Monthly Archives: February 2012

Nearly the last upgrades for LEJoG

The last parts arrived yesterday so today I have installed what will be nearly the last changes to my Trek Pilot ready for LEJoG this summer.

On went a very nice British made bottom bracket: Hope Bottom Bracket (I went for the ceramic bearings – which are actually Swiss). Getting the spacers right takes a few minutes of head scratching. This is wider than the Shimano bracket that it replaced so plastic collar had to come off the Tiagra chainset axle. The Shimano BB won’t be wasted as I’ll be putting it on my Fixie when I get the right chainring.

Also on went the bag that I plan to use for LEJoG, I know everyone laughs at me for always having space to carry lots of stuff but despite that I have fitted a Carradice SQR Tour. That meant taking off the rear rack and I decided to get on with it and remove the mudguards as well (no more riding the Trek in the rain, but then the fixie is setup for that anyway).

While the SQL Tour (again made in Britain) is hopefully larger than I need for LEJoG it is large enough for the bike to still be useful getting around for work at least some of the time.

Anyway the bike feels lighter with the SQR tour on than with the mudguards and rack which is what I hoped for.  Plus I will have plenty of room for food 🙂

The only upgrade I plan before LEJoG is the tyres, still debating how far to move towards lighter/faster from comfort/puncture resistance. Beyond that I expect both brake blocks and chain will need replacing as normal maintenance items.

With the bike all ready the easiest way to make the ride faster & easier is to lose a significant amount of weight 🙁 Don’t hold your breath!


Loving my new bike

So all the work on my Trek Pilot 1.2 was completed last night (see You know your bike is properly run in when …  & Bike maintenance frustrations « 42 Bikes).

So today I rode it for four meetings. Just over 25 miles in total (East Goscote x 2, Leicester City Centre, East Goscote again).

This was my first ride with Speedplay Frog pedals and the bike has had many other changes as well (new bottom bracket, new chainset, new chain, new cassette, new brake cables, new gear cables, new handlebar tape, new seatpost collar).

The quick summary is that it felt like a new bike. Absolutely silent and smooth.

The combination of new brake cables, wheel straightening and I guess cleaning of wheels and brake pads meant that the braking was sooo much better.

All the new stuff in the drivetrain (essentially only the front & rear derailliers unchanged) also meant quick and silent gear changes.

When you have been using a bike for a long time the loss of performance sneaks up on you.

My initial reaction to the Speedplay Frogs was similar to ones I have read from others, it felt like you are balancing on ice cubes. However, after only a few miles the comfort of being able to move my feet around and the exceptionally easy clip in and out have won me round. If only there were a way of clipping on a platform so that for short journeys you could ride with ordinary shoes they would be almost perfect general purpose pedals.

So I am a very happy rider 🙂 By the time you read this I should be a very happy rider out for a nice day ride. I am taking 2/3 of a day off tomorrow and riding towards Lincoln & back, should be just over 100 miles.


Moving towards standardisation of Bottom Brackets :-)

So I think I am making some good progress on resolving incompatibilities.

I have 3 bikes that get used every week. My Bullitt Cargo Bike, my Trek Pilot 1.2 and my Pearson Touché Fixie. Until recently they had three incompatible cranksets & bottom brackets.

The Bullitt uses the Shimano Hollowtech II standard and it is by far the easiest to work with. It also appears to offer the best bearings as they are external to the bottom bracket itself and so the bearings are larger and the axle is larger – both are good things 🙂

As noted in my post Bike maintenance frustrations it proved cheaper to use a spare Hollotech II bottom bracket in my Trek and buy a new Tiagra chainset than simply buy new chainrings.

That leaves my fixie all on it’s own. However, by a coincidence it also needs a new bottom bracket. By another coincidence I also have a spare Hollowtech II chainset (Shimano Alfine from when I switched chainset on my Bullitt to get a smaller chainring for Hebie Chainglider compatibility). So if I can find a chainring the right size for my fixie (thicker chain and larger chainring than I have at the moment) I can then standardise on a common Bottom Bracket standard.

One advantage of that is that I can choose a really high quality Bottom Bracket and do some swapping around so that my Trek (as the bike used for the longest distances gets the best quality).

Another nice thing is that I can buy a a high quality Bottom bracket that is made in England, lovely! So I am looking at a Hope Ceramic Bottom Bracket for smooth running, local job creating,  long lasting, loveliness 🙂


Back to normality with 35 ordinary miles cycled

Yesterday marked a welcome return to normality after 10 days of disruption (caused by snow/ice and a non bike related injury). I have ridden a bike everyday but the total miles last week was way down on normal.

So yesterday was nice. It started with no choice of bike. My Trek was awaiting parts (the new chainset arrived 30 minutes ago 🙂 ) and I awoke to find my Bullitt Cargobike had a flat front tyre (and anyway it has studded tyres on at the moment and the snow had cleared). So it was an easy decision to use my lovely fixie 🙂

The first ride was 4 miles through Watermead Park for our weekly staff meeting, after that I continued into Leicester for some errands which included grabbing some lunch and calling in at Staples on the way home. Total 13.4 miles.

Then a quick change into clerical shirt and off to East Goscote & Queniborough for some visiting. Total 5.2 miles.

Finally, through Leicester to Oadby to visit my Mother-in-Law before returning to Syston for a Bible Study group and then home. Total 16.9 miles.

So 35 miles, all in normal clothes (only cycle specific items are gloves and my waterproof) that included some rain. Very normal, very easy and yet according to our British transport culture somehow impossible or impractical.


You know your bike is properly run in when …

Despite some frustrations yesterday, in the end I was quite pleased with progress on a major refurbishment of my Trek Pilot.

  • Both derailliers have cleaned up very nicely, the rear one even has nice new Tacx jockey wheels.
  • I have fitted the new brake and gear cables. Also adjusted the brakes.
  • The new cassette is fitted to a very clean looking back wheel
  • I have a new seat collar (the head of the nut was getting rather worn on the old one
  • The new bottom bracket is fitted.
Still to do
  • handlebar tape
  • fit new chainset when it arrives
  • fit new chain
  • fit new pedals (the old ones are ok but I am trying Speeplay Frogs for the extra float for my knees)
  • adjust the gears
  • Put some more wax on my Brooks saddle

I was reflecting on the whole process last night while riding with my studded tyres crunching through the ice. I was wondering how long it has taken me to spend more on upgrades and maintenance than I paid for the actual bike. Obviously that will come sooner for a cheap bike but this wasn’t (at the time we bought it, it was the most expensive 2 wheel bike we had ever bought – I think around £600).

So far I have bought the following for it:

  • Two sets of Schwalbe Marathon Tyres
  • Three chains
  • Three sets of brake pads
  • Two replacement handlebar tape
  • Two back wheels (both the older wheels still available. The first was an emergency replacement when away and no bike shop close for repair. The second was an upgrade to a heavier duty wheel to cope with heavier loads)
  • Three rear cassettes
  • New mudguards added using new bolts for the brakes
  • Two racks (started with a basic one, upgraded to a Tubus Locc (which has a carrying point for an Abus U-Lock)
  • At least 4 bottle cages
  • 3 sets of pedals (basic SPD/flat, then Shimano A520 SPD/Flat, now Speedplay Frogs
  • new Bottom bracket
  • new chainset
  • new Saddle (upgrade to a Brooks B17 Select)
  • 2 new brake cables
  • 2 new gear cables
  • new seat post collar
  • I have used 3 bike computers (basic Cateye, Garmin 705 and now Garmin 800) – the Garmins are used on multiple bikes
  • I guess about 6 inner tubes
  • Several front lights before settling on an Exposure Strada
  • Several back lights before settling on a Cateye TL-LD1100 (I had to buy a special mount for the back of the rack).

Note that the bike has been shared between our middle son and me (although to be honest he has not ridden it that much, but I have put thousands of miles on it).

So anyway is a new bike properly run in when

a) the value of upgrades & replacements exceeds the original value of the bike?


b) more than half the current total weight of the bike is non original parts?

All these things are part of the reason why I am interested in low maintenance bikes 🙂 This is a lovely road bike but the parts do wear out when it is used a lot (especially when the use includes lots of British cycle paths/National Cycle Network).

If I had to pay someone to do all this maintenance then I guess it would have economically sensible to have replaced the bike at some point rather than refurbishing it. However, environmentally at least that would not be the best solution.


Bike maintenance frustrations

I have been having a frustrating day.

I am trying to do the sensible and right thing by repairing my Trek Pilot Road bike. It is coming up for 5 years old and so far I have only replaced the very consumable parts (brake pads, chain, rear cassette). Even then one of the times I replaced the chain and cassette was because I broke a spoke while overloaded on a 90 mile ride to a retreat and the only “easy” fix was a new wheel, cassette & chain 🙁

Anyway the present frustration comes from my front gear cable breaking, I had to continue for 12 miles or so with the rear mech in top gear and the front mech in bottom gear, that twisting meant that the chain also broke – fortunately only a mile from home.

I am still trying to prove to myself that I can use this bike for the Lands End to John O Groats ride this summer (despite the temptations of nice Carbon Fibre Bikes). So I decided to get things sorted out now for the summer.

That meant a bit of a spending spree, I can see why people decide to simply buy a new bike every few years as the costs soon mount up (although partly because I needed some new tyres for other bikes as well).

So this morning I cleaned the bike and removed all the bits needed replacing or properly cleaning. In the process I noticed that it was not going to be worth cleaning the chainrings as they are all very worn and if used with a new chain will wear that out quickly. Now comes the really time consuming part. Things have moved on in 5 years and so finding replacement chainrings is not so easy. For example Wiggle had inner and middle chainrings that were suitable but not a matching outer.

Bizarrely in the end it has worked out cheaper to install a spare Shimano Hollowtech II bottom bracket (left over from my attempts to fit a chainglider to my Bullitt cargobike) and buy a new Shimano Tiagra Chainset for it. I’ll be able to collect that from Rutland Cycling before Wednesday.

Until then I have two derailliers to clean, new cassette to fit, new brake & gear cables & new handlebar tape.

I am also going to try Speedplay Frog pedals instead of my Shimano A530’s, they won’t let me ride in normal shoes but will give a lot more float and I am hoping that will prove knee friendly as I have been having some problems with my right knee recently.

I’ll let you know how I get on.


Tempted by carbon

Today I tried a couple of new bikes and am now suffering from the onset of severe temptation. We went to both Rutland Cycling shops (north and south shores of Rutland Water)

I tried a Trek Madone 3.1 (and also a 4.5 as they didn’t have a 3.1 in the right size). Also a Giant Defy Composite 1 (although it is the Defy Composite 2 that I would be looking at).

I decided against trying a Specialized Roubaix (paying an extra £100 and yet moving to a lower spec drivetrain didn’t really appeal). Also against some of the other makes such as Willier and Eddy Merckx.

Both the Trek Madone and the Giant Defy are beautiful as well as light and comfortable. It would be hard to choose between them if we decide that there is any possibility of spending this much money.

The Giant has two main advantages.

  • It uses SRAM Apex drivetrain components. The key advantage is a much wider gear range, especially at the bottom. Even with a double chainring this should give a lower bottom gear than my current Trek has using triple chainrings. Nice that unlike the Trek the whole drivetrain including brakes is all the same model range from the same manufacturer.
  • The frame comes with a 10 year warranty

It also has one key disadvantage. It has an aerodynamic seat post that is nothing like round. This will make it impossible to fit things to the seatpost (light, saddlebag).

Both these would be faster and more comfortable than my Trek Pilot, however, they would also be limited to Sunday best rides (for me normally on a Friday) and could not carry much at all. So they would not actually replace my Trek Pilot.

With the recent breakages on my Trek Pilot it’s reliability for Lands End to John O’Groats is worrying me a little. The problem is that when I use it for loaded tours (such as to Launde Abbey this week) I tend to load it fuller than it is really designed for. At the same time I expect to be able to strip it down in weight for faster rides. So long term maybe dividing and conquering makes sense. As I have several options for loaded touring (Bullitt cargobike for very heavy loads, Trice XXL recumbent trike for medium and the Trek Pilot for lighter loads) maybe it would make sense to retire the Trek Pilot from lightweight long rides.

And yet I wonder just how much faster and more comfortable these £1,500 bikes would be than my current Trek Pilot if it were stripped down a bit (no rack, no mudguards, lighter tyres, lighter back wheel). Maybe I just need to grow up and put the temptation of a new bike behind me.

Any suggestions welcome.


Beware of bikes with long ears!

It seems my Trek Pilot 1.2 has long ears. After working faultlessly on Monday’s 100 mile ride and 45 miles over the next three days today it took revenge for what it thought it had overheard.

As you will see in another post I went and test rode a couple of other bikes today (considering possibilities for Lands End to John O’Groats). Clearly this was unpopular.

So this evening as I was rushing into Leicester (for a vigil prior to the planned visit to Leicester by the EDP tomorrow) the cable to the rear derailleur snapped. That left me in 9th gear at the back. I was therefore forced to use the small front chainring most of the time which produces a poor chain angle and some chain rub on the front derailleur. The net result was that the chain broke on the way back 1 mile from home.

So be very careful what you let your bike overhear!


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