Fails from the Trail – Singlespeeding home

It started with a crash.

An incredibly slow crash. A crash so slow, so innocent, that you can barely believe it happened. Yet there I was, slowly pulling myself off from on top of my bike, drivetrain side down. Here is where I should also mention there was a CRUNCH. As that terrible sound reverberated off of the sandstone canyon walls, I realized that this ride had just gotten a whole lot longer. It was my failed track stand that had broken the derailleur hanger, but it was my lack of preparation that left me without a spare.

It was late fall, and we were in Fruita, Colorado riding the famed Kokopelli Trail system. Daylight was in short supply having spent the morning at 18 Road. As I picked up my bike, my derailleur (and the shattered hanger it was attached to) hung limply to the side. If I didn’t want to condemn the group to riding out in the cold night air of the desert, it had to be fixed quickly.

Truth be told, I’ve never broken a derailleur hanger before, hence the lack of a spare. I was at a loss of what to do besides send the group ahead and start the long, lonely walk back to the car. Luckily for me, Garret was convinced we could come up with a solution that allowed me to pedal my way out.

First course of action was to break the chain. Locating the SRAM Powerlink, I separated the chain, then disconnected the derailleur from the shifting cable and fully removed the derailleur. Next, we determined a rideable gear combination with a relatively straight chainline from front ring to cassette. Once the desired combination was selected, we removed a short length from the chain using my Crankbrothers m17 tool. We had to make a few adjustments to prevent the chain from being too slack, but it also couldn’t be too taught since we had no good way to tension it (without a sliding dropout).

It took a bit of experimenting to find a gear combo and chain length that worked. The critical thing to remember during this process is to not fully push the pin out of the chain link once you make the break. If the pin is fully removed, it is nearly impossible to get it reinstalled in out in the field when you go to reconnect the chain. You can also avoid this hassle by having a spare quick link such as the SRAM Powerlink.

After piecing the chain back together by reversing the pin back through the links, we locked out the suspension – we realized the chainline would grow when the suspension was compressed (due to the suspension design), so locking the suspension out was a precaution to avoid catastrophic failure from an over-tensioned chain mangling the chain ring or cassette. We then slowly limped my “singlespeed” Kona Process out of the desert. And that’s how it ended: soft-pedaling the bike to avoid dropping the chain, some occasional bits of flow, and a wild, chain-free descent back to the car (I removed it on the way down).

Lessons Learned
  • Be better at track stands
  • Always carry a spare derailleur hanger if your frame is designed with a replaceable one
  • Powerlinks are your best friend
  • Carry a chain tool with you
  • Riding with knowledgable friends can save you butt
  • Slow speed crashes can be expensive and embarrassing

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