Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Well, this was certainly one of my more unusual rides.

I was supposed to do an easy brick tonight: 1 hour bike ride, 1 hour run. Simple. The rest of the Wednesday Night group was doing loops around Travel Town but I decided to go off on my own and do a few flat intervals. After about 45 minutes on the bike, I was heading back to my car and was about 2 miles down the bike path by Griffith Park when my chain popped off. (For those in L.A., I was just north of the bridge where the bike path crosses Los Feliz Boulevard.) Unfortunately, I thought that the chain was just slipping so I kept pedaling and WHAM! My pedals locked up.

I pulled over to put my chain back on. It was just about dusk, so there weren't too many bikers on the path but there were several groups. Cyclists are a friendly bunch and I was asked a few times if I was OK. I just waved them off because, after all, I can put a chain back on a bicycle.

Or so I thought. Somehow the chain jumped to the outside of the big ring, wrapped around the crank arm and then folded back to the inside of the ring. Worst of all it scratched the heck out of the crank. I tried tugging on the chain, poking it with some bike tools, it wouldn't budge.

I was getting a little frustrated, so I decided to give Gerald a call (he organized the ride.) I got his voicemail but didn't leave a message. I told myself, "well, I was supposed to do a brick tonight, I might as well start running." I took off my bike shoes and stuffed them in the back pockets of my jersey which is, not surprisingly, rather uncomfortable. I started running along the pavement in my socks which is also, not surprisingly, rather uncomfortable. The funny thing is that I realized that this was actually pretty good training for Transition areas: it can be tricky navigating your bike while pushing the seat and I was getting a lot of practice with it.

After a few minutes, Gerald called me. He saw that he had a missed call from me and was checking to make sure I was OK. My initial thought was that I was just going to tell them that I had some bike trouble but I was fine now. The truth however was that I really wasn't fine. Oh sure, I would have made it back to the car before the zombies came out, but I just wasn't having a good time. (Gerald said I sounded a bit frazzled.) I'm already on edge all the time just trying to get my training hours in every week, my feet were hurting from the pavement, and I just wanted to go home. So I asked him if he could come down and help me out.

A short while later Gerald showed up along the path. He fiddled with the chain a bit but without a full set of tools there really wasn't anything he could do to extract it. Frankly I was glad he didn't just pop the chain loose because that would have been embarrassing. I was still a mile away from the car, but I was feeling so much better just to see a friendly face that I told him I could make back on my own without any problems. Instead, Gerald told me he would tow me.

You're going to do what now?

I had no idea how the logistics or the physics of this was going to work, but Gerald had a plan. He had his bike lock chain in a loop; he would hold one end, I would hold the other and I'd get pulled along. The tricky part was getting started. My pedals could not move because the chain was jammed in them, and when I sit down on the bike I can barely touch the ground with my toes so it was very hard to get any initial momentum going. I sort of tried pulling myself along the railing a bit, pushed with my toes a bit and probably got up to a staggering 3 or 4 mph. Gerald rode past holding out the chain, I grabbed on and WHOOSH! we were off.

I felt very unstable during that initial tug but once we got a little bit of speed going it was the Best. Ride. Evar. Do you have any idea how cool it is to go for a bike ride and have somebody else do all the work for you? It's awesome. I don't know what our speed was but it was a lot faster than I expected, and when I think about how much longer it would have taken me running in my bare socks... well, I was very grateful.

Everything was going so smoothly, so I assumed that this was Gerald's standard practice for dealing with broken-down bikes. I asked him when was the last time he had to give someone a tow; he told me, "um.... not since I was about 10." So he was just winging it the whole time and I suddenly had a whole lot less confidence in his plan. But we were almost back to the cars so I can't really argue with success.

I know I can fix the chain. It will take me about an hour, I will cover both myself and my condo with grease, and at some point I will wind up bleeding on my bike. Or I can take it to Bicycle John's where they'll have it fixed in about 5 minutes. Guess what I'll be doing tomorrow during lunch.

I rode for 45 minutes and ran for 10; I think that counts as a brick. And I had a lot of fun being towed along the bike path. So I guess that means I had a good workout? Thanks Gerald for saving my butt yet again.


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