So there I was nearing the end of my usual bike ride early on Sunday morning when my bicycle started acting funny. The pedal under my left foot felt weird. It seemed to be twisting a little under my foot. I stopped the bike to inspect it but couldn’t see anything wrong. I even checked the bottom of my shoe to see if my old sneakers were wearing out and the sole slipping off them. Nope. I got back on the bike to give it another go and that’s when the whole pedal and its crank arm fell right off. Somewhere along my route the hex bolt that held on the crank arm (that’s the part that connects to the bike’s axel on one end and the pedal on the other) fell out. That’s not supposed to happen!

Luckily I was about a mile from home so I didn’t have too far to go. I put the pedal and crank arm onto the axel and tried gently pedaling to see if it would fall out. It did fairly quickly. After all there was nothing holding it in but a little friction and the pressure of my foot on the pedal could easily overcome that. It was a mostly flat ride with a slight downhill grade the last quarter mile home so I made it by coasting and gingerly pedaling as the crank arm fell off a couple of times. I was really annoyed when I got home.

I had just replaced both crank arms on my bike last year and have had a little problem with them. Mostly it’s been that the hex bolts that held them on would loosen slightly and cause the axel to shift almost imperceptibly but enough to make my front gear not shift correctly. Just about a month ago that happened and I tightened the hex bolts and everything was okay. That’s what made this so weird. I never felt anything was wrong until the hex nut was long gone and the crank almost off.

After I got home I looked around to see if I had an extra hex bolt. I have a bunch of old bike parts around in case I need them but somehow didn’t bother to save the hex bolts from my old crank set. I had a thousand other useless things but not the part I needed. I wasn’t even sure if I could buy a hex nut all by itself or if I would have to spend $40 on a new crank set. I went on Amazon to see what I could find and found some crank set hex bolts. They were from a third part seller and the reviews on them were mixed, mostly because they weren’t the name brand they were claimed to be, but in the end they were $6 so I ordered them. What choice did I have?

Before ordering the part I actually went out to look and see if I could find the hex bolt on the road. It was a long shot. I couldn’t even ride my bike to look for it so I only covered the last mile or two of my ride on foot. I found nothing. After all the hex bolt could have fallen out any time on my ride and then it took time to work the crank loose. I didn’t give myself much chance of success to begin with but it made me feel good to try before I ordered the part.

Since the part would take about a week to get here (I declined to pay the $5 for faster shipping) I looked around to see if I could find something to use as a temporary fix. That way I could still go on bike rides while I waited for the new hex bolt. Turns out the bolt has a common quarter inch thread (I think) and I found an old round plastic knob with a quarter inch bolt on it. Though it looks familiar I can’t remember where the knob is from. I put the pedal crank on the axel and the bolt on the knob actually set in place and grabbed the threads in the axel. Since it was a knob I tightened it down by hand. I thought it might work.

A couple of days later I finally got to test it out with a ride. I barely got out of the driveway when the pedal started wobbling. Not good. I tried tightening the knob but that didn’t help so I turned around and went back home. After I got home I got a piece of wood and a hammer and banged the pedal crank onto the axel to force it on more. Then I put the knob back on and tightened that by hand. I was hoping that would now be tight enough and started another ride.

After stoping one more time to turn the knob even tighter things went pretty well. I could still feel a little wobble in the pedal but it wasn’t nearly as bad as on my first attempt. I decided to continue with my ride. After a couple of miles (my ride is only eight or nine miles and 35-40 minutes long) I thought I should watch the ground with a little extra scrutiny in case I might see the hex nut. Turns out just a few minutes later I did. There it was. Right on the side of the road a few miles into my ride where it fell off a couple of days earlier. It was missing its rubber cap but was there none-the-less.

Since I have a small saddlebag under my bike seat with a portable thirty-in-one bike tool set in it I thought it would be a good idea to take off the knob and put in the hex bolt. I found a quite spot and did just that. I knew there was a hex wrench of the right size on my tool set since I had used it to tighten the hex bolt en route before. I think the rubber cap just keeps out the weather so I didn’t worry about that. The rest of my ride went smoothly. Nice.

I still have two new hex bolts coming in the mail and when they get here I’ll put one of them and its rubber cap on but it sure did make me feel good to find the old one.