Posts tagged ‘mechanics’

September 21, 2011

How to Get a Dropped Bike Chain Back On, Grease-Free

As I mentioned in my Week Two round-up for the 30 Days of Biking effort, last week my chain came off while we rode up the hill in search of frozen yogurt.

My husband called out from behind me, “Shift and pedal it back on!”

In the heat of the moment as he tried to instruct me while I kept rolling, I didn’t quite pull off this magic trick. Instead I managed to wrap the chain quite solidly around the pedal shank. We stopped and he was the one to get the greasy hands putting the chain back on.

Up ’til now, every time I’ve dropped a chain—usually by shifting one more time when I’m already on the big (outside) ring in the front so the chain comes off on the outside, but sometimes the equivalent action on the inside toward the bike—I have had to get off the bike and get all greasy putting the chain back on.

But no more! After we were safely seated with our frozen yogurt Sweet Hubs explained exactly how to get the chain back on without stopping if it comes off the front rings.

I’ve done this twice in the past week. Yes, I’m apparently quite prone to this particular shifting error–I like to think it’s because I’m so strong that the top gear just doesn’t feel hard enough. I am here, grease-free, to attest that it works.

When your chain comes off the big ring, which you’ll know because you no longer feel that you’re pushing anything when you pedal (accompanied by a chain-rattling sound), do this:

  1. Shift toward the middle: Up (toward the “harder” end) if the chain dropped off toward the bike, down if it dropped off on the outside. (Note: This assumes you know which hand shifts which set of rings–something with which you should familiarize yourself ASAP. On bikes sold in the US you should accomplish this shift with the left hand.)
  2. Pedal gently.
  3. The chain guide that helps shift the chain over will catch the chain and move it in the right direction. (Note: If you ride a fixie you don’t have a chain guide. Prepare for grease.)
  4. The chain will climb back on as the teeth on the cogs roll past.
  5. Keep riding!

So simple.


Posts in our 30 Days of Biking Blogging Inspiration & How-to Series for Sept. 2011 30 Days of Biking

  1. 30 Days of Bike Commuting: You Can Do It!
  2. Why We Ride/Resolve to Ride–A Blogspedition
  3. Preparing to Commute by Bike: Get the Worry out of the Way
  4. Buying a Bike for Commuting: Some Questions and a Blogspedition
  5. How to Bike Commute: Getting the Gear Together
  6. Bike Commuting 101: Carrying Stuff
  7. On a Roll with Wilma Flanagan
  8. 30 Days of Biking: Week One Report
  9. Ride with your Community: SpokeFest Rocks!
  10. There and Back Again: How to Pick your Bike Commute Route
  11. Intro to Bike Commuting: Route Selection Part 2
  12. More Bike Commuting Route Selection Tips: Part 3
  13. Thinking Like a Driver vs. Thinking Like a Bicyclist
  14. Biking as Downtime and other Musings on Overproductivity
  15. 30 Days of Biking: Week Two Report
  16. On a Roll with Katherine Widing
  17. I Shouldn’t Assume
  18. Falling Down on Your Bike. It Happens. To Grown-Ups.
  19. Pretty Handy, Gloves. The Blogspedition Assumes You’ll Get ‘Em.
  20. What to Wear for Your Bike Commute? Clothes.
  21. How to Get a Dropped Bike Chain Back On, Grease-Free
  22. 30 Days of Biking: Week Three!
  23. It’s All in the Attitude
  24. Things I Now Do on My Bike Without Having to Think About It
  25. Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Risk and Trust
  26. More Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Friendliness and Openness
  27. Even More Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Tolerance, Humor, and Persistence
  28. Bicycling Rites of Passage, Spokane Style
  29. Dear Reader, I Chicked Him
  30. 30 Days of Biking: Final Report!

Your Turn

  • What common mechanical problems do you wish you could fix?
  • Have you had any great “aha!” moments figuring out some mechanical trick with your bike?
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August 24, 2011

Reality Check

Lest you think my bike commuting life always proceeds smoothly with never a hitch in my getalong, let me describe my ride the other morning.

I made the last day of my vacation a Monday to extend the sweet sleeping-in sensation one more day and give myself a shorter work week for the re-entry. Betsy Lawrence, founder of Belles and Baskets, suggested we bike to a downtown yoga studio for a sweaty 90-minute class, then get coffee—a perfect day-off activity.

The first hitch was that I couldn’t find sunglasses I knew I had been holding in my hand just seconds before we left my house. I searched a bit, then grabbed my back-up pair and we were off.

We weren’t more than three yards out of my driveway when I realized I needed to adjust the saddle height. Second Daughter had used the bike to make an emergency run for coffee and scones during the August 14 Spokane Summer Parkways event and it was far too low. I’d forgotten all about that because it happened a week ago before we went on vacation.

Betsy held the bike while I made an adjustment (I get a little thrill when I actually get to use the multitool I carry in my toolkit), then got on to test it. Too high.

She held the bike again and I adjusted it. Just right—or so I thought.

I rode another three yards and said, “We have to stop again. I didn’t center the nose.” When I fixed the height I totally ignored saddle placement and the nose was canted to the left, so out came the multitool again and I got the “Baby Bear” (just right) results for real.

After the left turn from my street into the bike lane on Southeast Boulevard we headed downhill. Within a few more yards I said, “Wait, the bike is making weird sounds.”

I could hear a steady plbplbplbplb sound—a little bit like a quieter version of a spoke card tapping—and a swiish-swiish-swiish on a regular beat that told me it was something on the wheel brushing with each revolution.

We got to a good stopping place another block down and pulled over so I could look for things that might be rubbing or ticking. I messed semi-randomly with various things like the fender attachments and placement, cyclometer, and brakes, checked that neither tire was losing air, and got back on.

The noises were still there but we decided to ignore them and proceed. About two blocks farther Betsy, who was riding behind me, suddenly exclaimed, “I’m riding without my helmet, aren’t I?!”

I looked back and sure enough, her hair blew freely in the breeze. I could visualize her helmet right where she’d left it: on my sofa in the front room while I looked for my sunglasses.

We briefly contemplated heading back since we still had time but decided to keep going. In case you’ve lost track, we had already had five hold-ups (counting the sunglasses). Rather than go for the even half-dozen we took the chance since we were already a third of the way to the studio and it was mid-morning so the traffic wasn’t too heavy. (Don’t tell anyone we violated the city helmet ordinance.)

We made it safely to yoga, sweated our way through, and had our coffee after. Riding back the plbplbplb had disappeared but the swiish-swiish-swiish was still there. When I got home Sweetheart identified a spot where the fender was rubbing the tire and fixed it for me with the tiniest of adjustments.

Bike commuting—always a breeze, right?

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July 4, 2011

Independence and Freedom, Courtesy of the Bicycle

Some of the ways riding a bike makes me feel independent and free:

  • Competence and self-sufficiency: I can fix most basic mechanical problems that would stop me from going down the road. Not all, but I can patch or replace the tube to repair a flat tire, get the chain back onto the derailleur, and fiddle with the brake adjustment if it’s rubbing. Note that I cannot perform any of the equivalent tasks on a car.
  • Convenience: When I feel like taking a ride, I can just go. I don’t have to think about whether there’s gas in the tank or a parking place when I get there. (Personally, I’m fueled by caffeine, chocolate, and the farmers’ market.) And while I appreciate having a good transit system and utilize it in the winter when I can’t ride or when I need a lift up a steep hill, with my bike I’m not tied to anyone’s schedule but mine.
  • Financial freedom: Speaking of gas…. Freedom from knowing what gas costs! Seriously, unless I happen to glance at a station as I bike past (I try to wave at the poor drivers) I couldn’t tell you the price of gas. I understand it’s quite steep.
  • Mobility: It’s much easier to get around in heavy traffic, and that’s without breaking any laws. If I hit a heavy construction zone and cars are backed up, I just switch to the sidewalk as a pedestrian and keep moving. I can get through spaces where a car can’t pass if need be, and I take up a lot less room so it’s easier to maneuver.
  • Freedom to choose a different path: You can take this one metaphorically, and I do mean it that way. On my bike I experience a greater flexibility of thought about how to get from point A to point B. If you’re a driving commuter, when is the last time you drove on different streets just to see what’s on them? Or because that little store looks intriguing and you can stop and check it out quickly without a big hassle? Experts say that trying new things helps keep your brain young; biking is my brain-aerobics every day.
  • Freedom to see through new eyes: Closely related to the path-finding is the way I now think about transportation. For one thing, I don’t take it for granted. For another, I think more broadly about all the ways people and goods move around and I recognize auto-centric thinking, speech, and limitations all the time. I have ridden away from a very confining box, and it’s not the car–it’s the thought patterns that allow themselves to be constrained by its boundaries.

Free yourself. Ride your bike.

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