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Thoughts on XFL Training Ride #4 crash.

Monday, March 17, 2014 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


I had been looking forward to Saturday’s 210 kilometer (130 mile) Cross-Florida training group ride all week long. I was feeling great when I woke up on Saturday morning, and my only concern heading into the long ride was the saddle soreness I’ve been dealing with recently.

The ride was a mixed group: most were going short (about 50 miles), and a small handful of us were going long for the full 130 mile adventure. In retrospect, we should have divided the group up, as the early pace was fine for the short group, but perhaps a little aggressive for those of us going long. Unfortunately I never got to experience the ramifications of the early pace, as my ride ended abruptly just past mile 40…

Right after the crash. My elbow actually got off light: my right hip, glute and lower back absorbed most of the impact.

Right after the crash. My elbow actually got off light: my right hip, glute and lower back absorbed most of the impact.

As I rounded a corner, I came up out of my saddle–as I generally do after a corner–and started powering out of the turn. Without warning, my chain came off the big ring. Because I was standing and putting all my might into the pedals when the chain popped, the sudden lack of resistance combined with my standing position caused me to lose control of my bike. Before I even knew what was happening, I crashed hard onto the concrete doing almost 20 MPH.

The pain was instantaneous and intense. I screamed out in agony, and let a couple curse words fly (sorry!) I tried to get up, but everyone who saw me bounce told me to stay down, so I did. I wasn’t sure if anything was broken (on my bike, or on me), so I tried to take a few deep breaths and clear my head. As I began to get over the shock of the crash, I stood up and walked around a bit. I was banged up and bleeding from my elbow and knee, but the worst pain was coming from my right hip and lower back. My bib shorts didn’t rip (wow!), but I knew I had some serious road rash going on under there…

I checked my bike, and was relieved to see that it seemed okay (memories of my expensive rear Zipp wheel, which was destroyed during my last wreck, were running through my mind). I thought the chain had snapped, so I was surprised to see that it had actually come off the big ring to the inside of the bike (towards the frame).

I was pretty banged up, but I wanted to continue with the ride. My bike seemed okay, but as soon as I started to pedal the derailleur hanger snapped off, ending my ride. I told the others to go on, called Lisa and told her I needed a ride home. 🙁

Saturday's crash caused my rear derailleur hanger to snap off, ending my ride. My poor Ultegra Di2 rear derailleur has taken direct impacts in two hard crashes now, but it is still performing flawlessly.

Saturday’s crash caused my rear derailleur hanger to snap off, ending my ride. My poor Ultegra Di2 rear derailleur has taken direct impacts in two hard crashes now, but it is still performing flawlessly.

The question running through my mind was “How the hell did this happen?!” I’d not shifted out of the big ring all day, and my bike was shifting perfectly. Also, as I do before any big ride, I gave my bike its customary full tune-up and inspection. Part of the inspection process is to check the chain for stretch with my Park Chain Wear Indicator Tool. This tool is basically a go/no-go tool: if it fits in the chain, the chain is stretched and needs to be replaced; if it doesn’t fit, the chain is within specs. According to the Park Tool, my chain was fine.

The day after the wreck I tore the bike down and did a comprehensive postmortem in an effort to figure out what happened. The cassette was not at all worn, the chainring was fine and perfectly straight and the high/low limit screws on both derailleurs were properly set. I checked the chain for wear at 5 different points… it was fine.

I am borderline obsessive about maintaining my bikes and, apart from the chain, I can see no other possible explanation for the mechanical issue that caused my crash. That chain had 4,300 miles on it. It probably should have been stretched. In fact, many cyclists advocate replacing the chain every 2,000 miles, regardless of apparent wear. I am now one of those cyclists.

Here’s the actual corner where the wreck happened. As you can sort of see, the road is pretty rough heading into the corner. This is where my chain came off (click to enlarge):

The corner where I crashed on Saturday.

The corner where I crashed on Saturday.


The only thing I can figure is that my chain was stretched enough to rattle off the big ring as I powered over those bumps in the road.

I’m happy to report that my bike was just fine after a little TLC in my home bike shop on Sunday morning. The derailleur hanger, which snapped, was replaced; I also replaced the chain and cassette. The rear wheel was slightly out of true, but 5 minutes in my Park Professional Truing Stand took care of that.

So, now that we have the important stuff out of the way (the bike), what about me? Yeah, I’m hurting pretty bad. My right hip and lower back are in quite a lot of pain right now. Walking hurts, but getting up from a chair or bending over is pure agony. I was planning to go to the doctor for my annual physical this week anyway, I guess now I have something else for him to check out. I don’t think anything is broken, I’m just a little banged up is all.

After I got my bike back to 100%, I really wanted to take it for a ride. I also wanted to keep my 75-day (and counting) riding streak alive. I decided to head out, and was happy to find that riding didn’t hurt nearly as much as walking! I got a short, but satisfying, 18 mile ride in. I did not do any hard OTS (Out of The Saddle) mashes, but I definitely put some muscle into the pedals while seated. No problems at all, bike performed flawlessly. Riding streak is alive at 76 straight days in the saddle!

John Stone Fitness Comments

7 Responses to “Thoughts on XFL Training Ride #4 crash.”
  1. Glad to hear you’re ok…more or less.:) Any head impact? Scratches or dents on helmet?

    Maybe it wasn’t stretch of the chain that was the issue, but perhaps wear?

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  2. 4000+ miles is a lot for any chain, I’m actually a little surprised that it had not been stretched out of spec. While the bumpy road could have caused it to pop off the big ring, I’m thinking you back pedaled a bit in the corner, that with the bumpy pavement probably derailed the chain on the bottom of the big ring. That is my hypothesis FWIW.

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    • It really is a lot of miles for a chain, I’m very surprised that it is in spec (the chain wear tool is pretty much idiot-proof, which means I can use it).

      I was well into powering out of the corner when the chain came off, having gained speed and completed several standing crank rotations.

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  3. Hey John. Glad you’re OK. Looks painful. I know personally that the day after a crash — or the day after that — is when I can really feel the results of both the hit and the internal compression, as all my innards move to one side of my body to meet the road.

    I think your concern about the chain is on-target: 4300 miles is a LOT of mileage on a Shimano chain — where I personally start getting cautious at about 1500. I find that SRAM chains are less expensive and last a bit longer, but regardless your chain tool should have picked up the wear. One of the issues I’ve found with tools like the one you have — and others with no moving parts (Rohloff and ProGold come to mind) — is that the tool itself is thin and delicate and can deform with use over time. Given your level of care, I doubt that’s the case, but you may want to check the chain with a tool of another design just for curiosity.

    The other question — one that I think is rarely addressed — is wear on chainrings. Let’s say you’ve had five chains that have been replaced. Even though the chains are new, the chainrings wear to accommodate the chain over those replacement cycles. The peaks get narrower and the valleys get longer, and chains no longer want to settle in and engage as they once did. New chains wear even quicker to meet the new chainring profile.

    This would especially apply to a large-chainring, strong rider like you, who is applying a lot of force. Cutting to the chase, all the elements to the drive chain wear together, but generally speaking only chains and cassettes are replaced on a regular basis. (Chains first, cassettes occasionally, and chainrings rarely.) The exception may be mountain bikes given how dramatic the wear can be.

    I’m replacing my drivetrain soon and will take some initial measurements. Maybe I’m full of it!

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    • Thanks for the thoughts and concern, abuseguy (I need your first name, lol).

      I actually took the chain off the bike and measured it manually, too. It’s definitely within spec, but I replaced it with my preferred brand, KMC. In the future I’m replacing the chain every 2,000 miles.

      Chainring wear should not be an issue in this particular case: the bike itself is new and only has 4,300 miles on it.

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      • Sorry. First name’s Neil. I picked up Abuseguy as a name years ago as a result of a job where I took a lot of — you guessed it — abuse.

        With the low mileage, I totally agree: No need to worry about chainring wear.

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