Tag Archives: biking to work

My broken bicycle chain

The other night I was riding my bike home from work when I started to hear this clicking sound. I couldn’t tell what was wrong exactly, but every three or four pedals, it was this noticeable click. One block away from work, two blocks, I started building up some speed and the clicks came at shorter intervals. Part of me thought, OK, something’s definitely wrong, like I know it’s not supposed to be making those sounds, but what was I going to do? It’s not like I had any tools on me, and even if I did, I wasn’t really in the mood to start pretending to be a bike mechanic on the side of East Fifty-Fourth Street.

So I started changing the gears rapidly, like maybe that would fix it. You want to something to click about? I’ll give you something to click about. Only, and this is totally speaking in retrospect, but I wish I had just left it in that one gear, because after a few turns of the shifter, the pedals jammed like the chain got stuck. I looked down, and it actually came apart, one of the links broke, and I watched the line of metal wind its way through the derailleur and then drop onto the floor.

This all happened within maybe ten seconds. It was like I was watching it, but I couldn’t really comprehend what was going on. My eyes saw the chain leave the bike, but my legs kept pedaling futilely, with nothing to give them any resistance, it was just this hollow motion, all while my brain simply could not make sense of the visual, the tactile, finally my momentum came to an end and I had to get off the bike.

I walked back and found the chain. For some reason that stupid, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” saying ran through my head, and it got me really annoyed. I had just worked a double, my back was killing me. All I wanted to do was get home and watch some TV before I passed out for the night, but now I really was going to have to pretend to be a bike mechanic on the side of the street.

The thing about bike chains, you touch them once and that’s it, that’s the last thing you can touch until you have a chance to get to a bathroom sink. Whatever bike chain grease is made out of, it gets everywhere. And of course I didn’t think about that, I just picked up the chain, and then next thing I knew I had grease on my shirt, on my backpack. I looked down and my left hand was in my left pocket looking for keys or something I might use as a tool.

I wasted twenty minutes looping the bike chain back through the system, and then I tried my best to hammer the chain back together with my bare hands. I stood the bike back upright and took off. Unfortunately, my fingers weren’t able to do the trick like a bike chain tool does, and so it was click, click, and the whole thing fell apart almost immediately.

It was close to midnight. I didn’t know what to do. Finding a cab that would let me shove my bike in the backseat would have been a long shot. Then again, I was kind of far from the subway, and at this time of night, I had no idea how much time I would have spent waiting for a train. I finally decided that I’d sit on the bike and push myself home, like a scooter.

It was one of those ideas that sounded great in my head, but halfway across the Queensboro Bridge, way too late to turn back and figure something else out, I realized what a strain this was on my system, my chest muscles felt like they were supporting my arms holding onto the handlebars, pushing my torso outward while my legs took turns alternating between standing on a pedal and pushing off the ground like I would a skateboard.

And I woke up this morning and my right foot was all swollen, like I could feel my actions last night aggravating muscles that I probably don’t use much while I’m walking or running, but I had stubbornly kept at it, refusing to let any more of the night pass than it already had. And now I’m sitting here looking at this bike with no chain, totally useless.

I love riding a bike because I’m free to go anywhere in the city without ever having to spend any time waiting around for buses or trains. And usually it’s great, I have my commute timed out to the minute, I save a lot of money on not having to buy a monthly MetroCard. But every once in a while something like this happens, something breaks, or it starts raining, or the bike lane on the bridge gets shut down for repairs. And then I’m stuck, I have to figure something out, I can’t take a cab, I can’t even run. In these moments, no longer is my bike a key to freedom, it’s an anchor, weighing me down wherever I happen to be, I’m mercilessly bound to the present.

It’s getting real hot out there

I spent a fair amount of last summer complaining about the heat. I’d sit down to write something, but the sweat would be pouring out of my body, soaking my laptop, making it impossible to write anything of significance. As my fingers would slip on the keys, as the messages popped up on the screen, “Reminder, do not pour liquids onto your computer,” I’d think to myself, this sucks, I’m so hot, I’m not getting any writing done, and everything that I do wind up writing, it’s just this long whiney complaint about being hot.

heat sunset res

Then the fall came, and that was great. Even winter was a welcome relief. And it wasn’t until about March or April that I really started to get sick of the cold. This year winter wouldn’t take the hint. It was like when you have your friends over and it’s three in the morning and you’re pretending to act like you’re still having a good time, that you’re not super tired, wishing that everyone would just leave already so you could go to sleep, and just when you think somebody might make a move for the door, somebody else sinks a little deeper into the couch and asks, “Anybody feel like getting a game of Monopoly going?”

But winter’s finally over. Spring made a delayed appearance for like a week or so. And then I woke up yesterday and it was summer again. The first day came and went and I didn’t complain. It wasn’t that hot, there was a nice breeze, I got to go outside in shorts. It was pretty pleasant considering how long winter took to finally melt away into warmer weather.

But then day two. I always bike to work and, not really thinking it through, I wore jeans and a t-shirt. Come on, I thought, it’s still May. It’s totally going to be OK. It totally wasn’t OK. The humidity was reminiscent of August. I wasn’t even halfway to the restaurant and, although you might not be able to tell just by looking at me, the entire surface of my body was covered in sweat.

It’s like, I love wearing jeans, but I can’t think of anything more uncomfortable than sweating through a thick pair of denim. The pants turn to sandpaper. Every step, every pedal on the bike, it becomes an exercise in exfoliating the skin on my legs, one layer at a time, until there’s nothing left but rash and raw.

And then I got to work and I had to change into my work clothes. I took off my damp jeans, my moistened shirt. And that wasn’t even the wettest part. My undershirt, my boxers, my socks, even though I’m going to be putting on a fresh change of clothing, everything underneath is heavy with perspiration.

I changed into my uniform. You know how it is, your body takes a minute or so to cool down. I thought my jeans were restrictive, but wearing dress pants, a shirt, tie, and a giant waiter’s apron, that was downright stifling. Not only did the sweating not stop, it actually picked up a little bit. I could start to feel my freshly laundered outfit starting to absorb it’s own layer of gross.

Man, and what the fuck? Why did it feel like the heat was still on? My restaurant is at the bottom of this gigantic building in Midtown. I can only guess that, in an effort to not be surprised if winter decides to make one or two more guest appearances this early in the warm season, they’re delaying the official changing of the thermostat for as long as possible.

I’m going to try and stop complaining. There’s nothing I can do about the heat, and it’s still May. It’s only going to get hotter and hotter. But man, I’m so f’n hot. I wake up in the morning and my mouth is like sealed shut because it’s so hot out and it makes the inside of my mouth so dry and then I go and try to get my day started but I get out of the shower and I’m already soaked through with sweat again and by the time I sit down to write even though I’m telling myself not to write about being so hot I can’t help it it’s all I can think about I can’t stop writing I can’t even make commas or periods I’m so fucking hot.