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Donnerstag, 3. September 2015

Of pain and ordeal and the soothing woods

 I wrecked my bike recently. When riding up a fire-road, "just riding along", in fact, my derailleur hanger, chain and rear derailleur broke. Grumbling, I had fixed it by shortening the chain and rode single - speed to the smithy or to the bike shop to order a spare part I normally could not afford, but it´s late summer, so I figured there´d be enough to eat in the woods and I could do with  loosing some fat, so I thought I´d cut down on eating for a month. Why is that so, you might ask, and shake your head in disbelief. Let me explain this. Mountainbike riding, and bicycle riding in general, gives me a kind of freedom. Poor people should not be allowed this freedom. We should get on the dole and be enslaved by big-term temporary employment agencies and, first and foremostly, shut up in front of the white - collared Herrenmenschen. I give an example to many people. I dismiss greed in a shark´s basin and don´t take money for many things I do - for you don´t rid a shark´s basin from the sharks by becoming one. I always have. Plus, the one thing you can afford when being poor, is a certain kind of pride. I ride my bike in a special way. Of course I love to ride for fun, but life is not always fun. I use my bike to get around most of the time, for foraging, and, of course, to soothe my soul. Feeling flow is important to me, be it by sitting beneath a creek, smithing, drawing, making music or poetry, or mountainbike riding. When I look down at my belly and, well, the times of my lean waistline are well behind me, so to say;-), I daresay I can afford to be on a diet for some time, and so I set my priorities.

Now, bummer, the spare part I needed did not arrive, and I still thought about getting out into the woods. At first I thought to go for a walk, for riding a singlespeed bike in the mountains can be painful. But then my father and grandfather had nothing else but a singlespeed bike and still rode the hills of the Sauerland and went on epic rides well before WWII. I don´t want my ancestry being ashamed of me, so I packed my pack, made a flask of tea and out I rode into the hills.  At first I stopped a bit to watch the wild pigs for some time, with bristles golden in the sun... smug in their laziness basking in the sun.

 The sun was a radiant, vibrant star blazing through the bright green of a summer´s day, and it was hot.
 I pounded up a hill that would normally pose no threat to me... but with one gear alone pain was my companion constantly, and my legs were burning. Still, I was in the woods, and it is a matter of respect that you be strong in these halls.
 I relished in the twilight and the dancing shadows that passed overhead, removed from the bright, blue sky. I felt very much alive then, sweating hard and pounding and breathing hard and hammering the pedals up the hill that seemed so much steeper. Many people live for this feeling of pain. Normally my life is painful enough, so I don´t like that feeling much actually, but this time it was different. It felt like cheating that bitch fate, by being stronger than its ordeals.
 And eventually I arrived on top of the hill. There wild pigs roam free.
 I followed the fireroad winding, sloping gently, making for a good way to recover from the ordeal.

 I rode some technical singletrail also, and it was good fun.
 Up another incline, I arrived at a place I cherish in my heart. There are three oak stems growing from one root, and in between the stems I had sat even as a child. The tree has grown, and it survived the storm, and spring and winter are but a breath´s tide. My tiny problems just have no place there. There I am oak.
 Over the hills I looked, and dreamed...

 The lake, like a jewel embedded in a cloak of green.
 I had brought the Viking bush knife to give you a progress shoot.
 And then it was teatime. I sat and sipped some tea, while ants were scurrying over my feet.
 But they did no harm to me... it felt good, a bit like being welcome in this green world.
 Down the tricky, hairy, technical singletrack with good flow I rode, and relished in it.
 All of a sudden I was on my way back.
...and I would not have thought that this might as well be the end of it all at least for a long, long time.

For when I was on my way home, and it was well dark, the ratchet brace in my rear wheel slipped, my chain was thrown off, and my axle broke at the same time with the teeth on my rear cogs bending. I tried to fix it and limped home in the dark. Advice: Hyperglide cogs make for very poor excuses for singlespeed cogs.

And, the culprit is, I can never afford a new wheelset, a derailleur, new cogs and chain and front chainwheels at the same time. And, the spare derailleur hanger I ordered might not be available anymore, so I might also need a new frame.

But, coming back with all the pictures in my mind, you can bet your hat on me finding a way. I WILL ride. The woods are calling, and no catastrophe of my life will prevent me from answering.


  1. I recently decided to take the derailer off my Schwinn, and have it now in single speed with the large chainwheel and the cassette. I still need to fabricate a tensioner/aligner to keep the chain on one cog without derailing unexpectedly, but I've tried it on the road a bit and it is smoother and quieter than ever. I'll take your advice before taking it to the hills, though for now I'll have to come up with my own poor excuse for a rear cog. A bmx freewheel, maybe.

  2. The Hyperglide cogs used to be way better... it´s a Deore cogset even. If you´re going for singlespeed, a track or BMX cog will do the job way better. As for a chain tensioner, you might want to try a filed-down road derailleur with a stiffer spring for tensioning. Don´t drill it out, filing´s way lighter and stronger. To remove the spring, you have to undo the snap-ring on the bolt that fixes to the derailleur hanger. Buy a stiffer one and fit it in, put it all together with a fresh snap ring (don´t use the old one) and you´re ready to roll...

    I am currently thinking about getting a Nexus rear hub. And there´s still some dreaming going on on getting me a Surly Troll frameset....;-) a man needs some dreams, does he?:-)

  3. I'm not sure what you mean by filing or drilling a derailer.

    For now I'm thinking of a simple pivot that I'll clamp to the chainstay, to which I'll bolt an arm with derailer pulley on the end. I'll set it to line up the chain with the 5th cog, then swing the arm down for tension and tighten the bolt. The pulley will also be adjustable side-to-side so I can switch between 5th and 6th cogs (manually).

    Or.. I may go even simpler, after reading this: (to see the pictures, 'view image' and click the archive link).

    And later I will build a fixed-gear using a cheapo mtb someone had tossed down a hill. It has horizontal drop-outs and a smaller frame which I think will suit me better than my other bikes.

  4. I meant filing it down to remove excess weight since many singlespeed riders tend to do it. Drilling does not save that much weight.

    If you take the old road bike derailleur, you do have that arm you mentioned plus a posiibility to conveniently change between 5th and 6th cog. You could also simply hacksaw the lower part of the swing arm off. If you put enough chain tension on it, that will do. A friend of mine did it with good success. But the solution you talked about looks great, too... I am thinking about making one and putting it in my backpack when I got the gears back (I must admit I am a sissy and miss them;-)), in case the fucker gets ripped off again... anyway, thanks for pointing that out!

    But I personally think it´d be best indeed to built up a bike with horizontal dropouts.

  5. Okay, got it. My Schwinn is probably heavy anyway by today's standards, so tensioner weight isn't a concern. I just like the smoothness and lack of noise. (I should have been keeping my derailer clean and lubed, but it didn't really occur to me until I decided to take it off.)

  6. Better a heavy bike, as long as it gets the job done, than a flimsy Scandium special waste flyer!

    I was also astonished when going down that technical singletrail to hear no chain clatter... and I daresay chainsuck´s no issue either. But I must admit I miss the gears.. we got some steep and technical inclines round these parts, and I lack the power and patience to ride them singelspeed...


Now go on, discuss and rant and push my ego;-). As long as it´s a respectful message, every comment is welcome!

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