. I don’t have any photos of this because I’d forgotten to charge my phone. I spent a few minutes finding a charger in the office and left my phone to charge as I headed to the workshop. I noticed today that when I applied the spinning scouring pad to Ol’ Paint’s steel tubes, they would sound like organ pipes — at least the three main tubes with their open ends did. I spent about an hour at it, and I think I’ve reached the limit of what I can do with the regular power drill. I’ll have to pick up again next week with the Dremel.

On the road again

Paint stripping done for the day, I ate a couple of onigiri, changed back into my riding clothes, and headed down the Tamagawa cycling course. Finally away from traffic, I could listen to the new drivetrain clearly and appreciate the Silence of the Cogs. It was really a delight. I took a short break for water and then continued on my way to Haneda. I came across a detour on the path and ended up in traffic for less than half a kilometer (I’d missed the sign directing cyclists to the new path), and then it was full steam ahead. I had a bit of headwind but not enough to seriously crimp my style, and soon Kuroko and I were basking in the — erm — partial sunlight at Haneda.

Bicycle
Kuroko shows off her new gear(s)

Selfie of man in cycling helmet silhouetted against a cloudy sky
Silhouette

I sat on a stone in my usual park facing the torii and finished the onigiri. Nana messaged me that she was on her way to the residents board meeting, and I replied that I was on my way home.

Haneda peace shrine torii and river bank repair works
Reconstruction after last year’s typhoon

Disaster strikes!

The return trip was more silent running. I had the wind to my back now and was making good time. I hadn’t had a single missed shift all day. And then, on a switchback with jogging baseball players to dodge, I mixed up my gear levers, shifting the wrong way and then immediately back again. I heard a crunch from the drivetrain and then the shift completed and I continued on my way.

But all was not well in Cog City. The chain was making some noise on the rear cogs and occasionally trying to jump to a higher cog. This is usually an indication of the wrong cable tension, so I was fiddling with the barrel adjuster as I rode. I tried tighter and I tried looser, but the results were the same: more or less noise, but never silent and always with the occasional grab for a higher gear.

I stopped at a rest area. All the benches were full of other bikers — what looked like a large cycling club. I found a spot where I could lean Kuroko against a fence post and set down my bag and helmet to take a look.

Remembering that I’d had an issue with loose and missing dropout screws, I checked the rear wheel and thru axle for play: nothing. Lifting the rear wheel off the ground, I slowly ran through all the gears, first in one direction and then the other. The shifting was working as designed. I checked the alignment of the derailleur to make sure it was squarely under the cog: perfect.

Cycle rear cassette and chain with broken link
Missing link

And then I saw it: a broken chain link. Wow.

I’ve never had this issue before. I knew from reading other cycling adventures that I could use a chain tool to remove the broken link and rejoin the remaining chain. Depending on how many links I had to remove, I might not be able to access the lowest gear or two, but I should be able to get home. I got out my multitool and started fiddling with the chain tool. In the process I discovered that the pin was still in the chain at the site of the broken link (that’s why I was able to keep riding as far as I had), but I wasn’t able to line up the chain plates again to try to force it back into place. I also discovered in the process that I couldn’t use the chain tool as it was: it requires a second tool to actually turn the screw. (And you can believe I tried to turn it by hand, but no dice.)

Topeak Hexus II minitool
That thing at the top

After poking and prodding at it for a few minutes (and meanwhile the cycling club had mounted up and ridden on), I decided to try to limp home with it. There’s a bike shop I know at Futako Tamagawa (the store where I bought Ol’ Paint) and I trust the mechanic there a lot. So I put away the tool, picked up my bag and helmet and continued gingerly on my way. Unfortunately, within half a kilometer I heard the chain fall to the pavement and felt the cranks spinning with no resistance. The chain had finally broken completely, probably assisted by my efforts to work things back into place.

My options at this point were to try again with the tool (erm, same problem with needing another tool to use the tool), lock up Kuroko to some handy fence and catch a taxi, or walk. I was about 4km from the Futako bike shop. There might have been a closer bike store and I knew from experience (when Ol’ Paint’s rear hub locked up on the Halfakid) that I could probably find one via Google Maps. But I figured a 4km walk wouldn’t kill me, and I really do like the mechanic at the Futako shop.

So I messaged Nana to say that I was OK, that the chain had broken, and that it would be at least an hour by the time I reached the shop and got the chain fixed.

I picked up the chain and started walking. (I figured I couldn’t reuse the chain — except on a bike that took a shorter one — but I didn’t want to leave it on the path for it to tangle in another cyclist’s wheels, or throw it into the grass where it would be a danger to the workers who cut the grass.) I left the Garmin on to see how far I was walking.

Ahead of me I could see the red bridge across the Tamagawa that is Daisan Keihin (one of the highways between Tokyo and Yokohama). It didn’t look far, but I walked and walked and it didn’t seem to be getting any closer. A glance at the Garmin told me I was walking about 5-6km/h. Surely this is not an endless trek across the wastelands of the Sahara! My cleats ground against the pavement and I continued onward, finally passing under the red bridge.

And now just another two kilometers to Futagobashi, the bridge that will take me back across the river at Futako Tamagawa. I checked my phone for a response from Nana, and there was nothing. A few minutes later the Garmin informed me the phone was dangerously low on battery. I resolved not to use it again until I’d reached the bike shop.

Finally, across Futagobashi on the pedestrian walkway. This gets very narrow at the end, and I had to be careful to let others pass me without hooking them with my handlebars. Then it’s a climb up the hill — the same one I’d practiced in the morning with my low gear — and at last I was wheeling my bike through the shop door.

The mechanic looked up from where he was working on another bike behind the counter. “What’s up?” In answer I held up the broken chain in my hand. “Wow, bad luck! How many cogs on your cassette?” “Eleven.” “Oh no! I don’t have that kind!”

He was very apologetic as he held the shop door for me, but of course he’d done nothing wrong. His shop specializes in BMX, so it’s natural he didn’t have this chain in the store. I only felt badly for him because that’s twice in a row now where I’ve asked him for help and he wasn’t able to, although he remains willing to try despite the fact that I didn’t buy Kuroko from his store. So he’s not making a lot of money off me these days.

At this point I was less than 1km from the office, so I headed there. Part of the way was even downhill, so I mounted up and let Kuroko coast along those parts. At the office I locked Kuroko up and put the rain cover over the cockpit bag. I threw the broken chain into the pile of computer discards, and messaged Nana that I would be coming home by train. Luckily I had a change of clothes in my backpack (which I’d worn to the workshop when I was spending quality time with Ol’ Paint), and I keep a pair of street shoes under my desk. The phone still had a 10% charge, not enough for me to read Twitter all the way home, so I picked out a book to read from my bookshelf.

Park Tool chain tool
Park Tool chain tool

Before I left, I ordered a replacement chain, and that will arrive today. I’ll review the videos on sizing and installing a chain, and take the new chain and my proper chain tool to the office tomorrow.

GPS record of cycle ride to Haneda
Ride, interrupted

In the end I’d walked more than 5km, which made for an amusing 5km split and overall average speed.