When I went out for a ride on my singlespeed mountain bike on Thursday, little did I know what I was in for. It wasn't going to be a long ride and not at a terribly intense pace as a recovery from Wednesday night's thrashing. I hit up some local trails near Navarre (some of you know where they are) and was on my way home when I broke my chain just as I reached the top of a short, steep climb.
Sure, it was a bummer, but I had my multi-tool and proceeded to start fixing it. I removed the broken link and reconnected the chain within minutes. No worries, right? Sure enough, when I went to put the wheel back on, the chain was too short. Thinking that perhaps the tensioner was the problem, I decided to take it out of the system and only wrap the chainring and cog. My thinking being that, even if the the chain was a little too long, I could still ride it. Needless to say, the chain was still too short for that arrangement to work. I only removed one link!
Now I'm wondering what the heck I'm going to do given that I have at least 6 miles to get home and I'm on a bit of a deadline for making dinner plans later that evening. Back when I built my singlespeed, I used primarily spare parts and so there are a bunch of cassette spacers on the hub to properly align the single cog with the chainring. Well, I ran out of cassette spacers while putting the wheel together and used an old 12-tooth cog as my final spacer before the lock ring. Sure, it looked goofy, but it got the job done.
Since the 12-tooth cog is smaller in diameter than the 20-tooth cog the chain is supposed to run on, I figured I could take a chance and route the chain over the 12-tooth and through the tensioner to limp home. My biggest concern was how well the chain would stay on the chainring considering how bad this made the chain line. Well, it worked, but that's a qualified "worked".
I probably dropped my chain five times on the way home, but found that as long as I didn't go over too bumpy of terrain and kept nice, steady pressure on the pedals, the chain would stay on fairly well. Well enough to get home, at least. The moral of today's story:
Always have at least two speeds on your single speed.
With that in mind, I might move the smaller cog a little closer to the bigger cog to help chain line should I need to do this again... That said, perhaps a frame with horizontal dropouts would be the more proper, although more expensive, solution.