Sometime between lunch and when I left the office, I had talked myself into competing in one more triathlon before going to Provence next month. (What? You didn’t know I was going? Well, stay tuned.) There was only one little problem: this is an off-road/trail tri, and I don’t have a mountain bike I can use for it.
Which isn’t to say that I don’t have a mountain bike. Quite the contrary! In our basement is the first bike I ever bought, a 1994 GT Avalanche AL. I’ve had some good times with that bike, but I haven’t ridden it outside since the rear shift levers broke several years ago.  I did a fair amount of riding on it before we moved from Newton to Milford in 2004, but almost all of the mileage afterward was on the trainer in the basement.
My desire to fix the right-hand shifter—which had been in a serious state of nonexistence—was quickly rekindled by the idea of a sprint triathlon involving a pond swim, a mountain bike ride, and a trail run. But would I be able to fix something that most people (including bike repair shops) don’t recommend trying to tackle? “Who knows?” I thought, “But what’s the worst that can happen? It’s still broken.”
When I was a teenager, I took pride in the fact that I could fix anything on my Huffy. (I put over 1,500 miles on that bike one summer, including three 100+ mile rides.) But times change. While I was glad that indexed shifting came along to relieve us of the aggravation of trying to hunt for the right gear, maintenance became a bit more involved. I still do most of the maintenance on my own, but this kind of surgery had me intimidated.
So how did it go? Let the pictures do the talking:
The problem was that the hammer part of the ratchet mechanism wasn’t catching the sprocket. Or rather it was so gunked up that it would catch once but then be incapable of returning to the correct position for more shifting, so I could change gears every few minutes. But that’s not really so useful, is it? A couple hours later I was putting it all back together as best I could and hoping that I hadn’t broken it too badly when I popped a rivet that was holding part of it together. (An hour after that I was cleaning up a mini mess I made when cleaning the filthy, filthy cassette and chain. Yuck!)
The quality of my work will be known when I give it a ride in a couple days. Before that can happen, I have more to do. Tubes and tires and brake pads need changing. Handlebar grips need replacing. Cables need tightening. Derailleurs need adjusting. Parts need lubing. Saddles need cleaning. Aluminum needs polishing.
And once again, when it comes to triathlon, I ask myself this question: What have I gotten myself into?
 — Good times include riding the 1990 world cross-country course in 1994, trying to scrape my face off in a ditch in Iowa, and passing riders on “real bikes” with my knobby tires humming along. [Back . . .]