I was about 10.5km into my 25.5km Friday commute home from the office when the drive-side Ritchey 'cross crank on my Pacer fixie snapped into two pieces as I started from a stop at a 4-way intersection. It had never been crashed, and it wasn't scarred in any way that would set up a stress riser in that area of the crank. There was no warning...no creaking or popping preceding the failure. I've broken cranks before from fatique, and they've always given me some audible warning before letting go. Not so with the Ritcheys.
No blood was drawn, and there was no fantastic crash for the car-entombed spectators at the intersection. After it snapped, I had enough momentum to roll through the intersection to the other side. I turned around and pedaled awkwardly back to retrieve my crank and attached pedal. A nice women actually drove into the intersection in her car, stopped...blocking traffic in the intersection by doing so, opened her door, and picked it up for me. That was cool. I thanked her, grabbed my crank...my bicycle crank, and moved to the side of the road to put it in my Carradice bag.
Hmmm...what to do? Pedal home with one crank or call my wife and have her pick me up? It was a nice day, and I knew I could pedal at least part way home with one leg. So, I set off with one foot on the pedal and one foot on top of the downtube near the headtube. I found that I could move along at a pretty good clip once I got started...even just wearing my Keens and pushing on a single Odyssey Triple Trap pedal. I couldn't pull up much on the pedal, but the fixed nature of the drivetrain kept the crank moving. Had I been on a freewheeling bike, I would have been in more of a predicament. There would have been no way to keep that crank moving around except for the rotational momentum of the crank and pedal, and I don't think I could have pedaled smoothly enough to keep that going for very long. Last year, on my morning commute into the office, I broke a drive-side Ultegra arm on my other Pacer...a 1x9 derailleured set-up, but I was using Time clipless pedals. So I could pull up and push down on the pedal to ride the remaining 16km into work without too much trouble.
I was fortunate to have a front brake on my fixie when this happened. Riding home sans brake and only one not-clipped-in-or-strapped-in foot/leg to slow down would have been a bit sketchy. Doable, but sketchy.
In the end, it took me an extra 20 minutes to get home. Not too bad.