Sunday, June 15, 2008


You hear a lot of talk about the virtues of simplicity among fixie and single speed enthusiasts. As a designer working as an engineer, I can certainly appreciate that school of thought. After all, the less "things" that a system contains, the less potential opportunities there are for that system to break down. Additionally, at a given price point, the less "things" a product contains, the more money available for higher quality, more durable "things" to make up that system. The point here is that complexity without sufficient cause is bad. It is less reliable and more expensive than it needs to be. Simplicity, on the other hand, where all needs are met, is ideal for the reasons I mentioned before. This philosophy can easily be applied to practically any aspect of life.

Since I am me, though, I'm going to bring this back to biking. Friday, as I rode home from work, I had an unexpected mechanical malfunction. As I came to a stop, I shifted my rear derailleur to the slow end of the freewheel and was quite surprised to hear a "rip" accompanied by the loss of tension in my rear shift lever. The shift cable hung limply from the bicycle as the rear derailleur pushed the chain toward the small cog. The cable had broken at the shifter. I was somewhat disheartened by this, as I was still 3-4 miles from home and looking forward to a relaxing evening at a baseball game. The solution was an easy one, though. Remove the hanging cable and its housings, crank in the high limit screw as far as it goes and adjust it so that the rear derailleur is roughly centered under the lowest cog possible. In my case it was 3rd from the top. About 17 or 18 teeth. This had the effect of giving me an easy enough all purpose gear for stop and go traffic (40-17ish) and a respectable overdrive gear (52-17ish) by shifting only the front derailleur and leaving the rear in service as a chain tensioner. I adjusted my route to avoid my usual steep hill climbs, but the result was surprising. I liked it. I suffered a little on hills, but generally this combination didn't leave me wishing for more. It just did its job. That being said, I will fix the rear derailleur since I like the ability to climb all the local hills while seated, even when I'm wiped out from a long day. It did start me thinking about a nice 3 speed or 5 speed gear hub, though. Maybe I can justify a new wheelset when this old 12 speed drivetrain gives up. I have a feeling that there's plenty of action left in those gears, though.


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