Monday, October 10, 2011

Weak link

The replaceable rear derailleur hanger is the bane of a derailleur engineer's existence. I got my start at SRAM designing rear derailleurs and even had the corny nickname "Mr. X.O" for a while. In a crash, the replaceable hanger is designed to bend or break and thereby prevent damage to the bike's frame. The problem is that most are so poorly designed that they flex every time you shift gears, making the derailleur less accurate, and they bend far too easily from even the lightest impact. That's exactly what happened to me in the opening minute of Sunday's CX race in Chicago. My bike's RD hanger bent inward after a very light spill, and when I tried to shift to the largest cog at the base of the first hill, I stuffed my derailleur into my rear wheel. The sickening crunch told me immediately what had happened so I shouldered my bike and started running. As I negotiated the course, a helpful spectator shouted that I had dropped my chain. "I dropped my rear derailleur, too!" I yelled back with a smile. I coasted down the hill and finally made it back to the pits. I might not have run as far as the 40,000 people participating in the marathon elsewhere in Chicago that day, but I was still pretty whipped by the time I grabbed my spare bike and started chasing.
Digging deep. Photo: Ellen
My goal was to try to race my way back into the top ten. Well, I must have been having a good day because soon my goal changed to cracking the top five, then the top three, then second place. One thing that helped make up a few seconds was bunny hopping not only the log but also the single barrier in the southeast section of the course every lap. Here's a link to a cool multiple-exposure photo of me hopping over the log.

Second place was the perfect result for the day - I was incredibly motivated by constantly having someone up ahead to chase down, and also super happy that my teammate David Reyes scored his first Cat 1/2 win!

This week I plan to misappropriate SRAM's prototype shop to machine a couple of replacement rear derailleur hangers for my bike. From 4340 chrome-molybdenum steel.


  1. I was chatting with C-dale about this problem today, those hangers bend way too easy! We've gone through 20 this year already. How hard would I have to twist your arm to make a couple extras??

  2. We could use some for our Felt's too while you're at it! ;-)

    Great show yesterday, inspiring to say the least.

  3. That was one of the most impressive comebacks that I have seen in a long time. We did have hopes in slowing you down a bit with our new course design by changing it to a power course, with little reprieve. We didn’t count on you having your hanger break, and then putting on your secret squirrel coat.

  4. that was a killer effort, and as fun to "call" as it was to watch...missed the barrier hop though - nice!