(Good for you, assholes.)
Given the beguiling combination of unseasonably warm temperatures and autumn foliage we're currently experiencing, I figured I'd be a real schmuck if I didn't head out this morning for a mountain bike ride. So that's just what I did, and you can believe me when I tell you I was congratulating myself the whole time for shirking my relatively few responsibilities in order to indulge in some of the finest mall-adjacent all-terrain bicycling Yonkers has to offer:
I had just scaled a particularly steep climb when I noticed my chain was skipping a bit, which is odd, because my antique hand-curated 1x9 drivetrain usually works flawlessly. After twiddling my barrel adjuster a bit (gigglechortle) to no avail, it finally occurred to me to look downward, and I noticed that my chain watcher/catcher/dingle-dangle-whatever-you-want-to-call-it thingy was all askew. Clearly something had knocked it out of whack and it was interfering with my chain. So I straightened it out and continued, and it happened again, so I fixed it again, and it happened yet again. So I lay the bike down in frustration:
As I stared at it, it became clear to me that my kludgy drivetrain was hopelessly outmoded and that I needed to upgrade to one of those new fancy-pants dedicated 1x11 drivetrains with the clutch derailleur and the special chainring and the hi-drolic dick breaks and all the rest of it. So I whipped out my smartphone, filled a virtual shopping cart with hundreds of dollars of bike parts, and was listening for the sound of the delivery drone when I had a crazy idea:
"Maybe I should look at the chain."
So I did, and that's when I noticed it was broken:
"Hmmm, that might explain my poor shifting performance," I thought.
It was at that point the drone arrived, so I smashed it with a rock, buried its payload, covered the spot with some dead leaves, and informed the online retailer that I'd never received my order.
They refunded my money immediately.
Unrelated, if anyone wants a fancy-pants 1x11 drivetrain I'll sell you one cheap. Brand new, never used, some dirt on the packaging. Cash only.
Anyway, so there I was with a broken chain, which is no big deal, since I always carry a chain tool when I go mountain biking. All I had to do was remove the offending link, close the chain again, and avoid my lowest gear. No problem. So I opened my voluminous saddle bag and it shouldn't surprise you at all to learn there was no chain tool in there. Nor was there one in my backpack, which is the second place I looked.
The courteous fellows who stopped and asked me if I needed anything didn't have one either.
Most vexing was that I'd once found a chain tool in almost this exact spot. I carried it around thinking maybe I'd bump into the owner, and when I didn't I just kept it. It now dawned on me that this rider had probably stopped here to fix a chain and forgotten it. Now here I was in need of a chain tool and I didn't have one. It was karma, or something.
Of course the chain had not given way completely, so I shifted into the straightest chainline possible and gently pedaled to the nearest bike shop. (In case you're wondering what the retail price on a Park CT-5 is in an actual brick-and-mortar bike shop is these days, it's like two hundred bucks.) I also picked up some lunch and treated myself to an ice-cold Coca-Cola for my troubles, and when I went to pop it open here's what happened:
Man, this country's going down the tubes.
Fortunately I had my chain tool, so I was able to rectify the situation:
By the way, if you would like to weigh in on why my chain broke and how it's my fault (it was too long, it was too short, it was the wrong brand, it was lubed incorrectly, it was installed upside-down, etc.) please leave your comments here.
In other news, we've been hearing a lot about how Sky and other pro cycling teams enjoy the painkiller Tramadol:
Tiernan-Locke also revealed that the Great Britain team, at the 2012 World Championships, offered riders Tramadol "freely around," but he did not take it. "I wasn't in any pain so I didn't need to take it, and that was offered freely around. It just didn't sit well with me at the time. I thought, 'I'm not in any pain', why would I want a painkiller?'"
As I understand it, the reason they take Tramadol is that it allows them to ride through the pain, with the inconvenient side-effect that they get all wonky and crash into each other.
Anyway, here's an article in the Wall Street Journal about how Tramadol use is becoming something of a global crisis:
Indeed, apparently they use so much of the stuff in Cameroon that it's in the plants now:
Inexpensive, imported tramadol is so heavily abused in northern Cameroon that it seeps from human and animal waste into the groundwater and soil, where vegetation absorbs it, wrote Michael Spiteller and Souvik Kusari, chemists at the University of Dortmund.
Farmers in Northern Cameroon told the researchers that they take double or triple the safe dosage, and feed tramadol to cattle to help them pull plows through the scorching afternoon sun.
Hey, if it can help cattle pull plows, imagine what it must do for emaciated humans on ultralight bicycles!
It was also invented by the company that brought you thalidomide:
Dr. Flick says he developed a molecule that seemed promising. But just when he was finishing tramadol’s development, Grünenthal was overtaken by a crisis: Its popular drug thalidomide was causing catastrophic birth defects.
And refined by a former SS who cut his research teeth experimenting on prisoners:
That changed after a Grünenthal scientist, Ernst-Günther Schenck, started testing the drug. Dr. Schenck, a former Waffen SS official who conducted nutrition experiments that killed prisoners during World War II, found tramadol effective for different types of pain. And it appeared to be less addictive than other opioids. He published several papers on its efficacy, and in 1977, Germany approved tramadol for sale. Dr. Schenck died in 1998.
Now that's a pedigree.
It also goes great with coffee:
Tramadol that goes from India to Benin makes its way to places like Garoua, a smoky city in northern Cameroon where vultures circle over the edge of town. Men in caftans buy boxes labeled “Super Royal X-225” from curbside vendors for a few cents a pill. The potent red tablets are known as “tomates” because the little red apples printed on their boxes remind locals of tomatoes. Coffee sellers with outdoor stands will empty a couple of tramadol capsules into a customer’s Nescafe for 10 cents.
So look for "tomato"-infused lattes at a Rapha Cycle Club near you.
Hey, if it's good enough for Boko Haram it's good enough for the peloton:
Further north, where Cameroon narrows to a thin spit between Nigeria and Chad, the drug is popular with the terrorist group Boko Haram. “We find tramadol packets in the pockets of those we kill,” says a Cameroon army commander who oversees antiterror missions.
So there you go.
Lastly, Road World Champion Peter Sagan got lots of attention when he showed up at the UCI gala wearing this:
I'm not sure which he looks like most: a Mississippi riverboat gambler, Willy Wonka, or the guy on the corner selling Tramadol.