Thursday, August 14, 2008

Chain love

Is there a component on the bicycle more important than the chain? Really, without a chain, you go nowhere. Sure, there are bikes that use belts or other drive mechanisms. But for mainstream cyclists, the chain is the difference between moving forward and spinning your legs but going nowhere. And a broken chain can mean the end of a ride, smashing your knee against your stem, or, in the case of Rick, Mike, or David Millar, shattering your dreams for a particular race result.

If you've ridden long enough, you've had broken chains. I'm fortunate in that the only one I've had happened on a morning ride, relatively close to the trailhead, so all I had to do was push back to the car and drive in to work.

I very nearly snapped a chain when I wasn't paying attention and shifted to a big/big combo during RAWROD. Fortunately in that situation, I figured out what was going on before I tried to turn the gear and was able to rescue things in time. Would not have been a good thing had the chain actually broken, but wouldn't have ended my day either, since, after breaking a chain, I started carrying a spare link just in case.

But seeing what happened to Rick and Mike, I'm pondering whether to change my chain before Lotoja. Mike changed his and it broke, but I'll bet you dollars to donuts that it broke at the link where the chain pin was inserted. I'm assuming Rick was on an old chain, which I've got to think is much more likely to break.

My current chain has about 2,000 miles on it. The chain that came with the bike was either a 105 or Ultegra--I don't remember which. After 1,000 miles, it was done. I replaced it with a Dura-Ace chain. After it had close to 1,000 miles on it, I ordered a new one. But every time I check it, it's not even showing 0.75% wear, so I'm still riding on it.

I've got a new chain and two new tires waiting to be installed. And I keep waiting until the chain is worn enough to indicate replacement or one of the tires goes flat before replacing. Neither has happened yet. So if I go three more weeks and everything's the same, do I replace them anyway, or will I jinx myself?

In other news, two things that I'd been waiting for and hoping for have finally happened. The first is that the bibs I ordered from Performance Bike finally arrived. I chose these bibs only because of the chamois, and it is exquisite. Is there any reason to choose one pair of shorts or bibs over another for any reason other than the chamois? Sure, some fabrics are more stretchy than others, but once they're on, they're on. I have never once actually thought about the fabric of my shorts during a ride.

The one kind of funky thing about these bibs, though, is that they have one panel of gray fabric that extends from one leg, all the way up and around the back, and down the other. This panel of fabric is about 2 1/2 inches wide at the leg opening. Until I put them on, that is. Then it becomes 3 1/2 inches wide. Are there that many skinny-legged cyclists out there that they can't make a leg opening adequate for a proper quadricep? Thank goodness for stretchy pants, or I'd have to take these in for alteration. Actually, all my shorts are this way, it's just that these ones have one panel that's a different color, making it obvious how distended the fabric really is.

The other bit of good news is that Kristin Armstrong won gold in Beijing. This is great for her and something she certainly deserves. With Cancellara also winning gold, and both doing so aboard Cervelos, I wonder if this spells an end to the era when, amongst triathletes, dentists, and pudgy accountants at least (is that redundant?), Scott is the new Cervelo.


  1. i broke a chain two weeks before lotoja 2006. rick and i were sprinting for the top of the alpine loop, and just as we wound up the sprint, my chain snapped, pitching me onto the bars, and over the side, bodyslamming me to the ground, where i broke two ribs.

    the new chain worked great at lotoja. no issues at all. the ribs, not so much.