Riding up and down hills on the Northern Tier Route requires a lot of shifting. At times I shifted more in a day than I might in a month at home. The continual shifting caused the front derailleur cable to break on July 26 in Evans, New York. Fortunately, I had a spare cable. In a short time, I changed out the cable and started riding again.
My Bianchi Volpe was fitted with Shimano Dura-Ace bar end shifters. Before the cable broke, shifting became more difficult. After I installed the new cable, shifting was much easier. The next time I was near a bicycle shop, I picked up a spare derailleur cable. With a front derailleur, when the cable breaks, the chain moves to the smallest chain ring. This lets you ride, but limits your range of gears to adapt to the terrain. You are stuck in the low range. I knew if the rear cable broke, the chain would move to the smallest rear cog, leaving me in a relatively high gear regardless of which chain ring was used in the front.
Eventually, the rear derailleur became very difficult to shift. Rod, Denny and I spent Tuesday night, before our last day of riding, camping in Alex Allmayer-Beck’s back yard. Alex told us he had every tool in the Park Tool catalog and asked if he could help with any problems. I mentioned the shifting on my rear derailleur. He said there was a simple adjustment. The next morning it only took him moments to tell me it was a cable issue, not an adjustment. Alex helped me get the new cable installed and adjusted. The old cable had failed. Broken strands of wire were jamming at the end of the housing. The shifting improved dramatically after with the new cable. Maine is full of hills, all the way to Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island. I was really glad to have easier gear selection again.
For many people the ride across America might represent many years of riding and shifting, still it pays to check the condition of your shifting cables, before they break or become difficult to shift.