Sunday, November 27, 2011

An Intermittent Creaking Sound

   A couple of weeks ago I noticed a creaking noise coming from the left side of my drive train, so I did what I normally do - I ignored it.  And it went away.  And then it came back.  The noise appeared to come from the area where the left crank arm attaches to the spindle and progressively got worse.  So I tried spitting water on the crankarm as I pedaled along and that seemed to make it happy.  I figured there must have been some dust or sweat-crud lodged in a crease somewhere.  However, the noise kept returning.  It was then that I noticed that the left crankbolt had come loose and upon tightening it down the noise went away.  Several times the creaking resumed and I found that I was having to tighten the crankbolt every 15 miles or so.  (Luckily the crankarm also has "pinch bolts" that hold it on as well.)  Finally the noise became constant whether the crankbolt was loose or not and I began to suspect it was going to be rooted in the bottom bracket.
   As I rode along muttering profanities and dreading the impending trip to the bike mechanic I thought of one last "user friendly" repair (if you count ignoring and spitting water as actual "repairs") that I could try.  I removed the spindle cap from the pedal body, applied a couple of drops of chain lube and Viola!  No more noise.  
   So, what I thought was going to be an expensive bottom bracket repair actually ended up being a creaky pedal and it helped me discover a potentially dangerous situation involving the crankbolt.  A torque wrench should solve that problem.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cycling Milestones

   I've reached a couple of milestones on the road bike recently.  

Road Tube vs. Mountain Tube
   My first "rite of passage" was a flat tire.  As someone who has over twenty years of mountain biking experience I've had lots of flats, but this was the first time I had ever had a flat on a road bike.  I haven't ridden a road bike (think English Racer) since I was probably thirteen or so. While the concept of patching an innertube is the same there are some subtle differences.  First and foremost was the brake release.  I actually had to ask the Bike Noob how to release the tension on the brakes in order to remove the wheel.  It turns out that road bikes have a lever on the brake assembly, whereas my mountain bikes either have disc brakes or the cable unhooks from a slot.  The next difference was/is that the tubes are really skinny.  My patch was almost wider than the tube.  Once I got the tire patched and returned to the bike I realized that my mini-pump wasn't getting a good "bite" on the valve stem and it kept "popping off" the stem every couple of seconds.  Fortunately I had purchased a couple of CO2 cartridges and dispenser at the time I got the bike.  I had heard various comments about how hard it was to reach the necessary PSI for a road tire with a mini-pump.  Which led me to milestone #2, using CO2 for the first time.  I was really apprehensive about inflating tire with the CO2 cartridge since I wasn't sure how hard it was to puncture the seal, and whether the tire would explode or all of the gas would leak out before I could get the tire inflated.  Needless to say everything went smoothly and the tire inflated in less than a second. I really felt empowered and am now totally hooked on CO2, though I still carry the mini-pump just in case.

   Perhaps the next milestone I reached was a "real" road ride, and by real I don't mean noodling around the neighborhood.  Instead, I'm referring to the open highway.  I was amazed at how hard roadies have to concentrate while riding in traffic.  Naturally you have to pay attention to keep from getting ran over, I have to do that on the mountain bike as well.  But roadies also have to literally watch the pavement in front of them since they don't have the shock absorbers and 2 inch wide tires that mountain bikes have.  When I'm riding the road bike I have to be very alert for things such as drainage grates, cracks in the road, expansion joints and missing valve covers and such.  These things can dump you off your bike in a heart beat and when you are riding less than a couple of feet from a moving vehicle it can even be deadly.  And so we come to milestone #4, getting passed by car while in the same lane.  There is only a brief stretch of road on my route (about 500 feet) where the shoulder disappears and I'm forced to share the lane with 65 mph traffic whizzing by.  It's a white knuckle affair and I really don't like doing it, but it's really brief, and traffic is very light on Sunday mornings. I wouldn't be caught dead trying to navigate that section of SH 45 during peak hours.

So, what, if any, milestones have you met in the pursuit of your hobby/sport? I'd love to hear your experiences...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Story of The Bike - I Got a New Bike, Biatch!

   I bought a new bike.  A road bike.  My first one.  It's a Fuji SL-1 Pro.  It's carbon, light weight, and it's fast.  

   I don't really know why I settled on the Fuji, but a guy I ride with has a Fuji.  His is carbon and he likes it.  A coworker recently bought a time trial bike (not a Fuji) but it is also a carbon frame.  We were talking about bikes and he said, "Dude, whatever you do, go carbon, even if means paying more for the frame but settling for lesser components - you can always upgrade later."  I think it was these two things that influenced my decision to purchase what I did.  That, and the fact that the Performance Bike catalog had arrived in my mailbox the week before.  

   I had already decided it was time for a road bike and was originally aiming for something in the sub $1,000 price range.  However, my attention kept being drawn back to the Fuji Pro.  At first I was interested in the Fuji Comp.  It was in the $1,300 range, had the same frame as the Pro, but was spec'd with the Shimano 105 gruppo, as opposed to the Shimano Ultegra that came with the Pro - and besides, I can always upgrade later, right?  

   Interestingly enough, the more I looked at the Comp, the more I noticed the Pro.  There was just something about it.  Maybe it was the name.  Somehow owning a bike with the word "Pro" as part of the name seemed, well, legitimate.  Maybe it was because the Fuji website said that this model was "not available in the U.S."  Maybe it was the fact that the following week the bike would be on sale for $1,700 (currently listed at $2,495) and already in "low inventory" status.  

   The day before the bike went on sale I went down to the local Performance store to check it out and to confirm that the ad wasn't a misprint or some kind of sadistic joke.  Surely enough the would be on sale as promised, but they didn't have any in stock at the store.  To add to the suspense (anguish?), the bike shop was having a grand opening the upcoming weekend and would be offering an additional 15% off the sale price.  So I had a choice to make: Do I wait a day and order the bike online, or do I wait a couple of more days and buy it locally (ie, have shop order it for me) and save an additional $255 off the sale price?  My gamble was would I rather have 100% of a $1,700 bike, or 0% of a $1,450 bike?  I chose to wait.  

   Throughout the week I began to regret my decision as I watched the online supply status change from "low inventory" to "out of stock".  Saturday I got up, and figuring I nothing to lose, clipped out my 15% coupon, and went down to the bike shop anyway.  The bike shop was packed.  It's amazing how many people will show up for a free water bottle and some pizza.  As I stood in line behind what must have been twenty people at one of the registers, I spotted my bike.  It was a display model and had not been there the week before.  Finally I was my turn at the counter and I can honestly say my hands were shaking at this point.  I couldn't believe it.

   "How can I help you?" the clerk asked.
   "Yes, I want to buy that bike right there," I said, hooking my thumb over my shoulder, hoping no one else would walk up and grab it before I could get to it.

   We went over and checked out the bike.  It was a "small" frame size.  Crap!  Based on the Fuji sizing chart I was somewhere between a medium and a large frame.  There was no way I could make this frame work for me.  I thought I was going to puke.  The clerk wrote down some numbers, went back to the computer, called someone in the back, and then informed me that they had one last bike in stock and it was a medium.  We compared the medium frame to a large frame (of a similar bike with same geometry) and the medium was a much better fit for me.  

   I am so glad I didn't jump the gun and purchase the bike online.  I would have paid more and would have gotten too big of a frame.  Then again, I could have wound up with nothing as well.  

   That's my bike purchasing story, what's yours?  Did you ever have any drama when purchasing a bike?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Left Behind

I was finishing up my last lap around the Veloway when myself and another cyclist came upon a small boy, who appeared to be about five, sitting in the middle of the track. His bike lay on the road next to him, no one else was in sight. As we passed, the other rider and I both spoke at the same time: "Are you okay?" "Do you need help?"
"I have a question," the boy said.
The other rider, seeing that the boy obviously wasn't hurt, continued to pedal on while I, somewhat amused, unclipped and stopped.
"Okay, what's your question?"
"Can you go that way?" he asked, pointing towards the crossover between sections of the track.
"You can only go one way," I said, "so if you turn here you'll have to go back the way you just came from. I don't think you want to do that. Here, let's get your bike out of the middle of the road so you don't get ran over."
After a couple of more questions about directional flow around the Veloway, and more suggesting (okay, nagging) from me, he finally stood up, picked up his bike and pushed off to the side of the road.
"Stand over there in the sun so you don't get cold. Where's your mom or dad?"
"Mom's up that way, at the finish, and my dad and sister are back that way so I guess I'm kind of in between them."
"Well, let's wait right here for your dad and sister then, they'll catch up soon."
After a minute or two at the most, his mother rolled up. She gave me a 'thank you' wave as she approached and I returned with a 'no problem' wave as I pedaled off.
"What happened," I heard her say, "did you fall down?"
"I got behind," he said.

I see it all the time at the Veloway when parents ride with their kids. Junior (or Junior-ette) stalls out on an uphill section, gets off the bike and begins to push, and with so many blind curves on the track it's real easy for parents to ride blissfully along, getting much farther ahead than they intended. I also see the same situation with adults. It's usually where guys are supposedly out on a fun ride with their girlfriends/spouses but get all aggro when someone passes them and they end up leaving their honeys behind while attempting to keep up with the person who just passed them. Dudes, leave your testosterone at home when you ride with your girlfriend. She'll be happier and you'll be happier later - drop her, and you won't need that testosterone for at least a week.

Here are a couple of tips for riding with less experienced riders:
Let them lead. Not only can you keep an eye on things, but they'll get a sense of confidence and discovery.
Ride beside them. The person(s) you ride with probably are going along for the social aspect (and not a forced march) and it's hard to communicate when you're 50 feet apart.
And lastly, if you ride with your kids or significant other look over your shoulder more often than not to make sure they are still there.

Photo: Challot