time reversal

the stories of four physicists separated by the whims of fate

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Derailleur Hangers and Migraines

October 24th, 2008 by liz

Two (somewhat) unfortunate things happened to me this week. On Wednesday morning, I got on my bike and started to pedal to work. I heard a loud snap, and then my rear derailleur got sucked into my back wheel and I abruptly stopped and fell over. I flipped my bike over and untangled everything, only to find that the derailleur hanger was broken.

Now, derailleur hangers are made of cheap aluminum, and they are made that way for a reason. It is much easier to replace a small bit of aluminum when you bash your derailleur on something than to fix a cracked frame or replace a derailleur. They are intentionally the weak point in the system. You might think, “Wow, what good idea,” and it is a good idea. Except for the fact that every bike manufacturer makes its own little piece of aluminum cut into a specific shape, and the little piece of aluminum has to be exact or it won’t work.

I unbolted my mangled derailleur hanger and my roommate gave me a ride to the bike shop in Berkeley. I handed the guy the two broken pieces and he said, “What kind of bike did this come from?” I told him, and he told me that no one in Berkeley carried that brand of bike, so no one would have this derailleur hanger in stock. I didn’t know what to do. Where would I ever find a derailleur hanger that was exactly right for my bike? It turns out that there is this nifty website, derailleurhanger.com, that sells every one of the hundreds of different sizes and shapes of derailleur hangers with handy pictures to compare to your broken one. I ordered two.

Luckily for me, the lab has a communal bike that lives in the office. My labmates said it was fine if I borrowed it until I acquired my new derailleur hanger, so I was mobile once again. Last night I biked to the climbing gym shortly after dark. I had had kind of a vague headache all day, and I just didn’t feel so hot. When I got to the gym, the lights were blinding. All of the tape on the walls that marked the routes looked fluorescent, a million times more vivid than I ever remember it being. The normally reasonable sound level in the gym was a deafening roar. Everything was just a little bit far away and unintelligible, and I felt almost dizzy.

What the hell was going on? Did someone drug my tea? Then I remembered the one time in my life that I had a migraine headache. How could I forget it? I quickly scarfed some Aleve, grabbed a granola bar and went to sit outside in the dark and quiet. After about half an hour, I was fine. Luckily, I had taken the headache medicine before the thumping, pounding, pulsing pain started in my head. Otherwise I would have been lying in a painful heap on the couch in the climbing gym calling my roommates for a ride home. As it was, I got to spend the evening climbing and then I biked home. Horray for painkillers! I can’t imagine what migraines must have been like before headache medicine was invented.

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