On Friday, Stella asked if I wanted to go for a leisurely Independence Day bike ride to Golden Gate Park. I had visions of me and Stella, riding our hipster bikes around GG Park, with Foux de Fa Fa playing as the soundtrack to our delightful, Instagram-filtered lives.
I met Stella and 14th and Valencia and off we headed in the general direction of The Wiggle, though admittedly, I don’t think we really knew where we were going. We turned onto Dolores from 15th Street and faced a moderate hill.
“Great! Hills to practice shifting gears on!” I said to myself. My 1.2-mile ride to work is pancake flat, so I normally don’t have any opportunity to play with the twelve speeds on my bike.
“Cool, I’ll shift to the smaller chain ring in the front because that’s the gear for climbing,” I proudly announced in inner monologue.
“Now, self, don’t get your chain crossed from front to back, so let’s shift in the back to the largest cog for climbing!” Because I actually talk to myself in a weird, patronizing tones when engaging in fitness pursuits.
“Snap! Clunk!” retorted my bike.
(This entire conversation took place within the span of 30 seconds, FYI.)
I realized that my pedals were no longer moving forward and that I had dropped my chain. This happens relatively frequently, and I’ve gotten decent at putting it back into place with minimal smearing of bike grease onto my face. I told Stella I was pulling over to fix my chain.
…except my chain totally did not go back into place. I tried, gently prodding the front derailleur with my finger, shifting gears, putting each link in place on the cog teeth. Nothing was working. The front derailleur seemed to be blocking the front chain ring from moving at all.
“Okay, Stella!” I announced, “We are presumably engineers. Why can’t I fix this? WHAT ARE BIKES?!?”
Then I saw a funny little lever in my front derailleur* that I had never noticed before. I pushed and pulled on it, and the derailleur seemed to shift in and out from the bike.
“ISN’T THIS THE MISSION?? WHERE ARE THE GOOD SAMARITAN HIPSTERS?!??” I wailed to Stella/everyone within earshot. Tragically, no bearded, flannel-clad hipster came to my rescue, though a woman kindly asked me to move aside as I was blocking the entrance to her building with my bike crisis.
Stella took a look on the other side and informed me that the little “lever” I had just found was actually a piece of the derailleur that had snapped in two. Her diagnosis? “That’s legit broken.”
Yes, that’s right. I managed to snap a thick piece of chrome in TWO with my unintentionally violent bike maneuvering. What in the actual hell?
Stella and I walked my bike home, which gave us a nice time to chat, though we did manage to scratch up our ankles from running into our pedals repeatedly.
Once home, I emailed the two nice ladies from whom I purchased the bike and sheepishly explained my egregious error. I felt like I was calling in the social workers for a home visit with only a bruised, battered bicycle child to show. Though it was a holiday, they said they’d come by in an hour and replace the derailleur for me. Saints, I tell you.
And that is exactly what they did. On the way to Trader Joe’s, Kristal and Zoe pulled up in their van outside my apartment and set up a mobile bike workshop: a rack for mounting my bike, various replacements for parts that might have been broken, even latex gloves for avoiding greasy fingers. And within ten minutes, they had the broken derailleur replaced and answered all my questions about what may have happened. (For the record, it was probably user error, though they did say that the only time they had seen this before was with the same type of Japanese derailleur.) Not to mention they refused my money! They are really the nicest people on earth and restore my faith in humanity.
Long story short: I guess I have a lot to learn about bike maintenance, ownership, and gearing. Also, I’m apparently an aggressive bike rider, even when I’m just aiming for a pleasure ride with my BFF Stella. Sigh… “THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS!!!!”
*Until two weeks ago, I went around calling the front derailleur “the bracket” because I know almost nothing about bikes.