The Chainlink

Most expensive bicycle commuting season ever... a tale of woe.

I'm just venting, and hoping to learn something out of all this. :-D


February-ish - busted a rear spoke. I don't think I noticed or cared, because...


April - busted a second rear spoke. Learned the hard way that when you bust two, rear wheel deforms enough to cease moving. Oops. Hauled to the local bike shop and fixed.


June - busted a rear spoke. Got tired of dealing with that wheel, and bought a new $40 wheel.


Last week - busted a rear spoke. Attempted to fix this one myself. Spent $25 on a new vise. It broke in half trying to remove the freewheel. Sauntered to the bike shop to get the spoke replaced.


Today - busted a rear spoke. Ignoring it until another one breaks, then buying a new bike. (Not really, but after 7 years... I'm starting to wonder.)


Some $100-$125 later, and after throwing things around and hitting things, these are my lessons learned:

  • A single broken spoke is the kiss of death for a wheel
  • Last year was the year of flat tires... I guess it's got to be something every year
  • Spend money on the $110 wheel, not the $40 wheel
  • Find *some* way to learn how to fix bikes, in spite of my history of breaking permanently everything I take apart

What lessons have you learned? (What lessons should I have learned that I didn't write down here?)


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+1 on the idea of repair classes.

 Also hit up your local library and/or Amazon for some excllent repair manuals. My own personal favourite is Richard Ballantine's Richard's Bicycle Book. i read and absorbed the first edition of it back in the early '70s...( wish i could find another copy of that edition...)


Remember that experience and knowledge is what we gain by screwing up along the way. Don't be afraid to dive in and get your hands dirty.

Hey $125 is tough if you're a person that budgets, and this sound like a problem that has multiplied over the year. Think about all the cooler bike stuff that you could buy with that money.

I think that DUG has some good advice about paying attention to your bike. Thunder Snow's advice is really good too, go to West Town or the Recyclery and get some help. You'll enjoy the company and get a handle on something it sounds like you really want to do.

Finally, forget fixing a car. In a month, you'll spend more than 125 just running a car with gas and insurance.

Breaking a chain tool is REALLY DARN EASY if you are not using it right.

Chain tools are presses that exert tens of thousands of pounds per square inch on the chain pin in order to press it out.  Were not talking about the puny strength of a lion or a pit bull's jaws.  

If the chain is not properly inserted and perfectly straight/alighned on the pin it isn't going to move properly.

A chain tool -even a really nice Park chain tool has plenty of power to DESTROY ITSELF and break the replaceable pin or bend/snap off the lips (not replaceable.)

If used correctly a chain tool should never break or wear out until it has worked on thousands of chains.  If one gets sloppy or in a hurry it is easy for even an experienced mechanic to snap a pin.  Luckily the Park replacement pins are only a couple of dollars.   If  you bend the lips they might be able to be bent back but they have been stressed and will break sooner rather than later.

Bike books can be expensive but if you are riding an older bike from the 80'/90's the Glenn's New Complete Bicycle Manual is a good primer and goes over a LOT of stuff.  Even if you have a newer bike much of what is in that book is applicable except for some of the more advanced stuff on the newer technology.  This book can usually be found on for under $10  with shipping.  I see that today they have a half-dozen choices for under $5!

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to work on their own bike and is on a budget.  $5 spent will pay for itself many times over when it comes to bicycle repair and basic maintenance chores that will save you repair in the future.

If you are having trouble using a chain tool I'd be happy to meet  you with my tool and a hunk of junk chain and help you practice on it.

Yeah, I had a broken spoke on my rear wheel months ago. Had it repaired a few days after I noticed and haven't had a problem since. 

I love the idea of home bike repair, but for me it doesn't get much beyond minor adjustments and fixing flats. I just take it in whenever I notice something acting out of the ordinary. 

I think it's pretty easy to notice things going wrong when you ride everyday, but probably more difficult to notice if you ride infrequently. 

....Or if you're using it on the wrong sized chain. I've busted two chain tools in the last 10 years.

I now use Sram powerlink chains for just about everything from 1-10 speeds. (not fixed)

James BlackHeron said:

Breaking a chain tool is REALLY DARN EASY if you are not using it right.

How funny, I broke my chain tool last night trying to remove a rusted chain from a neglected mtb. Now I have to replace my tool, and still  cut the chain off or something.

I use a Park CT-3chain tool for just about everything from single-speed to 10-speed.  It says it isn't compatible with single-speed chains but if the tool fits it and you are REALLY careful about it you can get away with it.  Some of the really Beefy BMX chains do not fit but other than that it works well.

As for breaking chains you are going to throw away (especially if you do a lot of dumpster-diving for frames/whatever) why mess around using an expensive chain tool that might get messed up?  Just cut that bad-boy with a cheap 12" bolt-cutters you can buy at Harbor Freight for $6.  It's MUCH faster and you don't have to worry about putting wear & tear on (and possibly breaking if you are in a hurry) your $25 chain tool?

I don't get it. What breaks on the tool? Isn't pushing a pin just pushing a pin? Are the pins too small for the tool or something? I know that single speed chains are a different size, but I had no idea that one needed a different tool for them. I guess I've just been lucky as I've only used one tool for both sizes of chains and never had any trouble.

Thanks in advance for the enlightenment.

What breaks the pin?  If you have the chain in crooked you are basically pressing on an immovable object with an irresistible force.   Like I mentioned above we are talking about tens of thousands of PSA all focused on a tiny little pin.  

SOMETHING has to break as you crank down on that screw -and I will tell you that no pin made small enough to fit through that tiny hole is going to be able to survive it -even if it is made of unobtanium alloy.  The chainplates are 10x as big as that pin and chains are made to be tough.  The pin will break before you even bend the side of that chain.  Either the pin will break or the tiny lips on the tool that hold the chain will bend/break.  In order to make a pin strong and not bend it has to be made brittle.  Tool steel is brittle -just like a drill bit. If you put any force that is not 100% straight on it will snap because it is too strong to bend.  

The tool has to be strong enough to push out that pin.  That's a LOT of force.  If the tool isn't straight on that pin it will destroy ITSELF.   That pin can't take any force on an angle.  It'll snap every time.  This is the nature of the design of chain tools.  Ignore it at your own peril.


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