Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Deadlines and Commitments

As is usual this time of year, parcel deliveries slow to a crawl. No headset or BB replacement parts yet, but the new front derailleur is here and ready to go, Universal Bikes issued the return authorization, and I have shipped the part back for a refund.

By the time I pull the crank to replace the BB, with the fork, headset, brakes and chain off, there's not going to be much left of my bike but parts. I was cleaning the brakes with hot water and Simple Green, and noticed the back SRAM Force brake has a clear coating on it - which has almost completely come off on mine. More troublesome, the center of the brake is obviously pitted, and right in the area of maximum stress.

Pitting in the center of the brake bridge
Clear, plastic coating protecting the aluminum structure is long gone.

I assume this is from sand and sweat? At any rate, the brake is now on it's way to failure. Metal cracks always start in pits, and propagate from pit to pit to complete failure. Aluminum is pretty susceptible to chemical erosion, but still,  I must have some pretty harsh sweat! It may not fail for years, or it may fail the next time I grab the brake hard, or it may fail tomorrow.

The clear plastic coating also incorporates the brake's Force logo
These SRAM Force brakes are wonderful, and have performed flawlessly, but come spring, I will be looking for a sale, and will replace them, or at least, the rear brake. The front brake is in perfect condition. I'm really kind of shocked I'm having a problem after less than 4 years. The brakes were the very first thing I upgraded on the bike, but still, shocking.

MagicShine MJ-808E  over MJ-808. I prefer the SSC P7 emitter's bluer 900 lumen light on the bottom to the yellowish hue of the 1000 lumen, CREE XM-L emitter. I think the CREE holds a narrower beam though, and may penetrate fog better, so am going to leave it up on the helmet for now.

I was tempted to do my video for what will now be an upcoming Techie Tuesday piece on optimal lighting, but since I haven't even done one ride with the dual MagicShine lights, it would have been premature. I bought both of these lights from GeoMan. The batteries are state-of-the-art, made in Germany, or now, the US.

The 6,000mAh battery packs I ordered are made from Panasonic's very best 3100mAh LION cells. If you can even find them on the web, they're around $25. That makes GeoMan's $85 price a real bargain. I want the best possible power-to-weight ratio, and these deliver in spades.

I'm also impressed that GeoMan only rates these packs at 6000, even though they are clearly 6200. Here's  a real American entrepreneur who sucked it up and scrambled for a top-notch battery pack builder when MagicShine's standard packs were catching fire.

You can buy MagicShine from Amazon now, but they're still selling the pyrotechnic battery packs, and have added nothing. GeoMan spent 2 yrs listening to his customers and scrambling to get things right. That's worth supporting. GeoMan is offering a 20% discount until December 5th, so an easy decision at the moment.

I got a cool $5 lens that does, indeed, spread the beam out horizontally, but haven't had it out on the trail, so will need to gain some experience with it too before commenting. The same lens technology would make a perfect side lens for a 270% rear lighting system up on the helmet.

Lots of good ideas, so why can't someone put them all together? Anyone know a company that can make a taillight to my specifications and mass produce it?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Winter Wrenching Daze

These cold, gray, overcast skies are the perfect time to lose motivation to ride, but doing my annual maintenance on the bike always motivates me. I also like riding in the cold once I get out there and get warmed up, so all I really need is a reason to get out there.

With the cold night riding I've been doing, especially with SBH, I broke down and bought some "cheap" PI, Barrier Lite shoe covers to wear over my SpaceBlanket foot warmers. They look great, but the SpaceBlanket is doing all the work.
Very shiny, but with the bold, and hi-viz graphics, you don't have to guess about which is R and which L. Touted as being water repellant, rain shy, or perhaps, just scream in muted tones when attacked by raindrops.

The new 6703 front derailleur I ordered at Performance Bike Shop on the 8th, finally arrived yesterday, so I drove over and picked it up. Not sure if I save much on shipping, as gas is pretty expensive too, so may be doing most of my shopping on in the future.

They are building new warehouses like mad, and happy to say, many things that were sourced from 3rd parties, are now shipping from Amazon proper - which still has better quality, return, and shipping policies than most 3rd parties.

As for PBS, 20 days to ship a derailleur? Are you kidding me? Also sick of "sales" where the prices are all jacked up at 11:45 the night before. A sleazy way to do biz, and the prices never quite return to prior levels after the sale.

I'm spoiled by my SRAM chains having quick links, so I was a little miffed I had to get my chain tool out to break the DuraAce chain in order to get the old derailleur off last night (and now can't find the special case-hardened pins back, arrgghh).

I took the opportunity to clean the chain in a half dozen rounds of Simple Green and hot water in a heavy glass jar, very well shaken. I broke the first jar, probably because I didn't have distilled water to work with, and the hot water was a little too hot, but, in the end, I was able to clean it pretty thoroughly.

DuraAce chain. Extensive machining, but crap metalurgy
While the shifting performance of the DuraAce chain is excellent, all of the machining on it makes it  hard to clean, but more disturbing, was the corrosion on the chain. It looks like the zink-alloy plating is thin, and is peeling off. Because the Shimano drive train shifts so well, this chain hasn't spent any time "trawling" or grinding, so the level of wear is hard to understand.

The chain uses hollow pins, which I like, as they hold a small oil reserve, which keeps the chain from squeaking for much longer. Ditto for the SRAM hollow pin chains. I'm going to take a fresh look at the SRAM chain, and will probably go with that next time. It's more expensive, but I hope it will wear better, and since worn chains prematurely wear cassettes and chainrings, it's important to run the best possible chain.

I also noticed that the DuraAce chain has 4, count them, 4 different varieties of links, and I was only looking at the outside of the female plates (DuraAce chain has an inside surface and an outside surface for better shifting, in addition to the inside and outside, or male and female links all chains have).

Maybe after the earthquake Shimano is, or was, scraping the bottom of the barrel to find links, but this is not a great confidence builder. I'm also going to take another look at the Wipperman stainless chain. Stainless 300 should be 2-3X harder than 4130 CroMo, which I assume is what Shimano is using. BTW, I went with DuraAce instead of Ultegra because I heard nothing but bad about Ultegra durability.

Some American company should OWN the chain biz. We have the raw materials, technology, market size, and distribution system to beat any and all competitors. Hard to understand why the industry is so dominated by foreign parts. At least Wheelsmith is still making spokes here. Now if they would just make the butts taper instead of ramp. Eddy won't even use the WS 14/17 spokes on 3-cross spoking. Too many failures on the hub side where the spokes have to bend around each other sharply.

I will also be replacing my FSA Gossamer bottom bracket as soon as it, and the tool to install it, arrive in the mail. With the drive train so pulled apart I'm going to start with it completely clean, so will be pulling the cassette apart and cleaning that too. I'll either just use a clean rag or Simple Green and an electric brush. I'd normally replace the balls and repack the bearings on the wheels too, but I just did that two months ago, so will wait til spring for that, although my mtb hubs could benefit from new G10 balls.

In the meantime, I have been setting up my SS conversion to ride at night, which means putting together another saddle bag, adding lights, a Garmin mount, and finding a strap-on water bottle cage. A key element for a seat bag is a good alloy shank bit driver, and some high quality hex bits in 2.5,4,5,6, Phillips #1, and flat #4. The bits go in the hollowed out handle. I add a 1/4" ratcheting open-end wrench for torquing on things like chainring bolts, and have a complete toolkit that is lighter and much more flexible than those grotesque multi-tools.
Made in tool heaven. AKA Germany
 A key part of this one was the Wiha bits I bought. Made in Germany, and the official tools of BMW and Mercedes shop mechanics, the quality is phenomenal. They come in a nice plastic case, which is why I bought a 2nd set for wrenching at home. If I'm going to hump this stuff over 4,000 miles and 250,000ft every year, I want it to be absolutely reliable.

I've also been looking for a high quality 1/4" ratchet, and found Grainger is selling Proto tools, now owned by the Stanley cheap Chinese crap tool importers. The Proto ratchet is about $45, made in America, and will outlast me.
Proto J4749XL - 1/4" Drive Standard Length Full-Polish Ratchet
Why spend this kind of money on tools? Because life is too short to work with crap tools. They slow you down, waste your time, are frustrating to use, and when tools fail you, it's always at the worst possible moment, and often there are no good alternatives.

My father had about $65,000 in tools at one time, and started buying Snap-On, MAC, and Proto when his impact wrenches started shattering Sears Craftsman sockets left and right. Although guaranteed, he got tired of spending an hour a day driving to Sears and back to replace tools. Even though his tools were over 30 yrs old, they still brought about 60% of their replacement cost at auction. If you have kids, good tools make a wonderful, enduring legacy you can pass on. Besides, guys don't do jewelry, they do tools.

Also worth mentioning, my 2nd MagicShine showed up, and I put it up on my helmet the same day. I also found a nice lens that is supposed to spread the beam on the handlebar light out horizontally, but not waste light shining up into space. It was a $5 purchase, so we'll see how that goes, but I expect to have animals coming back out of hibernation riding with 2,000 lumens and 3 taillights. Now if it would just warm up a bit....


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Techie Tuesday: Pt I - Headset R&R on Specialized '06 Roubaix Elite

This is part 1 of a 2-part series. Part II can be found here

I knew I was a little over-due pulling the fork off and inspecting, and maybe packing the headset, but WOW, I never expected to find it packed with mud and growing mold. It's probably been 3 yrs since I pulled the fork, but I do look at the headset every time I have the spacer stack off, or mount new bars.

The headset came out in pieces, although the stock FSA headset is a total POS, there are no replaceable parts, and repacking didn't seem to help at all, so if you have an early Roubaix, or some of the mid-2000 Specialized MTBs, just expect this is what you'll find, and have the parts there to do the R-n-R.

I was lucky, AFAICT, there is no permanent damage, but there might have been. The upper bearing cap seal on the FSA was just shot. Leaking like a sieve, and I never ride in rain intentionally.

Surprisingly, there weren't any good pics of the Cane Creek bearings out there on the web, so I took some. More Google hits for me. This is not actually the headset I will be using, because this is a Campy-style IS42, which is the size my last mechanic said I needed back in '09. Wrong again. I needed an IS41, just like Cane Creek's headset finder program said I needed. Other than the OD of the bearings, the IS41, and IS42 are identical.

Park Tools head cup remover - the RT-1
With the addition of the required 2.5mm finishing spacer between the top of the bearing cap and the bottom of the stem, the 15mm stack height of the high model was too much, so I changed my order to a short, 9mm stack. That opened the door to upgrade to the Cane Cane Creek 110 series, garanteed for 110 years. In the words of Danny DiVito, "Now THAT oughta do it!". Twice the price, but stainless steel and supposedly, bullet-proof, and I NEVER want to find this surprise again.

The removal of the press-in bearing cups - YES, they DO come out, and as one unit - was done by my go-to mechanic at MadCat Bikes on Marconi, Eddy. While I would suggest using the Park Tool fluted headset tool  to knock out the old press-in FSA headset, Eddy used a lot of patience and a screwdriver.

I think this was primarily because neither of us knew if the press-in was supposed to come out, or whether it was bonded into the headtube, or if the upper cup came out and was just butted against the lower press-in, or whether they were all one assembly (bingo).

You can see that at some point in time someone tried to separate the top and bottom part of the press-in with a screwdriver or ice-pick. It's all one assembly buddy. No upper and lower parts to the press-in. Perhaps Calistoga Bike Shop was bending the truth a little selling me the bike as NIB.

Rusty cups. Not a horse race for chestnut bays, just thoroughly shot races.

The FSA press-ins, showing the tapered leading edge and compression holes - or whatever those holes are supposed to do.

Eddy left a few tool marks on the upper, leading edge, but you really have to look to see them. The ratty pry marks happended while my bike was supposedly NIB up at Calistoga Bike Shop

As you can see, the relief groove is desceptive, but NO, this is all one piece, not a seperate upper cup and supporting press-in

A doom with a view

The two press-in cups sitting on a mirror for optimal lighting. It doesn't get worse than this and still turn.

My lower headset as a garden

Potatoes anyone?

Lower headset growing mold. Yeah, I'm just loving this R&R

OK, they're a bit rough, but hey, what's not to like?

The solution. Unfortunately I got the the wrong size, and it's too tall too.

Upside down view of a Cane Creek 40 Series IS42 carbon tall

Upside down, so that's the crown race you're looking at on top in brass. Gotta love those beautiful lip seals Cane Creek uses.

Trial assembly on a chunk of CroMo steering tube from my mtb. Note the male bottomed, flush topped, 2.5mm  finishing spacer that mates with the InterLok machining in the top of the upper bearing cap. They come in 5 colors. None in the package from Universal cycles though, but Cane Creek sent me one for free in the mail and even paid the postage. Now THAT's customer service.

InterLok machining detail showing top of carbon bearing cap, and 2.5 mm alloy finishing spacer

The 2.5mm finishing spacer is turned upside down to show how its machined surface mates with the top of the bearing cap.  A nce view of the O-ring weather seal in light blue here. Just my opinion, but EVERY single spacer in a stack should have such an O-ring. Water running down into bearings is nothing but BAD.

Bottom and top bearing are identical, except for being flipped over so the two 45 degree angles face each other

Close-up of the top cap, its O-ring seal, lip seal, and brass shim. I ordered a pack of 10 .25mm shims which are needed to get the lip seal perfectly positioned to seal onto the face of the headtube. I might have to reface the headtube though, as it is somehow a bit chewed. I will try polishing it with 600 -> 1,500 wet or dry sandpaper.
Close-up of crown race and bottom end of the headset assembly
 Eddy told me his first taps with the screwdriver were meant to turn the press-in to break it loose, and I asked him to support the face of the headtube with a wooden block to prevent the bonded aluminum sub-assembly the press-ins press into from separating, or delaminating from the carbon part of the headtube.

I still need to clean the inside of the headtube a little better, and then do some trial fitting when the new parts arrive from Universal Cycles. Right now I am waiting for them to issue a return authorization, and still have both headsets on my charge card until I get it. Not my fav situation to be in, but I want to get this thing done.

I also ordered a new BB for my FSA Gossomer crank, now that I know what stellar quality seals FSA has. More blog fodder to add to this PART A installment of remove and replace an FSA mindset headset. It also just made sense because I got $10 off the shipping of a $42 part by including it this order.

Bottom line, Universal Bikes is either going to get glowing reviews or a battery acid spew. Fingers crossed, I look forward to a glowing review.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dog Days of Winter

Salmon fishing the American River. Taken from the Watt Ave Bridge while scouting a new ride.
For cyclists, it's not the summer, but the winter when we have those dog days with nothing to do, and too little time to do it. I can't believe it's been 10 days since my last post, but for me, there has been a LOT going on. On tap for Techie Tuesday is everything you'll  ever need to know to replace (or re-grease) your headset. Sometime soon a very detailed special on optimal bicycle lighting for seeing and being seen.

I'm sitting here, right now, waiting for my riding clothes to dry, and that reminded me that there is a better, and much more energy efficient way to dry clothes than crank up the heat and turn up the ceiling fan. Centrifugal dryers, like this one, sold by Amazon for $179, may be the perfect Christmas gift for an athletic family.

These leave no minerals, nor detergents behind, and require only a few minutes of finish drying to get completely dry. They also make your clothes last a LOT longer because they don't cook, stretch, tear, chafe, cut, or infuse them with  residual dryer sheet oils.

Rain is on the way, and it has been getting cold, especially on the night rides I have been doing, so the volume of clothing has really spiked. I almost NEVER wash my cycling clothes in a washer, preferring to take them into the shower with me and wash them in anti-bacterial soap in the tub with the help of a strong shower spray.

When I get home from a ride, I don't always want to jump right in the shower, but don't want the clothes to mildew either. I either hang them to dry, or a great trick, and one that will leave your clothes sterile, is to run 4-5 inches of cold water in the tub, and then add a shot glass of bleach.

If it's hot, or you're tired, this allows you to shower and not have to deal with laundry right away. It's also very effective at removing salt from a chamois after a long summer ride.
OXO 1/4 cup measuring cup. Super-accurate angled scales in ounces, tablespoons, and cups. A nice conversation piece for a bartender too
I checked, and the shot glass I use to measure bleach holds the standard 1.5 oz, or 3 tblspns. The standard fabric sensitivity test is 2 tblspns in a quarter cup of water applied to an inside seam for 1 minute and blotted dry. The usual laundry doze is 16 oz in a standard load, which is about 10 gallons of water. I think 4-5" in a tub is 10-12 gallons, so I'm using less than 10% of the usual laundry dose.

BE CAREFUL. You're trying to make swimming pool water, not kill Anthrax. You can leave your clothes to soak this way for days if you want to, but I usually want them done the next morning when I shower.  This treatment is especially great for a thick chamois, which can start to host some nasty bacteria after awhile.

High tech shells have very fragile coatings which shouldn't even see harsh detergents, should never, ever see the inside of a commercial washing machine or dryer, and should not be wrung in any way, shape or form as it will form creases which will displace the coating.

Short of a centrifugal dryer, laying synthetic clothes out flat on a thick towel, rolling the towel up, and twisting it to wring a little, works pretty well. Then just hang under a ceiling fan, or furnace vent, and let air dry.

My long sleeve PI jersey is circa fall 2007, and except for the tear over my shoulder from when I crashed and broke my collarbone, it's only showing wear at the sleeve ends. I like my clothes being available, clean, sterile, durable, and not ruined by someone else's dryer sheet residue.

UPDATE: 7/12/2012
My Voler Vertice bib short has gone very baggy, and the cloth is seriously degraded where the chamios is stitched to the short. This may be due to excessive exposure to bleach. My best guess is it got a couple of "hot shots" while I was searching for the minimum dose that would sanitize my clothes.

One ounce of bleach in 6" min bath water, BEFORE the clothes get into the water, NO overnight soakings, AND a thorough rinsing are recommended. Soaking in 6" of rinse water overnight is just fine. Squishing the water out of the chamois by giving it a "back massage" with your feet is recommended. You want ALL of the bleach out of the thickness of the chamois.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Techie Tuesday: R&R Handlebars

The old ones (Performance Bike Shop Forte') broke under the Syntace C3 aerobar clamps. Hope the new ones (Ritchey SuperLogic Evo Carbon) won't. PBS stood by their Satisfaction Guarantee, so aside from all the labor, only a $60 hit to my pocketbook. Nothing wrong with the Forte' bars for normal use, but not up to aerobars.

PBS's house brand bars Forte was bucking under the aerobar clamps

Brake cables run in the bar's cable hides, and shifter cables run along backside of bar. Each cable was trial fitted, taped into place using 3M electrical tape, and then function tested before any bar tape was applied.

L and R brake cable swapped so front brake and 10-gears are in my right hand. Shifter cables also swapped and then crossed under the downtube. This gives the rear deraulleur cable a straight path from headtube to end of chainstay.

MagicShine mount attaches along side of the stem. Yeah, there's a LOT going on here. Old bars had cables threaded through them, so every last cable had to be unthreaded. The brakes and drivetrain then had to be readjusted after installation. What a massive PITA.
Another angle
Pretty clean. The cables are trimmed to within a mm of their lives. I doubt I can flip the stem without recabling at this point, but I loathe messy cabling and the drag it creates. MagicShine is ~ right in front of toptube and  battery pack strapped to top of toptube.
Clean cockpit. Slip the Garmin into it's mount and we're wheels-up in 30 seconds.

Not wanting to take any chances on the new bars, I used the same trick on the aeorbars I used on my perpetually sliding Easton seatpost - I shimmed the clamps with 1500 Wet-or-Dry sandpaper, turning the grit side to the main bars. This dramatically reduces the amount of clamping pressure needed to keep the aerobars from moving. I especially like that this also comprises a compressible shim, so the take-up on the tightening is more gradual, and easier to judge.

The spray bottle hanging off the left handlebar is to keep the bike from tipping over when standing straight up so I can even up the aerobars. Nice trick. When you get aerobars where you want them,  roll the bike into a doorway, place a level across the ends, and mark their height. No matter what happens with handlebars and stems, it makes a great starting point for adjusting the aerobars.

I rode the bike up to Beals Point a couple of nights ago, and am very happy with the bars. The aren't noodley like the Forte, but are still soaking up a lot of road chop. The reach is perfect, but the drop is a lot less, and I need to push the drops forward and out to get more room in the cockpit. With aerobars, you seldom need deep drops, but a middle position is nice for climbing into a wind in a position where you can still breathe well.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Change in the Weather

The first real chill of the season rolled in last night. I beat the storm by a few hours to get in my first ride in almost 2 weeks. Speaking of a change in the weather, the Occupy Wall St people in Oakland shut down the port yesterday, the 5th largest in the US. Everyone of those shipping containers represents thousands of US jobs gone to China. I wish them luck, and since CCR was a Bay Area band I thought this video doubly appropriate.

I did a very hard ride up to the Rescue Firestation on the 16th last month, and between the dehydration, and getting a bit too Paleo on my recovery meals, I had a long flair-up of diverticulitis. My usual ride time is around 4:15, although I have some old pre-Garmin stats from April, 2009 done in 3:35.

That's not quite apples-to-apples though, as shut-off times at stops are a little different, so I was really happy when my first long ride of the year came in at 3:45 for 60 miles and 5,200ft of climbing. (RideWithGPS's mapping service still doesn't know about the Folsom Lake Crossing Bridge, so adds 300ft erroneously) I was able to get the whole ride in with the Garmin set to 1-second update mode, so trust this is my best, most accurate trace ever.

Rescue Firestation ride. A horned devil of a climbing route. Throw in a climb over the ElDorado Hills and you get a real ball-buster I call "The Grim Reaper"
My time to RFS was withing seconds of my usual time, but the time on the return leg averaged over 4mph faster. I think I'm capable of breaking 3:30 on this ride, but have yet to do so. Failing to carbo load properly the night before, I was pretty sluggish for the first  20 miles or so. Reason for hope!

This was the first long ride away from the city since my crash, and it went quite well, but I seem to have cracked a rib or something after hitting a really savage bump that's developed on the ARPT descending from Beals. My PBS Forte' carbon bars also buckled under the aerobars, and my main bars rotated down about 35 degrees.

That said, it was thrilling to get back out there last night, and since my new bars showed up this morning, I'll be wrenching while it's raining. I went with the Ritchey SuperLogic Evo bars from Excel Sports, as they are advertised as sturdy enough to support clip-on aerobars. Techie Tuesday fodder for sure.

I'm enjoying reading Friel's Paleo Diet for Athletes, but it is disappointing in places in its lack of rigor. There's a lot of good info on sports nutrition, and even some great recipes, but I'm having trouble eating that much meat and giving up milk. His argument against dairy is just pathetic, and I luvs my milk (although I am drinking 2% now to get more fat in my diet).

With the cool weather, it's a great day to make a big pot of chili. Using what I learned from Friel, I am using grass-fed beef, buffalo, and 99% lean ground turkey breast. Turkey breast has almost no fat, is a higher quality protein than chicken or fish (although fish as other properties that make it preferable), and is about $6 a pound.

I'll have to try my microwaved bell pepper, red onion and ruby red grapefruit juice marinated chicken breast with cranberry juice and turkey breast substituted. I'll use lots of good, healthy olive oil when reducing the veggies. A great way to swap healthy oil for animal fat.

Hope you are all coping well, and enjoying the change in the weather.