Something went wonky with Basil’s shifter during the Iron Tour; it stopped snapping back into place, and just flopped between settings when I changed gears. Basil kept running, and his gears appeared to shift, so we just kept going. Crazy or not, the idea of stopping just didn’t occur to me. Basil seemed fine; his shifter was just a bit floppy when moving between gear settings.
Owing to various factors, I hadn’t ridden much since the Iron Tour, but after a short ride a bit later, I folded Basil to take a photo, and that bit above fell out of Basil’s axle. I cleverly suspected this had something to do with the wonky shifter.
It turns out that this little chain and post are Basil’s gear indicator, which explained why the shifter had earlier felt so wrong; presumably, the gear indicator had been gradually slipping out for a while. The shifter levers, of course, are what indicate which gear one is using.
As it happened, Mr. Diarist encouraged me to buy a couple of photos from the Iron Tour. Along with a shot or two of Basil in action, it turned out that I’d failed to notice that the gear indicator had disconnected during the Tour. A photo from the Tour documented this:
Ignorance is a bad thing. I was distracted when I did Basil’s post-tour maintenance, and didn’t fully inspect all his bits and pieces — although how I failed to notice the significance of this is baffling.
All that trouble I had on the hills during the Iron Tour? Could some of that be laid to improper gear usage once the indicator was no longer functioning?
This necessitated an unplanned trip to New York so that Basil could be put back into top form once again. Since I come from out of state, I emailed NYCeWheels first, and Peter suggested a good time for me to show up; there are no guarantees that NYCeWheels can be certain to be able to do quick service on short notice, but they’ve been wonderfully accommodating about doing what they can, and this time, too, they were able to work Basil in, and also get him out the door speedily.
Here’s how the gear indicator looked when Basil was returned to me after Izzy, NYCeWheel’s senior mechanic, had put everything back in order:
I was a little surprised that this issue turned up only a month after Basil’s 1,000 mile/1 609 km tune up, which he’d had on May 7th. Was there no sign of the indicator slipping then? Had there been no sign that the indicator was not properly engaged? Had the shifter not been adjusted correctly, or had it seemed to not need checking? Should it have been caught at the tune-up?
NYCeWheels owner Bert was in the shop when I collected Basil, and we talked it over. I still don’t know the answer to these questions, but Bert was kind enough to adjust the bill — even though I was willing to pay all of it — and I learned some valuable lessons:
- If it doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t. Stop and investigate.
- Know your bike well! (Not just his delightful, nimble personality!)
- Check everything when doing post-ride maintenance — don’t settle for just currying the tires and focusing narrowly on simply cleaning and oiling various parts.
- Photograph your B from both sides, so that you get used to how he looks from either direction!
These issues are a bit difficult for me, as one promise I made when I acquired Basil was that I wouldn’t be the one to maintain him once he joined the family. Acquiring a Brompton was part of a larger plan to teach me to relax, and to avoid being as compulsive and task-oriented as is my natural state.
The intention was that, by insisting that Basil would be strictly a vehicle for cycling, rather than tinkering or maintenance, I’d get used to the idea of simply recreating with him. As it turns out, that’s not exactly how it works — or how it can work.
Balance: easier to achieve on two wheels than in life. Another lesson learned; I can’t totally abdicate from the essential responsibilities of making sure my B is in the shape he needs to be in order to continue to run well.