Hamstreet (SFA)

Distance: 51.7 miles. Elevation: 2074 ft.

My first club ride for over three months, after a self-enforced knee recovery period. I drove to the start to save having to climb Barn Hill on the way back. Halfway there I realised I had forgotten my rain jacket (rain was forecast for later).

Seven of us were out on this cold, windy morning (3°C). Luckily, for the benefit of my still-recovering knee, this route was amazingly flat, especially on the outward leg. We were cycling into the wind on the way to the café but it was dry and occasionally sunny.

It was only after the café stop that things became less straightforward. A fairly long and particularly rough section of road (or was it a track?) was enough to vibrate my rear light loose from its improvised fixing. Luckily it remained dangling at the end of a cable-tie and I managed to reach back, retrieve it and put it in my pocket while still riding.

We had managed so far to somehow dodge the ever-darkening sky, but it caught us in the end and the heavens opened. All stopped to don rain-wear, except me – but my winter jacket seemed to keep me pretty dry anyway. Twenty minutes later the rain stopped and it was off with the waterproofs again.

But the respite was short-lived and we were soon getting rained on again. During a particularly heavy burst which included hailstones ripping into our faces, another rider and I found ourselves a long way ahead of the bunch. We looked back and could see no sign of the others on the long stretch of road behind us. Although I was convinced that we had passed no side-roads, we thought we had better check that we hadn’t missed a turn, so we doubled back. Only a few seconds later we saw the others approaching in the distance. So we turned around again. It was during this turn that my chain broke! I hadn’t realised at first; I thought it had just derailed, until my colleague pointed out that my chain was dragging along the road behind me. Typically it had happened during a downpour and on a dodgy bit of fast road. There was nowhere really obvious to fix it. I pulled over near a gate and set about getting my spare link out of my toolbag. I was sure that it was just the quick link that had come apart as opposed to the chain having broken. I was correct. But I soon realised that each half of the link was still connected to the ends of the chain! I couldn’t believe it. I had just dragged the chain along the ground for 20 or 30 metres – how had they stayed on? Crouched down in wet mud and stinging nettles I carefully rethreaded the chain back through the dérailleurs, with the help of another rider. I was so worried that one of the links would fall off into the long grass and be lost forever. Fumbling with the link without my glasses on, it took me ages to actually reconnect the two halves. Eventually it was on – I had stung my knees on the nettles and was now cold, soaked and covered in grease – luckily one of the other guys had hand-wipes on him! We were more prepared than boy scouts! We were soon on our way again. It felt like more but it had only taken nine minutes to fix.

A couple of the riders peeled off before the end of the ride. The rain soon stopped again and the rest of the journey was fine.

When I got home I had to clean my bike for the second time in as many days!

Ride notes:

Don’t back-pedal unless you’re sure you have changed gear
It is impossible for those Wippermann links to detach while the chain is under tension, so I can only assume that it had come off as I was turning at slow speed in the road – I think I must have back-pedalled before it had fully changed gear, somehow kinking the chain. It must have just been bad luck that the quick link was near the kink.


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