The chain on the my long bike (above) had been making rattling noises for some time, and the bike had long regarded gear changes as suggestions which it would think about for a bit and then possibly follow, or maybe not. Frequently it would jump gears or more likely, wait a bit until I’d forgotten about it and then suddenly change at an awkward moment.

This clearly would not do, especially now I have a workshop at my disposal, so this week I put the bike on the stand and had a look at it.

The chain on a bike will eventually wear out with use, and as it gets worse it starts to wear the gears, so it should be changed every few thousand kilometres. I couldn’t actually remember when I’d last changed any of the parts on this bike, but I knew it was before I moved to the Breisgau a couple of years ago, and possibly even before I cycled my first imperial century back in 2019, so it was probably overdue.

Many years ago I’d reluctantly changed from a seven speed system to an eight speed, simply because it as getting difficult to find spare parts for seven speed gear systems. The Xtracycle had always refused to accept the march of progress and had consistently jumped a gear. Strangely the gear was different depending on whether I was changing up or down.

I’d accepted this as part of life’s rich tapestry, because of the sheer length of cable on a long bike, but with some more experience in setting gears I wanted to see if I could persuade it to cooperate. I’d noticed that even a few centimetres difference on a gear cable could affect performance dramatically so I decided to see how I could make the new cable as short and straight as possible.This meant applying the “scientific method” ie: Trial and error. I ran the new cables along a route that seemed a good idea at the time and cable tied it to the frame where I could. This is about as close to engineering as I get, I’m afraid.

To my astonishment, it worked, and that without having to drag the gear levers back and forth as before. It also had ceased to make sufficient noise to frighten wildlife and small children.

I even had time to fine tune the brakes, so now the bike will start and stop on command.

There are rumours of a bike tour with the Boys in a few months; I’d originally intended to use the Wayfarer tourer but now that this bike is working better, possibly than ever before, I’m wondering if this would make an acceptable ride, so I’ll have to try some medium distance rides on it over the next weeks.

It’s tough, but I think I’ll manage it…