The Value of Experience

Rusty. But 7/8 functional.

Reports of my summer bike being ready to roll may have been a bit premature. In my defence, when I made that statement I truly believed it and it was based on a test ride. However, the test ride in question was clearly not as rigorous as it should’ve been. A subsequent test with significantly more torque being applied revealed some of the gears were less than functional. Actually, there was really just one problematic cog – 7/8 of them were fine. On the downside, the one that wasn’t fine was the highest gear (i.e., the one I use the most). Naturally, it would be expected that the gear I use most would be the one most likely to be worn. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a spare cassette lying around and, with bike shops closed, I was a bit stuck. However, a lot can be gained from experience – particularly from less than ideal situations.

2014 Flashback: Right tools for the job in Quebec

Over the several thousands of kilometres of my cycling tours, I found myself needing (and frequently performing) various degrees of bicycle maintenance. Some of which I had to learn in the moment – replacing a broken spoke in Quebec, for example. That experience led me to adding a chain whip and cassette removal tool to my collection of tools. Most recently, when I was in Salt Lake City, my chain needed replacing. This ended up being done at Jerk’s Cycle as I needed a couple other things while I was there. They were very efficient in replacing the chain and I was on my way again in no time. But not for long. It took mere moments of riding to discover that 7/8 of my gears worked with the new chain. Sound familiar? I said it at the time and I’ll say it again now, the guys at Jerk’s Cycle were fantastic. In an effort to eliminate the need to buy a new cassette, they tried multiple adjustments to try to get it to work. But nothing was working. The last attempt (before conceding a new cassette would be needed) was to disassemble the cassette and replace the smallest (yet most troublesome) cog with a used one they had lying around. And that solved the problem.

Less rusty. But less functional.

Fast-forward to today and my 7/8 functional cassette. While I don’t have any replacement cassettes in my inventory, I’ve mentioned that I do have a couple of extra rear wheels at my disposal. Now, you may be thinking, “Why not just use the other wheel/cassette?” Well, I tried that. Unfortunately, that cassette only had about four gears that played nicely with my current chain. Fortunately, one of those four was the smallest cog. So, not surprisingly my plan was to swap out the small cog. The challenge: How do I do that? Well, for starters, I needed to remove the cassettes from each wheel and, as mentioned a mere paragraph ago, I now own the tools necessary to do that. And I even sort of have the knowledge on how to use said tools. It took a few attempts and a bit of grunting force but eventually I was able to remove both cassettes. From there, taking apart the individual cogs was surprisingly effortless. A quick swap from A to B and voila, I was ready to test my repair work. The verdict: Success!! I have to say, I was pretty happy. Almost as happy as I was after making banana bread. Actually, maybe even happier since the banana bread experiment came with very clear instructions as opposed to this repair which required some learning on the fly. And it was kind of fun … maybe even a lot of fun. I typically feel a pretty high level of satisfaction when I figure out something like this for myself (well, with some help from past lessons learned).

Oh, and for the record, yes I could’ve just used the cassette from my good touring wheels but where’s the challenge in that? That said, had my repair failed I knew I had that as a backup plan.

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