Friday, September 23, 2011

Lemond To Lemon To Lemondazed

I got my new parts last week and set about to putting the Lemond drivetrain back together and enjoying some sweet hill climbing bliss.  I'm a pretty good bike mechanic.  I have an innate sense of how things go together.  Most of my ideas are feasible.  So sometimes I coast on my build resume and overlook the more subtle aspects of the project---little things that can make or break it.  Such was the case this week.  Let me share the process with you.

When I dismantled the 52 and 42 chainrings, the 42 was large enough to slip over the spider arms.  However, upon installing the 39 replacement ring, its smaller inner diameter was just a tad too tight to slip over the spider, so I had to remove the crankarm assembly.  The Lemond uses an ISIS type splined bottom bracket, which is similar to Shimano's Octalink, but they are not compatible.  Having the crank off made installation of the rings much easier anyway.

The first puzzlement was the alignment of the 39 ring as it had a ramp and pin system on the inside that was completely different than the Bontrager part it replaced.  I rotated the ring round and round and finally I figured out it made no difference, as the pins would catch the chain at some point anyway.  The 52 ring is finished much simpler so I just bolted that on.  Lastly I greased the spindle and bolted on the crank assembly.

Next I shortened the new hollowpin chain by 5 links to match the length of the old stretched chain.  Only AFTER I shortened it did it occur to me that the old chain is longer than it should be (because it's stretched, right?) , maybe by 1 link length overall.  Oh well, that would make the new chain 1 link longer than needed, no big deal (?).  I put the new chain on, lubed it with Boeshield lube, ran through some gear changes and patted myself on the back.  Job done!

The Next Day, riding to work.
My initial feeling about the 39 was justified, I can more easily climb moderate grades compared to the 42.  However, the shifting was not so great in the rear, noise, ker-thunks, and balky shifts.  The front derailler was rubbing on the chain in several positions.  I was riding up Park Blvd, adjusting the cable barrel, when I got a rear flat.  This is the 2nd ride up in a row on the Lemond I suffered a rear flat.  At this point I was not feeling the love for the bike, even though it was entirely not the bike's fault---it was society tossing its glass my way, and me, for not taking the time to do fine adjustments on the shifting.  While working on the tire, I noticed on the 52 chainring that it's outside chainstop peg, which is supposed to be positioned so that it stops the chain from jamming between the spider and arm, was like 150 degrees rotated on the crank and just sticking out naked in the air, not doing a thing.  DOH!!  I repaired the tire and noisily climbed to work, but it was not much fun.  I was beating on myself for turning my bike into a lemon.

It was then that I realized that part of the essence of a great ride is having your bike work flawlessly and quietly.  If I have to think about what's NOT right with my bike while I'm riding it, it taints the whole ride experience. But I wondered why the changes to the shifting?

First, I had put a new chain on old sprockets and chainrings.  There are going to be teeth meshing tolerances out of spec compared to new.  Audible proof of this that when pedalling on the 39, the system  purrs like a kitten, but on the 28, it has a ratcheting sound.
Secondly, I removed the crankarm assembly and reinstalled after greasing.  I think I was able to get it further onto the spline than before, and that put the chain a millimeter or two closer to the derailleur cage.

So I put the bike back up on the rack, popped a cold PBR (the hipster's choice), and set to adjusting the front and back shifting.  I won't go into too much detail, the rear is a matter of turning the barrel back and forth until things get as quiet as possible.  The front, that's a horse of a different feather, as you have 3 index stops plus 2 trim stops, 2 limit screws, side to side alignment, plus cable tautness. By no means do I feel that I have mastered the front triple derailleur.  For instance, the Shimano technical bulletin on this part states that the 2 trim settings are for the middle chainring.  On my bike, they only serve the small inner chainring, there is no trim when I select the 39.  All this is controlled by the shift lever, the various stops and trims.  The derailleur itself is a "dumb" slave device.  No way do I even want to attempt to get into the workings of a shift lever.  In this case it is what it is, it works so I'm happy.

Then I took the outer rings off and rotated the 52 so the chainstop peg was in the right place. I laughed at myself.  When I put that on it was truly a "no brainer".

So having made all the adjustments, I rode to work again today, and the difference is like night and day.  The bike shifts well again, its quieter, the chain does not rub, there is a sense of harmony to the ride, which, like I said earlier, is essential to the gestalt.

So now I can say I put the Lemon in Lemond, and when faced with that, made Lemondade.

Ride On and Be Safe Out There My Friends,

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Lemond On Blocks

So...last time I mentioned my serious hill climbing bike, I was having a FlashZone ride, lubricated with free, found Chevron motor oil.  It reminds me of some irresponsible parties of the past, that are so good and you just don't want them to end, and then... it's the next day and there are some huge bills to pay.  Using motor oil on your bike chain is like that.  So easy, so seductively smooth. Oh so frictionless, oh so Astrolubed for a couple rides, then one day you notice a black, grimy mess all over your chain and gears.  The slightest touch of this tainted substance leaves your fingers and clothes black as night.  Oh, how I had sinned against my loyal Lemond!  I knew better but did it anyway!  Sometimes I'm an idiot, in hindsight.

Detail: 28 tooth front chainring, 42/52 removed

So the inevitable time came to clean up the mess.  I found myself loathing what my bike had become, soiled, blackened, almost infected.  I put on some old clothes and spent a good 2 hours disassembling the parts and cleaning.  Its intimate quality time with your bike.  First, I tackled the rear cassette with a toothbrush, orange cleaner, and shop rags.  Next up, I took apart the chainrings for the same treatment.  I removed the chain with the Powerlink (a must have feature on all my new chains) and cleaned the frame.  The chain was last, and always the most difficult.  After totally blackening my hands and several rags, I had a clean chain.  Only then did I decide to measure it for stretch. DOH!  It measured 12 3/16", that's very stretched.

Detail: 11-32 rear cassette and Deore XT derailleur

A new chain should measure exactly 12" from any pin to another one 12" down the line.  Use a metal ruler and a taut chain.  So I had cleaned that chain for nothing, I could have just removed it and ordered a new one.  Which I did, I'm waiting on a SRAM PC 991, which is their top 9 speed chain.  The 991 features sexy hollow pin construction and thus light weight and better shifting qualities.  I also ordered a 39 tooth middle ring to replace the 42 I have been using.  My instincts tell me that with the 39 I will be able to climb in the middle ring longer, thus the climbing abilities of the bike are enhanced overall.  I'm looking forward to the new parts.  I really am.  (for more on the subject of gears read The Low Gear Manifesto)

The Flashco Flying Trapeze, 2004

I built this hanging bike appliance years ago, but it dawns on me that I haven't featured it in Flashblog up until now.  This really makes bike work easy.  It's simply two 2x4 studs cut to length and mounted  between two rafters in my basement.  When I am not working on bikes, it swings up and nests in the ceiling.  Two large hooks support the bike from the top tube.  I incorporated a shelf above the hooks which serves as a handy tool or beer rest.

So this week I've been riding my Miyata to work as part of the Great Race Commuter Challenge.  It's a harder hill bike, it's lowest gear is a 25x36, which is only semi-compact.  If it had a 39 in front it would be a pro-racer gearset.  I feel it in my body, more stress on joints and muscles.  But between the two bikes, so far in Sept. I've bagged 110 miles and 7,500' of climbing---riding to work and back!  But I'm ready for my new drivetrain and low gears and some Indian Summer hill riding.

See you out there, 


Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Grocery Hauler- v.2

After reading my recent story about my Woodie homebuilt trailer, my work compadre Jim K. free-cycled a complete jog stroller and saved it for me, thinking that at least I could use the wheels off it for a future project.  Being in the afterglow of the Woodie project, I took it thinking I would not have a real need for the parts, but the wheels were nice.  So it sat stashed in the garage for the last few months.

One night last week I was reclined on the couch reading a magazine, and BAM! like a bolt out of the blue I had the urge to make something out of the stroller.  Do not know where that came from or why, sometimes it happens that way, like a dormant seed pushing itself up through the soil to find the light.  So down I went into the garage and opened up the stroller.  It was a big dude: canvas seat, sunshade, backpack storage, 16" wheels, mostly aluminum frame.  It had a third smaller front wheel on a fork, the fork made of steel.  Nice stuff.

I started by tearing it apart.  Before I did that, I considered giving the stroller away to someone who might need one.  I could just leave it on the sidewalk and it would disappear overnight.  Nah.  This was given to me to re-purpose, so re-purpose it became as I took my Ryobi screwgun and drilled out the frame rivets, removed all the canvas parts, and disassembled everything into three piles:  aluminum parts, steel parts, and wheels.
Low center of gravity, bigger wheels, and flexible tubes yield a smooth ride

Now at this point I should disclose that the Woodie, while successful, and very cool looking,  is not a brilliant design.  For one thing, it's HEAVY:  I was shocked when I weighed it and the result was 32 pounds!  That's as much as a full suspension mountain bike.  Secondly, it's very stiff, and with it's relatively small diameter wheels, it bounces over pavement wrinkles, and porpoises noticeably.  ( a rythmic shifting of weight forwards and backwards)
Third, it's BIG!  I can't wheel it through doorways or narrow spaces so it lives in the garage, taking up space.

It was great when I had exchange students, you can see from the pics that I filled it with stuff.  Now that the kids are gone, Flashette and I use far less resources, and I have been doing my shopping on the Dutch bike, filling the panniers and a box I bungee cord on for shopping.  So my limit is 3 grocery bags, and also large items are a problem. So those are the reasons that congealed to form a new trailer idea, a smaller, much lighter trailer that would allow me to carry 4-5 bags of groceries, and/or larger items.
Flashblog's organic strawberry field to the right of the rig

Once I had the parts disassembled and on the floor, I started dry fitting frame parts and soon enough it was clear that the stroller handle would fit right into the rear axle assembly, forming the chassis of a small trailer.  Too easy!  Then I took another aluminum section and cut it into two crossbars, and bolted them onto the handle part.  I decided to greatly simplify the hitcharm by using a piece of steel lawnchair frame that I bent into shape, painted black, and attached to the left side of the unit.

So far this project was flying together, and looking very promising.  The crucial item that required the most thought was the hitch mount to the bike.  I really wanted to keep it simple.  The re-purposed bicycle fork method I used on the Woodie is heavy, clunky, and just a tad bizarre.  So, using a variation of two eyebolts that I used with the Woodie, I've created a very minimalist attachment:  1 P-clamp, 2 eyebolts, and a combination lock serving as a hitch post.

It works.  It allows not only swiveling, but also leaning if necessary.  I took the trailer out for the September East Bay Bike Party night ride, and banged it over all manner of ruts and potholes, expecting it would fall apart rather quickly if the design was flawed.  It held up fine!  The P-clamp loosened up a bit, but further tightening fixed that. Voila!  So now I have a 12 pound trailer that is light and flexible, that is so smooth I can't even feel it behind me when I ride, even with 30 pounds in it.  ( I do feel the overall weight)  I think it looks good behind the Kaptein, and I painted the hitch arm and wheels to compliment the black aspects of the bike.  (The Kaptein is a much more appropriate tow bike with it's long, stable wheelbase.)   The blue storage box is what I had on hand, and works great, but something more stylish that matches the bike could present itself as well.  Finally, I can detach the trailer and easily carry it into the house or wheel it from room to room... much more practical.

So my original hope of leaving the car home and biking for all my around town needs has been refined.  When I made the Woodie I was thinking too big, but I had a lot of fun with it, and it is still here for those really big loads.  I could have just purchased a trailer and felt good about that too.  But there's nothing like the feeling of creating something new from something old, with zero cost and only using my hands, tools, and brain to fulfill a dream.

Let's Green Our World My Friends!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ridin' In A Ghost Town: Crying Over Spilled Coffee

Welcome back to Flashblog, I'm your long lost host, Flash, checking in from a dimly lit booth in a roadhouse located on a dark back road in the middle of nowhere.  Hey, at least they have wifi here, always look on the bright side.
Flashblog recently went on assignment to points north---Oregon, Portland specifically, then Washington---Olympia, and points even further north, nearly to Canada.  Then back again via the awesome spectacle that is Crater Lake.

But the roadhouse I speak of is not along that 2000 mile route.  It's the Roadhouse of My Mind, where the coffee costs 10 cents and the refills are unlimited.   By the way, I'd like to thank all those people who, upon hearing about the 2000 mile trip, piped up with " and you did it on your bike, right?"  I do appreciate that.  It shows you know where my priorities are.

Almost all those people know me as "Jim", my alter-ego, they are not familiar with Flash.  Yet.  However, this month is Commuter Challenge month, when companies sign up to compete with one another and for prizes by using any transport other than their cars to get to work.  So far for September, I am 100% alternative with two work days biked.  Yeah, ok, I know, only two days.  But I'm fired up for this, and for a brief window of time at work, Jim will be overshadowed by Flash.  Flash can be devious, using tools such as carpooling to keep his stats high.  Stay tuned for more on that.

The Tragic Coffee Incident:

So I have been night riding a fair amount the last few months.  I've installed something like 8 different lights on my Opafiets Dutch bike, primarily for visibility but also for artistic cool.  I was heading over to San Fransisco last night for a Bike Party, and decided I needed a coffee to boost me after my two days of bike commuting to work.  (hey, its 10 miles and 1500' climb to where I work, it ain't even possible in the minds of ordinary non-bike people)
I had installed a cool old-timey handlebar mounted water bottle cage on my bike, and after purchasing the coffee, black with cane sugar, I wedged it into the bottle cage.  It was too hot to drink anyway, so I thought it a good plan to let it cool an the way to the BART station.  Soon enough, every crack and dip in the road was causing hot java to spurt up out of the sippy hole in the cover, and the cover was getting  a steady pool of dark brown liquid pooled in its recesses.  So I stopped and sipped some coffee to reduce the level.  Mmmmm.

I was climbing the Fruitvale bridge, looking in my mirror at approaching cars and did not see the asphalt lip ahead of me.  When I did see it, it was too late---my front wheel hit it popping up in the air, transferring energy up the frame, to the cup of coffee, which instantly popped it's lid and emitted a geyser of steaming hot  dark liquid.  The geyser, erupted into a 10mph headwind, flew back onto my knees, the front lights, the Indian brass horn, the front fender, the pedals, my feet.  A coffee tsunami!

My thoughts, in order were:  " NO!!!! MY COFFEE!"  then "AW CRAP, ITS ALL OVER EVERYTHING!" then "WHY DID I HAVE TO PUT SUGAR IN IT???"  I pulled off the street and stopped and just started laughing, I really cracked myself up.  What an idiot thing to expect the coffee not to spill!  ( engineering analysis shows that the cup was too short to bottom out on the cage, thus putting stress on the lid, which was just ready to blow)  BTW, I did finish the now cold coffee on the BART platform, waiting for the train.  I'm a rule breaker alright, drinking cold coffee and bringing a sticky bike onto the train.
Stickin' it to the MAN! so to speak?

Next time I shall purchase the Large cup of coffee.  Problem solved.

Flash caught in the act of turning on the lights  (photo: Nelson Planting)

Bike Party # 6, San Francisco:  Theme: Ghost Town

The fog had come in, with a blowing wind, not the best weather for night time outdoor adventures.  But what the heck, I was over there.  Not as many people as the East Bay rendition, maybe 2-300 total.  By their own admission, all the hip, cool people were out of town at Burning Man, thus Ghost Town.  Now, here's the thing with any Bike Party:  It's only as good as what people bring to it.  The people who bring sound rigs are, shall we say, instrumental to the successful vibe.  Secondly, people who light up their bikes.  Thirdly, people in costumes.  These three things set the tone.  I noticed the sound people were out in good numbers, but the light displays and costumes were much weaker compared to East Bay.  Thus I got a lot of attention.

The Kaptein Dolphin as fitted out now has a super bright Redline 200 lumen led torch for lighting the way, a Planetbike led light for alerting oncoming cars, a rear red 3 led blinker, a 3 led rear solid light, red, blue and white downward aimed lights for ground effects ambience, a blue light over the rear fender, and the neon green Bikeglow framelight.  Compared to some East Bay BP neon light setups it looks kind of weak, but in SF I was something of a standout.  That was my contribution, that and walking my bike up the hills.

(This one petite young woman was riding a big cargo bike towing a big sound rig that was pumping out deep bass riffs.  The whole thing must have been near 200lbs.
She was effortlessly rolling along, passing by , which puzzled me because I was really working hard, and then it occurred to me---her bike had an electric motor in the rear wheel!  She smoked us all on the big hill, the big bass beats receding into our future.  Awesome!)

By walking my bike up Scott street, which kept increasing in tilt until I could hardly even push it up on foot, I made everyone else look REALLY GOOD as they rode past me.  Hey all you SF riders, you're welcome!
I knew I would end up doing this so it was no ding to my ego.  The thing I didn't consider at all, and I don't know why, is that there were equally steep downhills.  I've never tried the Dutch bike on a slope like that.  In the dark.  In the fog.  Surrounded by dozens of other riders.  Not even knowing where I was going.

So suddenly I am plummeting down Scott street, grabbing fistfuls of brake handles, and I asked myself, "Self, how long will these drum brakes, designed for the flat waterways of Amsterdam, hold up under this kind of gravitational stress?  Self had no idea.  Really.   I figured they could hold out or just as easily start smoking and fading, and then things would get REALLY exciting very quickly.   You know what?  They worked like a champ, smooth, like a car.  Awesome!

The party rolled onto Crissy Field and during the mild descending roads through the empty Presidio, I noticed the Kaptein is one fast downhill bike as I was reeling in everyone ahead of me, even folks on road bikes.  I chalk it up to all that weight.  But it was a hoot to find a performance area it is not light years behind in.  I love this bike, I really do.  It is truly unique but it just does not do what most people would want a bike to do, which is: be light, pedal effortlessly, go up hills like a goat, and leave the rider refreshed feeling at the end.  This bike makes up for all those things in one area:  Class.  It is a classy ride and makes me feel like a classy rider.
Actual film of actual Flashblog interview in progress with the Grilled Cheese Guy, East Bay  Bike Party  8/11
GC Guy carried the table, gas stove, skillet, loaves of bread, cheese on his bike, providing free sandwiches for the asking.  Awesome!  (photo: Nelson Planting)

I left the ride early and proceeded back to the BART station where an extremely interesting social experiment developed.   To my utter dismay, as I was by then weary in mental and physical state, I saw the train platform crammed with Giant's fans.  NOOOOOOO!!!!  I've been in this situation before.  It can get ugly jostling for train space.  So when the train came, and I saw people already standing in it, I thought I had no chance for this one.
However, after the baseball fans entered the train car (last car)  there was a hole.  Just big enough for me and my bike.  There were people on the platform who did not enter the car and were just standing there, so I went for it.  I was on the train!  YES!  Hardly 10 seconds passed before the train conductor came on over the PA and announced "YOU BIKE RIDERS FOLLOW THE RULES----NO BIKES ON BART DURING COMMUTE HOURS----YOU KNOW THE RULES!!!"   I was like "What????"  I looked at my watch:  10:40pm---Commute hours?  What??  The standing people in the car looked at me wondering what I would do.

So, perhaps in my weary state,  beaten down by the conductor's beratement,  I backed out of the train onto the platform.  A lady on the platform said to me "There's room on that train, get back on there!"   I replied, " but she said its commute hours...."  and the lady replied " She ain't seen you, she talking to those people at the front" , and I looked at the length of the 10 car train, and the front was WAY far away, and I knew she was right.  The Giants fans started chiming in " Come back on!",  " Quick, come back!"  So I did, I made a quick forward move just before the doors closed.  YES!!  I was back on the train.  Giant's fans ROCK!

What the Cop Said To Me:

So I rode home from 12th street, and when I approached the Park St. Bridge to Alameda, I saw a police car parked in the right lane of the bridge, it's two officers interviewing a "person of interest" who was standing against the bridge's sidewalk railing.  Officer 1 had a notepad and was taking notes, Officer 2 had his back to me and was standing in "ready position", which if you saw it you would know what I mean.  He was blocking the sidewalk.  So I gave them my Dutch Ice Cream Truck bell jingle.  As I rode up the bridge ramp...

Officer 2:  "  Evening Sir"

Me:            "Evening Officer"

Officer 1:   "Now THAT'S a bike with lights!"


That made my night, it really did.

Ride On My Friends,