This morning my alarm went off at 5:00am and thankfully I had crashed early the night before, so I was able to stay awake. I was bound and determined to go riding this morning, but I knew that I had a lot of work to do to make it happen. I hobbled downstairs and into the garage. Tumini, our new outdoor cat, was sleeping next to the water heater. She took a peek at me, but quickly curled back up to go to sleep. It was way to early for her. In shorts and a sweater, I stood before Juliet, sans coffee, and got to work.

The first order of business was to remove the pieces of the derailleur. One chunk was still bolted to the frame and the other was tethered to the shifter cable. Next, I unhinged the chain and de-greased areas where I would be working. The bike was now prepped and ready to be repaired. I read the section in my Bicycle Repair Book about derailleurs and read the instructions included in the box with my new derailleur. I greased the threads and bolted it to the frame. That’s when it became obvious that the rear wheel needed some work.

Pulling off the rear tire, I mounted it in my cheap Avocet wheel stand. For an hour I spun and tweaked the spokes on the wheel until it was near perfect. Well, as perfect as I could get it with the tools available to me. :). With the wheel trued, I installed it on the bicycle. Next I installed the chain again and set about trying to adjust the derailleur so that everything would shift correctly.

I made some progress, but ultimately all I could do is get it do shift to 5 of the 6 rear cogs. It appeared that the chain was twisted and the combination of that and the fact that the derailleur wouldn’t align properly, I was only about 75% there. Unfortunately, that’s as far as I could take it. It was a little after 7am now and I really wanted to go for a ride. I rode around the cul-de-sac a few times to see if Juliet was rideable. She wasn’t perfect, but I felt I could go for a short ride safely.

The only other tweak I did was to replace the pedals with my original Deore XT pedals with toe clips. Although the SPD cleat pedals that I’ve been using are nice, I simply haven’t been all that happy with the feeling of riding any distance with them. There’s simply not enough play. Besides, I was still in pain from last night and I needed a little more flexibility in the pedal. Pain from last night you ask?

<begin wayback machine>
Last night I went out to the garage to grab my Rivendell catalog and on the way back inside I noticed that there was dirt on the steps. Not wanting to track in dirt, I decided to hop the first step. The steps are double steep and very shallow, but I’ve been going in and out of the garage for close to 3 years now, so no problem right? Wrong!

I misjudged the height and proceeded to slam both of my big toes into the solid concrete second step in rapid succession. With my feet finding no purchase and my forward momentum hurling me onward, my shin raked down the metal edge of the top step sending my face to the floor next to the clothes dryer. It’s bad enough when you stub your toe, but when you slam both toes with a running start you’re really in for a treat.

Laid out on the floor with my legs hanging out into the garage, I screamed, hollered and cussed at full volume. As anyone who’s met me can attest, I can be loud when I need to. In this case I didn’t need to, but there was no way I couldn’t. I think they heard me in the next county. 😛

Both big toes quickly produced blood blisters under the nail and swelled nicely as the night wore on. Nothing appears to be broken, other than my pride, but they still hurt like hell.
<end wayback machine>

With a broken derailleur and busted toes, I was more determined than ever to get my ride in for the day. I put on my handlebar bag, since I wanted to bring a phone with me, (lesson learned) and I put my Dana in a small shoulder bag and headed down the hill. I knew I didn’t have time to ride my usual 10 mile loop. I also felt like I needed a little treat, so I decided to ride to the nearby Waffle House. 😉

With all my focus and attention on derailleurs, I did a lot of shifting on this ride. I haven’t been using my granny gear, so I took the opportunity to use it on some of the big hills I had on the way. I had forgotten how helpful those low gears could be! In no time I was at Waffle House and enjoying a breakfast of pork chops and eggs. Yum.

The ride back was solid, but since I was playing with granny gears, it was hard to tell if my legs were any better, or just the same. I still felt pain and fire on the hills, but I just kept on pedaling in the saddle, not standing in the pedals, and slowly made it to the top of every hill. I think some of the confidence on the hills came from the fact that I had my old pedals back and they’re much easier to get out of should I need to bail on a hill.

As I approached my personal Moby Dick (the hill leading up to my house), I decided to give it a shot. I thought to myself, “What the heck, I can bail if I have to, so let’s see how far I can get.” In the lowest gear I could reach, I began making my ascent. 1/4 of the way up, I was heaving and sucking in big gulps of air, but I kept my cadence and kept on spinning. 1/2 of the way up I was bearing my teeth like a vampire in a bad horror movie and I fought the burn and tried in inhale more air. 3/4 of the way up I was in shock that I had made it this far and my mind was set to make it the whole way. Spinning and spinning I kept making headway up the hill as my entire body was on fire. I needed air, I needed muscle, I needed relief, but the next thing I knew I was at the top of the hill! I could barely kept the bike on the road from all my swerving. I couldn’t advance to a harder gear because my legs were shot, but I couldn’t stop or I would just keel over.

As I heaved and panted like a dirty old man, I slowly ambled my way to the house. I dismounted in the driveway and my legs felt like wet noodles. I had to lean against my truck to keep my balance. I walked around a little bit gulping water from my water bottle until I had regained my composure. I felt like dancing with my hands over my head like Rocky – I climbed the hill! Even with busted toes, derailleur problems and carrying a little weight on the bicycle (handlebar bag, Kyptonite lock, and backpack) I had made a hill I have been unable to make since I took up riding again. I might pay for it tonight or tomorrow, but this morning I was a conqueror. 😀

Distance: 7.18 Miles
Ride Time: 0:42
Average Speed 10.36 MPH
Maximum Speed 36.9 mph