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…
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. 🙁
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 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!