Breaking Chains

This wasn’t quite the end I was expecting. Thankfully, the derailleur snapped at a point in Telegraph Canyon where I could pretty much coast all the way back to the car.  It’s not a common bike part to break, but it’s the second time it happened to me. 

The first was in 1980, while riding my bike to San Francisco.  It was a spur-of-the-moment solo trip, because I had nothing else going on. School was out, or maybe I was out, one of the two. The band I worked for wasn’t gigging for a while, so I had time. My buddy Daemon drove me out to Santa Monica, dropped me off on PCH and off I went.

My bike at the time was a Motobecane Grand Record, with Reynolds 531 tubing, a Campagnolo drive train and none of the strength required to haul my big ass up the state. Before I hit Oxnard I broke several spokes. Not a problem, though, as I had spares and knew how to fix wheels.

The next day, just north of Santa Barbara, I broke my chain. Again, I had the tool and gumption to fix it, so all was good, and I rode on and made it to camp at Gaviota State Beach. 

Things got worse the next morning as I climbed the two-mille hill that leads to Lompoc, and the chain broke again. Damn. This time, I lost so many links that I had to bypass the derailleur make the bike a one-speed. All I needed was get up the rest of the hill and coast 17 miles into town. Done. 

In the morning I went to a bike shop and bought a new chain. They put it on for me and mentioned the bike wasn’t really made for touring, but have a great ride anyway! I was off and headed north on Highway 1. 

Within three miles I heard a snap and I lost forward motion. It wasn’t a chain or spoke this time, it was the derailleur. It jumped over the stop on the rear stays and rotated inside the frame, bending it outward, rendering the bike unrideable. Damn. At least I was on an uphill climb at the time and could again coast back in to town.

But this break was the death knell for my last-minute adventure. Time to call it quits. And by the grace of God, of I should say the grace of Daemon, I got a ride home. (Seriously, he drove to Lompoc and picked me up that night. What an amazingly generous thing for a friend to do). 

To kill time that afternoon I went to the only theatre in town to watch a movie. The lone screen was showing Airplane!, and I’ve hated it ever since.

On the upside, I also used my downtime to start writing a song that would eventually become the hit single by the band Rude Appliances, “Life In Lomopc.” The recorded version of the song was produced with another generous friend, Larry Treadwell, without whom I surely would no longer be living. You can listen to it here:

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