Christmas Eve 2016 and I have just registered for the second Tour de Manc 2017. I pre registered so was able to secure a ticket this morning. In this post I want you to learn from my biggest TdM mistake. Back in 2016 on the big day, I was nursing a shoulder injury from a recent car accident but medication and physiotherapy had helped me overcome that problem. I was not the last rider to arrive at the first feed station, but I was the last to leave and the reason I didn’t discover until a week later was a revelation.
In the weeks leading up to the big day I had upgraded my Carrera with several new parts…
- Fork (Suntour XCT 27.5″ 100mm Travel)
- Crankset (Shimano Alivio FC-M4050 170mm)
- Bottom Bracket (Hollowtech II Bottom Bracket SM-BB52 )
- Cassette (Generic Wide range 11 – 32T)
- Chain (Shimano CN-HG53 9 Speed)
- Hydraulic Brakes (Shimano Altus M355 Disc Brake)
- Wheels (Built at home with SLX FH-M675 Hubs)
The cassette and chain were the last things to be fitted. I almost didn’t bother changing them but somewhere in the back of my mind I recalled professional cyclists have a new chain for each race. And everyone knows you change your cassette at the same time as a worn chain.
The 1 km test ride the day before went fine. On the day the 7 km ride to St Mary Park to register for the TdM went fine. The first 10 km of the TdM went fine. The it happened an annoying clunk every few crank revolutions. I thought my indexing was off so tried to dial that in with the cable tension. This was no solution and the noise got worse and became very annoying as other riders overtook me.
By the time I got to the first hill I had to get off my bike. I looked at my chain and discovered it had right angles. The rollers had become so marled up that the side plates of the chain were seized and couldn’t pivot to get though the rear derailleur. Thank goodness I had a chain tool with me or that would have been the end of my ride. I cut out the worst links and was able to carry on to the feed station, where I knew the mechanics from King Kogs were waiting for me. I had phoned ahead to let them know I needed a new chain.
I can’t thank the mechanics enough for their help. I would not have been able to carry on without their help. They inspected my bike and the consensus was that my generic cassette was the problem. It had damaged the chain and that had caused all my problems. To my horror they didn’t have any new chains. They did their best to loosen seized links and drowned that chain in oil. They also informed me to only use the largest cogs of the cassette.
The repairs meant I was now at the back of the field. The feed station in a pub car park was almost empty. There was no water left and I was feeling demoralised. I set off feeling some trepidation at the mammoth ride still ahead of me and it soon dawned on me that it was going to be a slow ride due to the gearing of my drive train.
At the back I had an 11 – 32T cassette but now I was only able to use the 24T, 28T and 32T sprockets. At the front I had recent changed from an Alivio FC-T4010 48/36/26 to the Alivio FC-M4050 40/30/22 crankset. So now my fastest (high) combination was 40T by 24T. My average speed plummeted and on the flat I had to use a high cadence just to approach a normal speed. Slight downhill slopes were awful, I just had to let gravity move me alone best it could.
The one strange and unexpected silver lining to this whole event was that I became reprogrammed to enjoy cycling up hills. This pleasure for riding up hills has stayed with me and long may it last.
I could spin and make great progress up hills. I began to prey the next corner would have a big hill and occasionally I had the delight at the top of a hill with a steep decent where I could pick up speed and tick off a few more miles with ease.
Woes Caused by the Greed of Man
A week after the TdM I found out a pair of chains, I had bought from two different sellers were counterfeit. The metal was obviously softer and therefore easily damaged.
I confirmed this as I fitted an identical chain from a similar seller onto a known good cassette and within 3 days (65 km) I was facing the same problems. Until this point I didn’t know people even counterfeited Shimano chains. I have switched to KMC chains as their side plate profiling and finish make them look a more challenging prospect for counterfeiters. I only now buy my chains form trusted sellers.
One may think the moral of this story is beware of rouge traders, but it is actually ‘learn from the mistakes of others’ . My advice here is get your bike ready a week before the event and test ride the hell out of it long before the big day.
I’ll leave you with one of Aesop’s Fabels which I feel sums up todays lesson!
The Ageing Lion and the Fox
A lion who was getting old and could no longer obtain his food by force decided that he must resort to trickery instead. So he retired to a cave and lay down pretending to be ill. Thus, whenever an animal came to his cave to visit him, he ate them all as they appeared.
When many animals had disappeared, a fox figured out what was happening. He went to see the lion but stood at a safe distance outside the cave and asked him how he was.
‘Oh, not very well’, said the lion. ‘But why don’t you come in?’
But the fox said:
‘I would come inside if I hadn’t seen that a lot of footprints are pointing inwards towards your cave but none are pointing out.’
Wise men note the indications of dangers and thus avoid them.