"Have you got a chain tool and enough time to use it?”
Mike had greasy hands and it only took one look to figure out what had happened. I had one of those emergency chain tools that comes on a multitool, so I figured I’d stop. “Sure, I’ve got the time & a few things that might come in handy.”
I’d never met Mike before him flagging me down to borrow my chain tool. I usually end up pulling over once a week to help a stranded cyclist or at least ask the question of whether they need help. The outer plate on the chain had fractured and eventually split, largely due to neglect. Mike set to work popping the old link off. With great difficulty he used my Crank Bros Multi19 to pop the link off, with the intent of pushing the pin back in, but he pushed it too far and popped it all the way out. I dug in to my toolkit and came up with a set of disposable gloves and a spare SRAM Powerlink I’d saved from an old chain that would work with Mike’s chain (whenever I replace a chain, I save the Powerlink; for an on-the-fly repair, a worn powerlink is just as good as a new one).
Mike was struggling a bit to keep his composure and thinking straight at this point, so I tried a different tactic. I looked over the bike and asked if Mike was an Adventure racer, as he had the frame bag and several things attached to the bike that made it more suitable for XC racing than regular mountain biking. “Yeah, I did the Ride the Divide race 2 years ago.” “How’d you go?” “I placed ___, over 22 days” “Man, I wouldn’t have cared if you’d placed last, just finishing that race is impressive in itself.” Mike laughed at this, and I think it helped him relax and accept a little more help than the DIY attitude he had until that point.
I pointed out that he’d popped the link completely out, and even with a good tool it’s tough to put the link back in. Instead, I offered one of my SRAM powerlinks, mentioning that he could snap links on without any tools and it would get him on his way more reliably than mucking around with pins. In about 2 minutes he had the second set of outer plates off and the new link in. When he threaded it through the pulleys, I noticed he’d twisted the chain and fixed it before it got any worse. I think it was at this point he realised why I put on gloves, because I held the pulleys in the untensioned position to make it easier to snap the new Powerlinks back together and held the grimy, dirty bike off the ground when he was installing the new one. All in all, the entire process took 17 minutes, mostly trying to pop the links off using a tiny emergency tool. It works, but like a tiny little bicycle pump vs. a floor pump, it doesn’t work very well.
"I don’t know what to say, other than it’s a long walk back to Seattle." Mike wanted to pay me back for the parts and said he’d get some of his own, but I told him that I just pulled them off my old chains and they were worth nothing, and that when he replaces the worn out chain on his bike he could just save the old powerlinks from this chain and put it in his toolkit. Before we parted ways, I reminded him the chain was now one link shorter, so he should be careful using his big cogs and rings together.
Definitely falls under, “Something that has never happened before on my way to work”.
Racer name was Michael Komp. He was on the same bike he did the Divide race on.