Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Missing Link

It has been some time since an evening out with the TCA has been blighted by technical problems and descended into farce. After years of experience we have all by now procured the relevant tools and equipment to sort out most common problems on the hoof. Tonight we yet again found that only a thin line divides success and, more common in the case of the TCA, failure.

The evening started well: John and Al arrived in good time at Jon’s who, with a week off work to peruse the map, had devised that most exciting of prospects – a new route! We planned an assault on the Trundle again but bearing west instead of east to take in the hills above
Chichester. The glorious weather continued with a mild, sunny evening – perfect conditions; it felt like we hadn’t had rain for weeks.

Ready in record time we headed out of the city on the familiar route towards Goodwood motor racing circuit’s perimeter track. Jon however had problems engaging the correct gear on his rear cassette, the chain slipping with every revolution. Jon pulled up for a diagnosis and we spotted that one of the links had twisted. ‘No problem’ we thought, whip that bad-boy out and replace the dodgy link using the spare connecting links we routinely carry (above, left); something we’ve done plenty of times.

John brandished his spanking brand new-fangled multi-tool like a weapon but we could not figure out how to use the chain tool. Al deferred to the old technology and using the more basic version had the offending link out in record time. Like a well-oiled formula one team Jon was already standing by with the connecting link… so far so good… but no matter how much brute force Jon applied to the pins on the connecting link they just would not fit through the two ‘eyes’ in the opposing ends of the chain. The conclusion was obvious - for some reason we had the wrong sized link, didn’t we? It was these links we used on Ad’s bike when he snapped a chain on the Quantocks, wasn't it? Was Jon’s chain the culprit? The only thing for it was a mercy-dash to Halfords about a mile away. Al drew the short straw and remounted with the twisted link, the spare connecting pin and ten quid.

The grease monkies at Halfords spotted the problem immediately – we had a connecting link for a 5/6 speed chain; we needed a link for a 9 speed chain. With the new links in hand and down only £2.99 Al sped back, humming the theme from Damnbusters, to his stranded compatriots. Somewhat belatedly John exclaimed that he had now figured out how his new-fangled chain tool worked, as Al ripped open the new packed of connecting links, and Jon aligned the pins and… these ones didn’t fit either! We were flummoxed: The only thing for it was for John and Al to continue alone while Jon walked his bike to Halfords for closer inspection. The remaining two decided to curtail the original route and do the familiar run to the Fox Goes Free.

John had his first taste of the punishing haul up Clay Pit Lane towards the trundle and his first taste of the routine humiliation which often seems to go hand-in-hand with being a member of the TCA, as we were easily overtaken by a overweight casual cyclist on a cheap mountain bike wearing shell-suit bottoms, seemingly putting very little effort into climbing the hill. Eventually we reached the top where we had decided we would call Jon to catch up on his progress. Al noticed he had missed a call and on dialing his voicemail number had a message from Jon “My chain’s fixed! I have set off around the route in reverse so I’ll meet you halfway round somewhere”. Great! We were back in business. It then occurred to John and Al to wonder whether Jon had heard their discussion about the revised route: Was he on the original plan to the west, or behind us climbing the trundle? Al called back but got no answer so the Trundle pair metaphorically tossed a coin and decided that Jon was on the original route. Fortunately, just as they were about to proceed Jon called back to explain his was on the Goodwood perimeter track (new route) and it was then decided to meet at the Selsey Arms, West Dean (Su857 124): Jon would circumvent the Trundle, Al and John would descend to the west.

Al (
Harvey’s Sussex Bitter) and John (Guinness) enjoyed a leisurely pint while they waited. Jon arrived, sweating profusely after his gate-strewn thrash up the valley, and nearly downed his pint of bitter in one. The map was studied again and the decision taken to return directly to Lavant. Meanwhile John explained the mystery: The twisted link which we had removed was on an ‘inner plate’ link (see diagram below) leaving two ‘outer plate’ eyes to join. However, the spare connecting links are designed to join ‘inner plate’ eyes (incidentally it is usually the ‘outer plates’ which break when one suffers a broken chain). Simply by removing another link the grease monkeys had managed to expose two ‘inner plates’ to join using the 9-speed connecting link.

The weakest Link

Jon suggested a change from our usual stop, The Royal Oak, and after some head scratching eventually found the alternative Earl of March (SU857 082) which benefits from a nice (patio heater-free) garden which seemed quite popular with other bikers. More Sussex Bitter, more Guinness under a gibbous moon on a star-lit night, a laugh over our misfortune, a game of ‘name the blog posting’, and all was well… until we realised that Jon’s rear tyre had gone down.

A toast to absent friends, The Earl of March

Rather than patch the inner-tube up we decided to pump the tyre up as it was, but the pump Jon inherited from Billy-Bob wasn’t really up to the task as Jon and Al took turns to inflate the tyre: Queue much merriment and double-entendres from John. As usual Billy-Bob had cut some corners and bought a cheap and nasty pump but the situation was ameliorated by Al’s luxury Topeak ‘Master Blaster Pocket Rocket’ (admittedly bought primarily because of the name).

Jon attends to his ailing bike

Jon limped home on his semi-inflated tyre and cooked a magnificent spaghetti bolognese for the boys. Left with an average speed for the ride not much higher than walking pace (left), not for the first time the TCA was left reflecting on it’s incompetence.

Route Map (click to enlarge):

Elevation Profile:

Speed Profile:

(Posted by: Al)

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At 4:51 pm, April 20, 2007, Blogger Tortoiseshell said...

Sussex ale sounds nice - though wouldn't cycle for it...

At 10:49 pm, April 20, 2007, Blogger Ju's little sister said...

Impotence? What impotence?
Did you sulk about the broken chain and go home? No. Did you sent Jon packing and carry on without him while he had a cry behind the bike sheds? No. Did you all decide to walk instead? No.
You never gave up, you never surrendered, you acted like Manly men and continued ever onwards despite the conditions.
Full credit to the potence of the TCA.

At 11:42 pm, April 20, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

JLS -Impotence?!I can assure you there is no impotence in the TCA.

Excellent Bog, one of the best yet, I was in stitches! Ahh the blasted chain link rears its head once more. Good job for Halfords eh! Jon best get some spares.

Apologies Jon, Al is correct that pump is a pile of pap.

It is about time there was a classic TCA epic it was beggining to run all too smoothly.

Good work fellas!


At 8:28 am, April 21, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

JLS, Incompetence NOT Impotence! I think that this year the founding fathers have proved that the latter is beyond all doubt ;o)

BB, You would have been in stitches on the night too! You pump is a bag of sh1te!

By the way, I sent a pair of my GILL gloves back to the manufacturers last week with a letter of complaint due to their disintegration - I got a brand new pair through the post today - £24 saved!



At 12:24 pm, April 21, 2007, Blogger lorenzothellama said...

How very technical. Afraid it most of it went way over my head.
What a lot of stoics you are in the face of adversity.

I do know about semi-inflated tyres though and pumping tyres is a job I hate so I tend to cycle on flattish ones. It feels as though you are cycling on blancmange.

At 10:56 pm, April 21, 2007, Blogger Ju's little sister said...



Ah, sorry fellas. Mmmm, freudian slip? On the other hand, were you at least a little bit flattered that I defended you so passionately? Lets forget a mis-read word and focus on the spirit of my post!

At 1:56 am, April 23, 2007, Blogger simon said...

yes I agree!!!

Now guys can you help me with this:- My rear tyre has blistered!

thats right big bulging blistered along the surface that is the prime contact to the track...

The tyres are tubless and expensive!

Why has it blistered???

At 1:57 am, April 23, 2007, Blogger simon said...

ps... I was wanting to know the details Ju's..


At 6:26 am, April 23, 2007, Blogger Ju's little sister said...

Ummm.... huh?

So much for being too quick for you. Details about what?

At 7:26 am, April 23, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

Simon, are they Maxxis High Roller UST? They are prone to blistering. I think this is actually a common problem with light-weight tyres.

I run Panaracer Fire XC Pro which are superb, have a really long life and great grip in all conditions. I think the benefit of saving a few grams on tubeless is marginal.

At 9:26 am, April 23, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

hmm, I am surprised your tubless tires have blistered. I am not up on tubless technology myself still running the old tubes. However the last mtn bike ride I did, I met a rider who also had blistered his tubless tires and it transpired after the race that he had the wrong tires for his rim spec. I doubt you have made this simple error though so I am stumped.


At 1:41 pm, April 23, 2007, Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Does blistering occur when tyres get hot? I have tubless on my racing bike (they are kept pumped up, not like my everyday, village, shopping, messing about bike). I dread getting a puncture with them as I'm not technical. I was told that the more you use them the harder and stronger they become. Hope they are right.

At 6:05 am, April 27, 2007, Blogger simon said...


I think, in part everyone is right on the issue of tyres.

I rang the bike shop, yes they can be prone to it in rocky terrain, where the track has sharp broken sandstone... it tears the fibres internally.

Becasue they are self repairing, i.e. up to 20 punctures before they go flat... they blister instead..



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