Bike MS NYC (Almost) Century Ride Part IV: The Ride Comes to an Untimely End

This is my fourth and final post about my participation in last Sunday’s Bike MS NYC.  If you haven’t already, please read

At the end of the last post, I had finally made it through the halfway point and, despite some mild cramping, crested a challenging hill.  I was cruising downhill when BAM, a car hit me after rolling through a stop sign at a T-intersection.  Fortunately, the car had already stopped a few seconds before I hit it, but unfortunately, with the roads slick from the rain and oncoming traffic coming at me at around 45 MPH in the other direction, I did not have enough time to brake and no room to swerve.  I braced for impact as the side of my bike slid along the car’s front bumper, knocking the license plate clear off the car and knocking me off the bike and 10 feet down the road.

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Bruised and battered but glad to have finally made it home.

I’ve taken spills before, including one instance where a taxi nearly right hooked me and, while I managed to evade a direct collision, the evasive maneuver knocked me off the bike.  But this is the first time I’ve collided with another actual vehicle.  Not sure what to do, the first thing I did was try to stand up.  OK, I can stand, so clearly not so bad.  I bent my knees and elbows in every direction to see if anything was broken.  I was bruised, so it hurt, but it hurt all the time, and not especially when I moved it, so no damage there.  I took off my helmet and inspected it for damage.  I was on the floor with my head down. I know I hit my head, but my relatively new helmet showed no visible signs of wear, so I reasoned I must not have hit my head that hard.  My head and neck also did not hurt at all, so that’s good.

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This bruise on my knee appeared to be the worst of my injuries.

After making sure I was OK, I moved on to the bike.  I picked it up and started moving it off the road, but by then a crowd of other cyclists from the ride had assembled, and one of them took the bike from me and placed it on the side of the road.  By this time, a cop had already showed up.  After looking myself over once more and examining each bruise carefully, I declined an ambulance and told the cop I’d try to make it back to the rest stop, where a medic with a first aid kit would be available.

But how would I get there?  Is the bike OK?  The fellow cyclist who took my bike had examined it and told me it seemed to still be functional, though I may need to loosen the brakes and true the wheels later.  I gave it a closer look, and indeed it did seem to be ride-able.  This was certainly a setback, but perhaps it did not need to be a ride-ending calamity.  And so I informed the officer I would be riding on and attempting to complete the ride on my own.

Continuing along the route on the way back to Garnerville, I noticed the shifting was off.  The car had hit the drive side of the bike, so I almost expected this, especially given the frequent shifting issues I’ve had with this bike after practically every time the bike hits the ground.  Bent derailluer hanger again, I reasoned.  Hopefully I can get it fixed at a rest stop.

Back at Garnerville, I was one of the last riders to pull in, and most of the volunteers had already left.  Thankfully the medic was still there, and he bandaged me up in no time.  Unfortunately, though, this stop did not have a mechanic.  Nevertheless, the bike was holding up OK, and I held out hope that I’d find a mechanic at the next stop.

I continued on the ride, and despite the crash, the injuries, and now the shifting problems, it was increasingly looking like I was going to be able to finish it.  I passed by the next rest stop, which also had a thinning crowd and, alas, no mechanic, and so I continued pedaling past it, hoping to get to the next one in time, which I’m sure had a mechanic earlier that morning.

All of a sudden, after a casual gear shift, I felt the chain stiffen.  I immediately braked hard and stopped by the side of the road to see what happened.  I looked down at my bike in horror to see that the derailleur hanger had completely snapped, and the derailleur was now dangling from the bike in a mess of chain and shifter cables.

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The derailleur is seen here hanging sadly from the back of the bike.

I called the Bike MS support line for help.  I told them my location and they told me they would send a bus to pick me up, but they could not tell me where this bus was now or when it would come.  And so I sat by the side of the road, telling passing cyclists I had already called the support line and waving away offers of help from passing drivers.  [Would any of them really have driven me all the way back to New York City? In any case, the vast majority of those who stopped were driving smallish sedans that would not easily accommodate both me and the bike.]

A pair of bike marshals came by, and stood with me waiting for the bus for about a half hour, keeping me company.  I’m grateful they stopped, but even they eventually declared they really had to get home, and so I was alone again.  About an hour later another bike marshal came by.  He took one look at the bike and ingeniously declared, “let’s see if we can make this bike a ride-able single speed.”  I’d already been waiting for the bus about an hour and a half, so who knows how long it would be at this point.  This plan sounded as good as any to me, and we got to work.

We took off the derailleur and hanger, looped the internally routed shifter cable back into the frame of the bike, and shortened the chain (those handy all-in-one tools really do have quite a few capabilities!).  After about a half hour getting our hands dirty I hopped on the bike and got going.  What a relief!  After two hours sitting in the cold rain, I was certainly glad to be moving again, and even more glad to warm myself up via physical exertion.

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As I write this, my hands are still a bit greasy from repeatedly handling the chain.

Alas, it was not meant to be.  After just a few revolutions, the chain fell off.  I tried to reset the chain, but no matter what I did or how I rode, the chain would always fall off after anywhere from 1 to 50 revolutions.  Even the bike marshal had had enough of this tedious exercise after a few rounds, and he declared I should call the support line again, tell them my new location, and wait.

I did wait at first, but after just a few more minutes in the cold rain, I figured I’d be better off keeping myself warm by pedaling while I tried to make it to the next rest stop.  As I kept pedaling, and examined the bike more closely each time the chain fell off, I became convinced the fundamental idea of converting the bike to single-speed was sound, but our implementation was flawed.  By this time, though, it was too late, since I did not have a chain tool and the last bike marshal was now long gone.  About a half hour after the last Bike MS rider passed me, still miles away from the next rest stop, and with darkness fast approaching and no bike lights [which incidentally may have saved me earlier in the day, if only it hadn’t come loose and fallen off my bike on a ride on Thursday; a replacement shipped via Amazon Prime arrived Monday], I decided to call the support line again.  This time they told me the bus was only 2 miles away, and would come to me right away.  Fifteen minutes later still no bus and I called back, and I was told to wait on the line while they communicated with the bus as they are “right on top of you now.”  Another five minutes passed and the bus did, indeed, arrive, and I was finally on my way home.

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4 thoughts on “Bike MS NYC (Almost) Century Ride Part IV: The Ride Comes to an Untimely End

  1. How’d you get home? Did the bus drive you all the way back to your front door? And was it really a bus? Anyone else on-board?

    • It was a mini yellow school bus, and it did drive me until just a few blocks from home, but that is only because it was on the way anyhow to the finish line. There were 3 other riders on board, 2 injured and one companion, as well as 2 staff.

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