Saturday, March 29, 2014

Your weekend bike maintenance tip...

Chains wear out.  When they do wear out, they also start taking cassettes and chainrings with them.  Just last week, I replaced a chain on a bike that had also killed the cassette cogs and all three chainrings.  Not a cheap repair.  It all could have been avoided by replacing the chain.  

The question is "how do I know when to replace my chain?"  If you know from historical data that you get X,XXX miles out of your chains, replace it after that many miles.  In the shop, I use Shimano's TL-CN42 chain wear tool.  It's more accurate than the simple tools that push against two rollers and give you a percentage wear.  Some of these tools will show that a brand new chain is almost at the recommended replacement mark of .75% "stretched." 

However, you don't need a fancy tool to measure your chain.  A simple metal ruler works great.  Each link in a chain is 1/2" from pin center to pin center.  Twelve inches of chain will contain 24 links.  A brand new chain will measure 24 links at 12" on center.  If you measure your chain and find that 24 links is measuring 12 1/16", it's probably okay - for a little while.  The old train of though was that to replace the chain at 12 1/8", but with modern drivetrains requiring a higher tolerance of adjustment, replacing the chain before it gets to the 12 1/8" mark is prudent.

I didn't start out wanting to write about chain wear.  I came here to talk about shift cables.  Wait?  Shift cables and chain wear?  Ah, yes, they go hand in hand.  I'm talking road bikes here, and specifically road bikes with Shimano shifters, and even more specifically, Shimano shifters with external shift housing from the 7800, 6600, 5600 era and prior.  Although, the recommendation is wise for any shift/brake lever. 

A brake lever body isn't very big.  When it also houses the shift mechanism that is essentially a spool that takes up cable pull, it all gets pretty small.  It's not uncommon for shift cables to break inside the shifter mechanism.  When they do break, they can be a horrendous pain to extract.  Frayed broken cables do their best to make removal difficult.  But wait!  There's a way you can avoid the hassle of surgically removing broken shift cables from your shifter (or having me do it in the middle of your ride while you wait).  When you replace your chain, replace your shift cable as a general, routine service.  It's highly unlikely you will ever get stuck out on a ride if you stick to this routine.  

Here's a shift cable I replaced a couple of days ago on a bike that came in for service.  The chain was just at the point of needing replacement.  New chain and at Black Mountain Cycles, that means a new shift cable as well.  Good timing because the shift cable was just starting to break.  

Go measure your chain.  Replace it if it's worn and do your shifter a favor and replace the cable as well.  

Here's some more good info on chains:  Sheldon Brown Chain Maintenance, Chain Wear Measuring Tools.

(What's playing:  Johnny Cash On The Evening Train)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

One for the weekend...

La Primavera, Milan-San Remo, is tomorrow.  In 1967, Eddy Merckx won the 288km race with a time of 6h 25m 40s for an average speed of 44.8kph.  That's an average speed of 27.8mph.  AVERAGE.  Over 179 miles.  On a steel bike with toeclips and straps, down tube friction shifters, 5 speed freewheel, wool shorts, and no power meter.  Only twice (1990 and 2006) has anyone had a higher average speed.  

My question is what do you really need to ride your bike fast?  I mean really, really need.  Look at your bike and ask yourself "does that help me go faster?"  Then look in a mirror into your eyes.

Thanks to Tom for the inspiration to this post.

(What's playing:  Eddy Merckx at Milan-San Remo 1967)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bikes and cars, cars and bikes...

I had a post all planned out.  Technical.  Pretty good info.  Then I read this and recalled a letter to the editor in last week's Point Reyes Light.  The link highlighted there for the Point Reyes Light doesn't actually go to the letter, just the paper's webpage.  The "this" link does go to People For Bikes' website and an article about how cyclists can be our own worst enemies.  In our quest to get along with automobile drivers on the roads, we cyclists sometimes alienate ourselves to drivers.  

The letter to the editor was titled "Assaulted By Cyclists" and describes how one 68 year old, local driver came to be assaulted by cyclists.  It makes me angry at the driver.  And it makes me angry at the cyclists.  In the letter, the writer states that there "were six bicycles riding three abreast, blocking the lane...  Then I passed - not close to the bicycles, but honking my horn continuously until I had passed.  I was expressing my dislike of rude behavior, as the Second Amendment permits."  Really, he used the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms as justification for his dislike of rude behavior?  I interpret his comment as he was using his car as a weapon to defend himself against bicyclists while he passed them blaring his horn.  That right there is a recipe for bad things to follow.

And bad things followed.  The cyclists were able to surround the car and stop it and that's where it escalated.  A lot of yelling and shouting and screaming.  No bodily contact between parties, but incredibly high tensions.  

The letter writer goes on to write:  "I have always wondered what these spandex idiots, these narcissistic sociopaths that seem to come here looking for a fight.  I am amazed that six of them would have the nerve to assault an old man in the middle of the road, in the middle of a Sunday and in the middle of town."  

There's a couple of things that I notice in that last quotation.

1.  Coming into town, the speed limit drops to 25mph.  The town of Point Reyes Station is small, spanning four short blocks.  Cars are parked along the entire stretch.  Twenty-five mph feels too fast when driving through town - that's how small it is.  There is no shoulder.  The only safe spot for a cyclist to ride is in the middle of the lane through town.  It takes about 15 seconds to ride through town if you're going at a decent clip.  
2.  The assault started with the driver of the car laying on the horn as he passed "not close."  The writer/driver even verifies that it was an assault on his part by claiming he was bearing arms as is his right stated in the Second Amendment.  
3.  I'm pretty sure that those cyclists did not head out on their ride looking for a fight.  That was brought to them.  Should they have been riding three abreast?  Probably not, but if they were doing it in town, even one solo cyclist riding in the lane could have brought on the ire of the letter writer. 

As a resident and cyclist in this small community that is part of a hugely popular route by cyclists of all varieties, I keep hearing from locals how they are fed up with cyclists hogging the road.  I agree.  There are a lot of cyclists, from big groups to a handful of riders, who do hog the road and don't or won't string out the ride to a single-file.  The roads out here are great fun to ride, but there are no shoulders.  There are no bike lanes.  There's just the traffic lane and bikes and cars don't have much room to share.  But it's possible.  And there are plenty of riders who are considerate and get along great with drivers.  I think I'm one of them.  

So, how do we all get along?  Not sure.  One thing I do know is that everyone needs to be more considerate and patient.  That situation in town would have never happened if the driver simply passed without continuously laying on his horn or if the cyclists weren't riding three abreast, but even that's questionable.  That event did not need to have ever happened.

Now here's where we get to a sticky point.  It seems that most drivers think it is illegal for bicyclists to ride two abreast in California.  The fact is, there is no law on the books that says riding two (or three) abreast is illegal in California.  The California vehicle does does state that "no person shall drive upon a highway at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic."  If cyclists want themselves to be viewed as vehicles (I do), then this means if you are impeding traffic because you are 2 or 3 abreast, it's time to string it out single-file, or break a big group up into smaller groups.

This is what the California Vehicle Code says about operating a bicycle on the roadways:

21202.  (a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:
(1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
(2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
(3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a "substandard width lane" is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
(4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.
(b) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway of a highway, which highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of that roadway as practicable.

Practicable.  Able to be done or put into practice successfully.  This means that to successfully (and safely, I might add) navigate a bicycle on the roadways, it may be necessary to take the lane so vehicles do not pass in an unsafe manner.  In the Point Reyes area, I take the lane when riding through Point Reyes Station (even on my cargo bike commuter).  I take the lane when crossing the green bridge near town (there's not enough room for two cars and a bike to pass each other safely).  I take the lane when crossing other narrow bridges in the area (one down by Five Brooks, the other on Levee Road).  I take the lane when going through the cluster of businesses that make up Inverness and sometimes through Inverness Park depending on the situation of parked cars at Perry's.  Taking the lane in those situations is legal, prudent, and safer for me.

All this car/bike hate is a huge reason why I ride solo.  And that's also why I now fear the letter writer because he lives where I live and drives where I ride and now has an incredibly bad taste in his mouth for all cyclists on the road.  That's what I think about when I ride.  When I ride and I hear a vehicle behind me slowing up because it's not safe to pass me at that particular point, I give them a wave of thanks when they do pass safely.  Maybe that one act of saying "thanks, man" with that wave will be enough.  Maybe, if we all give a wave, that will be enough.  Maybe if drivers look at the group of cyclists in front of them and think "maybe one of them is my nephew, maybe one of them is my neighbor, maybe one of them is my best friend's daughter-in-law, maybe that's the guy who fixed my son's bike last week."  Maybe we can all ride on the roads together.  

(What's playing:  Neil Diamond Solitary Man - seriously, that's what's playing)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Must be Spring...

There's lots of green in the shop.  Spring must be fast approaching.  Well, a little gray and orange too.  Variety and all that.  It's been a busy several weeks since the frames arrived.  A lot of frame prep happened.  Frame prep involves:
  • Chasing and facing the bottom bracket.
  • Facing the head tube and crown race seat (and installing a headset if required).
  • installing dropout adjusting screws (grease on the threads and a bit of Loctite on the end where the nut is installed).
  • Installing the front derailleur roller.
  • Cleaning the paint out of the rear brake and front derailleur threaded bosses and installing the adjusters with grease on the threads.
  • Repacking frame in box and either sending it to its new home or building it up.  
In the category of building up the frames, there are five folks out there pedaling around on their new Black Mountain Cycles monster cross (I usually just call them cross bikes) bikes.  Three are in the area, but two required packing the bike after assembling it and dialing in everything.  That's always a mixed bag for me.  I spend quite a bit of time building the bike, getting the cable lengths just so, taping the bars...then I have to take it all apart, pack it as carefully as I can knowing that the shipping company won't be so kind with it, and hope it all gets to its destination and can easily be reassembled.  So far so good with all the bikes I've sent out.  

Here's a few of the recent builds and more to come next week.  

Sam's cross bike was built with the cross build kit #1 with upgraded White Industries cranks, Paul Components Mini-Moto brakes, and I built the wheels extra stout for him with 36 hole Mavic A719 rims.  

Mark's cross bike was built with parts from his Cannondale road bike which met an unfortunate end.  The cranks, shifters, bars, stem, front wheel, seat were salvaged.  A new rear wheel, TRP mini v brakes, rear derailleur and cassette, and it's like a new bike.

Eric's cross bike got a full custom parts spec build.  It's mainly Shimano 105 with a triple crank and wide range cassette with and SLX rear derailleur.  Brakes are the great Paul Components Touring Cantis.  Rear hub is White Industries and front is a Son Delux wide that powers the B&M Luxos U light with USB charger.  This one will see a lot of Bay Area mixed-terrain rando rides. 

This is Chris's cross bike which has already seen a bit of riding in Idaho despite the snow.  This was built with Shimano 9-speed bar-con shifters and an LX T661 rear derailleur.  I'm glad Shimano has these more traditional looking derailleurs available still.  Wheels are 105 hubs with Mavic Open Pro rims.  Brakes again are Paul Touring Cantis with Shimano BR-600 levers.  White Industries crankset with a CX70 front derailleur and Thomson stem and seat post round it out.

Joe's first Black Mountain Cycles bike was one of the first root beer colored frames.  It was built pretty much just like this with Nitto Moustache bars.  However, it was stolen in Portland last year.  This is the replacement.  That's an IRD Defiant triple crank with that same LX T661 rear derailleur and Shimano 9-speed bar-con shifters.  Brakes again are Paul Component Touring Canti.  For all the bike press is doing to kill off the cantilever brake in favor of discs, I'm sure installing a lot of these Paul Touring Canti brakes.  They just work great.

Well, that's what I've been doing the past couple of weeks.  Not much riding, but I did get out on my cross bike recently on a foggy morning where there were a lot of newts doing their slo-mo newt walk across the trails.

(What's playing:  Kris Kristofferson Me and Bobby McGee)