Ride In 2/9: The Weakest Lynx

I've always wondered what it'd be like if my bike commute was half as long as it is and today I got to find out. My chain broke, fell from my bicycle and my bike commute ended in Lafayette Square.
Here's some thrilling photography:
Chain in repose.
But first, before it was broken, here's what happened. A fairly normal ride down East Capitol, past the park and a nice pace behind a woman dragging a kid trailer. Then I went around her and found myself riding behind a gentleman about whom I can remember nothing distinctive. Perhaps he had a peg leg, but I have no recollection of it. Everything was more or less fine until Pennsylvania Avenue, where I rolled up behind another guy and we patiently waited at red lights at 3rd and 4th, while another bicyclist sort of patiently waited, but not as patiently and he crept up alongside me and was almost parallel, in a way that made my peripheral vision uncomfortable (I have no idea what that means, but I'm sticking with it). In the mean time, we were passed by the guy on the red LeMond that I see most mornings.
It was along Penn that my chain started skipping, hopping between two of the rear cogs. I thought it curious, but no more than a minor annoyance at first. I shifted gears a bunch, maybe thinking that would somehow alleviate it, but it didn't. At a stop light, I dismounted and checked the chain, looking to see if one of the links was bent or otherwise indisposed, but when I cranked the pedals, nothing terrible seemed to happen and I thought that things were fine enough to keep riding. My lack of mechanical aptitude led me to adopt the stance "if my problem isn't glaringly obvious, how big of a problem could it be?" It's the same stance I use in my full-time job as an SEC regulator (rim shot). I remounted and the chain continued to skip around, but it never occurred to me that the skipping would be anything worse than moderately distracting.
I passed the White House security entrance and turned to head up to 15th and then the chain fell off. My first instinct was to take a picture (see above). I think this says a lot about me and is yet another good reason that I'm not a volunteer firefighter. "Yes Captain, there do seem to be people trapped inside. But my flash isn't working, so it's gonna be a minute and then I'll get right on it." I picked up the chain and leaned my bike against a wall and then I stopped to ponder my next move. Due to some hilarious oversight, I didn't even have a multi-tool with me. I took it out of my bag to put in my my other bag the other day and didn't bother putting it back. The contents of my pannier were the following: u-lock, frame pump, bike button, tuxedo. I didn't think any of those things would help. So, what to do? I pondered walking the ten-ish blocks to BicycleSpace, locking my bike up there, hiding my bike key on the premises somewhere and sending a plaintive tweet begging for repair. But I didn't really want to walk in that direction, especially since I kind of needed to get to work in a somewhat timely manner. I also didn't want to lock my bike up downtown, something that thousands of people do every day and is perfectly safe, but for whatever reason, scares the bejeebus out of me. I thought that my lack of chain would somehow indicate to marauding bike thieves (marauding because downtown is basically Lindisfarne) that my bicycle was derelict and a target. Instead, I decided that I would walk to Farragut Square and take my bike to work. Why didn't I take Bikeshare? Because I was wearing bike shoes with cleats and I'm not confident that I would have been able to pedal. This might be irony. Also, Bikeshare would have required me to lock my bike up downtown and see above.
So I engaged in the indignity of walking and the indignity of bus riding. Actually, I don't mind the indignities of either of those things. It was a little weird to walk around downtown with holding a greasy bicycle chain and pushing a chainless bicycle, but no one seemed to mind. I didn't really know what to do with the chain, either. My instinct was to keep it, but I didn't have anywhere to put it. I was terribly worried about getting chain grease on my tuxedo and I also didn't want to keep holding it in my hand. And since it was broken, I figured I couldn't do any better than just throwing it out, perhaps out of pique. It might have been salvageable, but I don't know that. Also, maybe some charity collects old broken bike parts, so I would have preferred to do that, but I wouldn't have even known where the drop boxes are. I have a suspicion that this chain needed replacing anyway. One last picture:
Chain. 2011-2012. Rest in pieces.
Anyway, if you want it, it's in the trash can at the southeast corner of Farragut Square, by the N4 bus stop.
And then the bus ride happened. Some notes on that: it was pretty boring and rather slow, but definitely less exertion was needed. Who was on the bus? Well, a couple of  mousy law students, some overdone Italian women with big sunglasses, and the woman behind me talked on the phone to her mom the whole time in what I think was either Portuguese or Creole or both. At Dupont Circle, a gaggle of chaperoned teens got on the bus and it took forever for them to pay their fares. We really need pre-payment for buses.
I used my bus time to tweet a little and to try to read Bossypants, a book that just isn't turning out to be one that I'm liking and I really like Tina Fey. I only worried a little about my bike falling off the front of the bus, but things like that don't really happen, right?
My bike is now locked up in the garage where it spends most of its workdays. I haven't figured out my plan yet. It will most invariably involve Bikeshare. Maybe on Friday I'll take the bike on a bus to a bike shop and see about a new chain. I just don't want to deal with it today.


  1. Ugh, sorry to hear about the chain. I've also attached my bike to the front of the bus once before and watched it diligently from the seat closest to the front, perched on the edge of my seat and grimacing at every bump or close call with a car. Perhaps they should just allow bikes on the buses like the people they are? Or not.

  2. Rather than learning a new skill set to deal with bike mechanical issues, I choose to throw money at the problem, so even if I'd been in your situation and had the right tool, I wouldn't know what to do with it...Also, maybe you can fool your wife into thinking a broken chain necessitates a new bike? I'm sensing an opportunity here.

  3. I totally know what you mean about your peripheral vision being uncomfortable. But I don't have any better way to put it into words.

  4. When asked (which is not often) I say replace the chain every year - they're cheap. Just seeing how much they stretch should be a pretty good indication of what forces (good or evil) they are subject to. Mine mighty frankenstein schwinn racer is internal hubbed and subject to much less stresses than you external derailleur folk. I came to this wisdom in the second year of having built my commuter when indeed, the chain decomposed unexpectedly.

    Anyway - this is not sage wisdom: quite similar to the notion that it is far better to replace one's cheap dock lines often (we have switched modes of travel to sail here, stay with me) than to buy more expensive dock line and have it fail when you didn't replace it after two years......

  5. Feeling your pain. I had my bike overhauled a couple of months ago and I had worn out the chain, large chainring and cogs in just over one year of riding, and with frequent oiling/cleaning. Hope to see you out on the road again soon.