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Category Archives: Gear and Tools

The Bearings We All Forget

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Bearings

Bicycles run on bearings.  Starting from the front of the bicycle, there are bearings in the front wheel hub, which allow the wheel to spin on its axle.  There are bearings in the headset, which is the assembly that connects the front fork to the frame, and permits the fork to turn for steering and balancing.  There are bearings in the bottom bracket, which allow the crankset spindle to rotate freely.  There are bearings in the rear wheel hub and the freewheel attached to it.  There are bearings in the two rear derailleur pulleys.

Bearings Bicycle.png

Cyclists pay lots of attention to the bearings in wheels and drivetrains.  These are the bearings which help the bicycle’s forward progress.  Any reduction in friction (loss of watts, in cyclist’s parlance) is highly sought after.  These bearings are regularly serviced. Steel bearings are often replaced with ceramic bearings, which have a lower rolling resistance.

Headset bearings get less love.  Bike mechanics should check headset adjustment when servicing bikes.  Occasionally a headset needs tightening.  It is usually only after the rider feels roughness, notchiness, or uneven drag while steering, that headset bearing get serviced or replaced.

And the bearings we all forget?  The ones in our pedals.  Cyclists notice when their cleats need replacing.  The wear is visible, and that wear is often made tangible by clipping in and out of the pedals requiring either too much or too little force.

Pedals just seem to go on and on doing their job with no fuss or bother.  That adage about the squeaky wheel is certainly true where pedals are concerned.

I bought my Alchemy Eros, and the Speedplay pedals that I specified for the bike, in June 2015.  I had given my pedals little or no thought since then.

A week ago the bike developed an irritating click.  Lim, the mechanic at The Bike Artisans, thought that my pedals could be the source of the noise.  The pedals were spinning too freely on their spindles, which is a sign that they needed regreasing.  He didn’t have a needle-type grease injector gun, so couldn’t do the quick and easy pedal maintenance via the grease port hole built into the pedal bodies.

When I got home I consulted the Speedplay website.  Speedplay recommends that the pedal bearings be regreased at least every 3,200 km / 2000 mi, or every two months.

Bearings What

That means my pedals should have been regreased between five and twelve times by now.

I found online instructions to disassemble my pedals.  The Spindle Screw was held in place by some Loctite Threadlocker Blue, but I got the screw to turn without having to heat it, as mentioned in some posts.  The fiddliest step was removing the retaining ring.

It is possible to replace the bearings – Speedplay sells a pedal rebuild kit for USD100 which replaces everything but the spindles.  I just cleaned all the parts, flushed out what grease was left in the bearings, flooded the pedal body with fresh grease, and reassembled the pedals.

Bearings Pedal Disassembly

Diagram courtesy of forum.slowtwitch.com

So far so good.  The pedals are turning smoothly and quietly.

Unfortunately that irritating click is still there.

Bearings Irritated

Postscript

I have found the source of the click.  It was coming from the rear dropouts.  A touch of lubrication between the QR faces and the dropouts, and silence was restored.

Thank you Uffe Lindhardt for the link to Keep It Quiet!  Jim Langley’s wide-ranging bicycle blog is an excellent resource.

Hmmmm. That Seems High.

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Heart Rate Line

I usually ride with a heart rate monitor.  I have a screen on my Garmin that shows, among other things, my heart rate.

I know the disadvantages of using a heart rate monitor.  Such as heart rate being affected by ambient temperature, your emotional state, whether you are tired, or whether you are over-trained.  The monitor itself can generate spurious data.

Nevertheless, my heart rate monitor gives me some data to quantify my level of effort, and more importantly, it tells me when I need to back off, or run the risk of blowing up.  Over time I have learnt that 160bpm is when I need to back off.

I could use a power meter instead.  Power output is a more precise way to gauge performance than heart rate is.  However a power meter is too expensive, despite where prices have fallen to, given the non-competitive riding that I do.

Heart Rate Maximum chiro-doctor com

Graphic courtesy of chiro-doctor.com

I got to 157bpm last weekend, for the first time in ages.  It was at the end of a 500 meter, 7.1% average gradient climb.  That climb came after 110km / 68mi of riding at about 32kph / 20mph.  Faster than I normally ride, so cardiac drift had already pushed my average heart rate to about 140bpm.

The highest I got to the the six weeks prior was 155bpm, during the 141km / 88mi CIMB Cycle @ Seri Menanti event.  That ride had 1,100 meters / 3,600 feet of climbing.

Soon after the CIMB ride I went on holiday for a fortnight or so.  I ate a lot, and did minimal exercise.  It was a holiday after all.  But I was still very surprised when my Garmin showed 160bpm on my first ride after that holiday.

Heart Rate High medlicker com

Graphic courtesy of medlicker.com

Six days later I did another ride, and I hit 164bpm.  My maximum heart rate during those two rides was about 20bpm higher than is usual for me.  What was going on?

For better or for worse, I went to Google for answers.  Google didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know.  Fatigue, overreaching, overtraining, too much caffeine, or a hot day could all be reasons why my heart rate rose above what I normally see.

I didn’t have any of the symptoms which would set off alarm bells, such as lightheadedness, nausea, or pressure, pain or discomfort in my chest, arm, neck or jaw.  Still, I wondered.

Heart Rate Good to Go wglt org

Graphic courtesy of wglt.org

I needn’t have worried.  I went on a 70km / 43.5mi ride the next day, and my maximum heart rate was 125bpm.  Since then I have maxed out at an average of 147bpm, including last weekend’s outlier.

So what caused that two ride blip?  I’m not sure.  Probably a combination of jet lag and low blood sugar.

It is time for my annual physical exam.  Just to be on the safe side.

 

New BB for the Alchemy Eros

Bottom Bracket (BB):  The bottom bracket connects the crankset (chainset) to the bicycle and allows the crankset to rotate freely.  It contains a spindle or axle that the crankset attaches to, and the bearings that allow the spindle and cranks to rotate.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In my post about my broken saddle, I mentioned that I was told about the snapped rail after I sent the Alchemy Eros to Meng Thai Cycle for servicing.  The bike needed a service because the BB was clicking sporadically.

The bike came with a Chris King BB.  After the crankset had been removed, the mechanic discovered that the BB bearing on one side of the BB shell was almost frozen.  As the BB bearings came out of the BB shell, a gush of water followed.

The Eros frame does not have a drain hole in the BB shell, or in the chain stays.  So the water that found its way into the frame, most likely by wicking down the seat post, accumulated in the BB shell.

This is what a new Chris King Press Fit 30 BB looks like.

Chris King PF 30

Photograph courtesy of Chris King

This is what came out of my frame.

IMG_5798

Clearly, the water in the BB shell had not done the bearings any good.  The damage was so bad that the BB had to be replaced.

Chris King BBs are hard to find in Kuala Lumpur.  Meng Thai Cycle had a compatible Tripeak Twist Fit BB on hand.

Tripeak Logo

Logo courtesy of tripeakbearing.com

I had read about twist fit BBs in the past.  They were touted as an elegant solution for creaking press fit BBs.  In April 2015 BikeRadar published a piece about Legit Engineering’s twist fit BB.  Seventeen months later, road.cc published an article about the similar Token thread fit BB.

Both versions feature bearing cups wrapped in a plastic and fibreglass composite material.  This prevents metal-to-metal contact between the bearing cups and the frame, thus eliminating creaks.

The clever part of this solution is that the bearing cups thread together, tightly sandwiching the BB shell in between the cups to prevent movement.

Tripeak PF30 Twist Fit BB 4

Photograph courtesy of tripeakbearing.com

The Tripeak name was new to me.  It turns out that Legit Engineering has been rebranded as Tripeak.  Click on the link on the URL shown on the Legit Engineering Facebook page and you get taken to the marketing site for Tripeak.   The Legit Engineering Twist Fit BB (upper photograph) and Tripeak Twist Fit are are identical, save for branding.

Legit Twist Fit BB 1

Photograph courtesy of bikeradar.com

Tripeak PF30 Twist Fit BB 3

Photograph courtesy of tripeakbearing.com

After more than 15,000km / 9,300mi on a Chris King PF30 BB, my cranks now turn in a Tripeak Twist Fit BB.  So far so good.

Chris King BBs come with a 5-year built-to-last warranty.  I sent photographs and a description of the problem to Alchemy Bicycle Co.  Alchemy was whom I had “bought” the Chris King BB from when I purchased my fully built-up bike.

Alchemy has submitted those details to Chris King, but have not yet heard back from them.  It is a limited warranty, so it is very likely that damage or failure due to water in the BB shell is not covered.

Which reminds me to take my Alchemy Eros outside, remove the seat post, and turn it upside down.  I have been on some wet rides lately.

N.B.  Taiwanese brands like Tripeak are often hard to find in the United States and Europe.  Wheels Manufacturing now offers a range of threaded BBs to replace press fit BBs.

Mere Millimeters In It

Selle Italia Superflow Saddle Sore 2

A pain in the butt.  Not since I started cycling had riding caused sore buttocks.  Or to be more specific, a sore left buttock,  I suspected a saddle sore, but there wasn’t any evidence of skin abrasion, let alone folliculitis.

There was no denying, however, that whenever I rode, I felt pressure and discomfort where my left sit bone (ischial tuberosity) rested on my saddle.  My first thought was that I needed to replace my well-used bibshorts.  Perhaps the chamois pads had become compressed, and were no longer providing the cushioning that they used to.

I tried some newer, better cushioned bibshorts, but the discomfort persisted. So I began to consider the possibility that I had somehow developed a pelvic tilt to the left.  I started to investigate chiropractic or myofascial treatment to address a structural misalignment in my pelvis.

Selle Italia Superflow Saddle Sore

By that time a few weeks had passed.  At which time I did develop some skin abrasion at the pressure point, which made me reconsider the possibility that I was developing a saddle sore.  Out came the Dettol antiseptic cream.  Perhaps it was the placebo effect, but it did feel as if the discomfort was lessening.  But it never went away completely, and the reason for the pain remained a mystery.

The answer came after I had been riding with a sore butt for about a month.  I had to send my bike for a service at Meng Thai Cycle in Kota Kemuning.  More about why my bike needed a service in a future post.

When I went to collect my bike post-service, Lee asked me if I knew that a rail on my Selle Italia SLR Superflow saddle had broken.  I did not.

The vanox rail under the left side had snapped at the point where it entered the slot at the left rear of the saddle shell.  The rail is crimped at that point, which presumable creates a weak point.  It must have snapped just before I started feeling discomfort on my left side.

Selle Italia Superflow Saddle Arrow

The shell was like a spring, and the broken rail was no longer holding the shell down properly.  The result was that the left rear of the saddle was slightly higher than the right side.  It was only two or three millimeters higher.  Not enough difference for me to notice whenever I looked at my saddle.  But enough of a difference for my butt to notice.

I replaced the broken saddle with the same model off my Ritchey Break Away, and “Hey Presto!”  No more pain in the butt.

I wouldn’t have thought that a few millimeters would have such an impact.  I could put her to shame.

Selle Italia Superflow Saddle Princess Prezi com

Image courtesy of prezi.com

What To Do With Excess Cycling Gear?

Regular readers know that my collection of cycling jerseys grows with each organised century ride I participate in.  I have also accumulated bottles, lights and the like.

I have tried to give some of it away, but most of my cycling buddies have the same predicament.  An increasing pile of stuff that they do not use.

My Biker Chick came up with a super solution.  While researching places to stay and things to do and see during our recent trip to South Africa, she came across a cycling development program run by Jakaranda Children’s Home.

Jakaranda Logo

Logo courtesy of Jakaranda Children’s Home

The Jakaranda Children’s Home, and the companion Louis Botha Children’s Home, are two non-profit organisations that look after the welfare of 350 children in Pretoria, South Africa. These children have been removed from their parents and placed in the care of the Homes by the South African children’s court.  Reasons include abandonment, neglect, and emotional and physical abuse.

The primary purpose of the Homes is to provide the children with clothing, housing, schooling, food, security and stability.  In addition, the Homes provide the children with the necessary therapy, life skills and emotional support that they need in order to become responsible adults, and to curb the cycle of abuse.

The children live in one of 21 individual homes within the Jakaranda compound.  Each home houses thirteen to fifteen children, under the care of a House Parent.  The House Parent prepares meals for the children, helps them with their homework, and provides overall care for the children like they would in their own home.

Jakaranda House 2

Photograph courtesy of Jakaranda Children’s Home

Jakaranda House 1

Photograph courtesy of Jakaranda Children’s Home

The Homes run a number of different activities, all with a therapeutic purpose.  One of these activities is the Cycling Development & Therapy Project.  The cycling development project was started to help children who were battling with responsibility or perseverance problems.  The project now involves 100 children between the ages of 12 and 18 years.  The children compete regularly in competitions and cycling events.  The ultimate aim is for some of the children to take cycling as a professional career when they leave the home.

Jakaranda Cycling

Photograph courtesy of Jakaranda Children’s Home

What does all this have to do with my excess cycling gear?  The Jakaranda cycling development project is always looking for donations of cycling equipment and clothing.

So the largest suitcase we took on our trip was filled with jerseys, bib shorts, bottles, bottle cages, helmets, lights and the like.

Jakaranda Bag

Photograph courtesy of Biker Chick

It was an enjoyable and interesting visit to Jakaranda Children’s Home.  Coincidentally, our guide / driver for our trip to Pretoria, and the Cradle of Humankind in Maropeng, had adopted a child who was a resident of Jakaranda.  In addition, that boy was in the Cycling Development & Therapy Project, and as an adult is still an avid cyclist.

Hopefully the children at the Jakaranda Home will get a lot of use out of my pre-loved cycling gear.  And I now have room to collect some more!

The Art of Exercise

I enjoy studying graphic representations of data.  Like this map illustrating 59,036 routes between 3,209 airports on 531 airlines spanning the globe.

Sisu openflights org

Graphic courtesy of openflights.org

And this chart showing our galaxy’s relative size and position within the known universe.

Sisu Galaxy national geographic com

Graphic courtesy of nationalgeographic.com

The latest graphic to pique my interest is one created by Sisu.

Sisu Logo

Sisu takes your exercise data from Strava or Runkeeper, and turns that data into a print.  Sisu has been around since at least 2014.  Co-founder Peter Roome posted the first blog entry on the Sisu website in May that year.

I found out about Sisu last week, when cycling friends started posting their Sisu prints on Facebook.

There are a few designs to choose from on the Sisu website.  I like their original design that displays all the routes you covered between your chosen start and finish dates.  The plots of each route are sized so all of them fit on one page.  Thus the plots are not to scale.

Below are the routes I rode in 2010, the year I started cycling.  The first four rows show rides within and around Houston, Texas.  The rest of the routes are either loops or out-and-back rides starting from Den Haag, The Netherlands.  I moved from Houston to Den Haag in May 2010.

The rides range from 14.5km / 9mi (row two, far right, which was a short run from my Houston home to Hermann Park and back), to 124.5km / 77mi (row six, third from the left, which was from my Den Haag home to Kinderdijk and back).

Sisu 2010

Graphic courtesy of madewithsisu.com

Even with only fifty rides in 2010, patterns emerge from the plots.  Most of my Houston rides were with the West End 6:30 group.  We rode a consistent route through the city every Tuesday and Thursday.  Most of those are shown on row three.

Den Haag is just a couple of kilometers from the coast.  You can’t ride very far west before you run into the North Sea.  So a lot of my rides in The Netherlands followed the coastline, either south-west or north- east from Den Haag.

As you lengthen the timeline, the Sisu plots of each route get smaller.  To ensure that, in this case, 885 routes fit on one page.

This print shows my entire Strava ride history.

Sisu 2010 to 170318

Graphic courtesy of madewithsisu.com

I think this print is a fascinating way to review my cycling history.  It is obvious from the graphic that my Kuala Lumpur friends and I spent an awful lot of time on the KESAS Highway in 2013 and 2014, as shown by all the horizontal, slightly squiggly routes in the middle third of the print.

There was a time when the Bukit Damansara route was popular.  This route Bukit Damansaraappears a dozen times in the centre rows.

Highlights stand out too.

An evening’s ride around the Sepang International Circuit produced this plot Sisu Sepang.  It is not too difficult to find, about two-thirds of the way down the print.

More difficult to pick out is this route, my longest ever ride at 445km / 276.5mi Sisu BRM400.  It is in the fourth row from the bottom.

Of course, what my Facebook friends and I should be doing is paying Sisu for a print.

Sisu Order

Prints come on 300 grams per square meter Matt Photorag stock.  300gsm paper stock is at the higher end of paper thickness.

The print size is 12 inches by 16 inches for US orders, and A3 size (297mm by 420mm) for orders from the rest of the world.  The price for a physical print, or a digital download, are above.

I’m thinking of a present to myself when I hit 60,112km / 37,351mi.  That is 1.5 times around the circumference of the Earth.  Which should be in two months or so.

Cycle Computers

In May 2009 I bought my first bicycle.  A Trek FX7.5.  Before long the data geek in me was on the hunt for a cycle computer, so I could track speed and distance.  The gadget geek in me narrowed my search down to SpeedTrap compatible models.

SpeedTrap is the Trek / Bontrager name for the ANT+ 2.4 GHz digital wireless speed sensor that fits into a recess in the fork leg of the FX7.5 and other models in the Trek Range.  The Trek Incite 8i was my first cycle computer.

trek-incite-8i

Photograph courtesy of Evans Cycles

In January 2010 I got my first road bike.  I needed another cycle computer to go with it, because the Easton EC90 SLX fork on my new bike didn’t have a SpeedTrap mount.

By that time I was riding farther afield, and had already gotten lost a few times.  So a GPS-enabled device with mapping seemed like a good idea.  DC Rainmaker’s excellent in-depth review of the Garmin Edge 705 convinced me to break out my credit card and get one.

Garmin Edge 705

Fast forward to the end of 2016.  Cycle computer technology has, along with the technology in most consumer electronics, progressed by leaps and bounds since 2009. Today’s cycle computers have touch screens, are Bluetooth and wifi enabled, receive GLONASS as well as GPS signals, function as remote controls for certain lights and cameras, display missed phone call and text notifications, and do a host of other things that the Edge 705 is incapable of.

My Edge 705 is more than five years old.  It still works well, apart from the occasional spontaneous shut down, which I think I cured recently by doing a hard reset.  My Edge 705 does, however, show its vintage everytime I have to tether it to a PC via a USB cable to download ride data to Garmin Connect and Strava.  Newer devices do that wirelessly.

A more serious problem is ever-shortening battery life.  I had taken to carrying a power bank on longer rides.

The DC Rainmaker website was again my source for reviews of potential replacements for my Edge 705.  The Edge 820 is the latest Garmin offering, and DC Rainmaker’s preview post made it an appealing option.  Appealing, that is, until a trickle of negative comments from early buyers turned into a deluge.

garmin-edge-820

Photograph courtesy of Garmin

There were too many issues with the Edge 820 for my liking.  So I decided to buy a Garmin Edge 1000.  That model came out almost three years ago, but firmware updates have given the Edge 1000 most, if not all, of the capabilities of the Edge 820.  And three years should have been enough time for Garmin to flush all the bugs out of the Edge 1000.

garmin-edge-1000

Photograph courtesy of Cycle Solutions

Some people complain about the size of the Edge 1000.  At 58.0 x 112.0 x 20.0 mm (2.3″ x 4.4″ x 0.8″), it is not a svelte unit.  But those dimensions give the Edge 1000 a 30% larger display than the Edge 820, which in turn has a slightly bigger display than the Edge 705.  A key consideration, given the age of my eyes.

In November 2016 I went shopping online, and found the best deal at Bike Tires Direct.  34% off the RRP.  An Edge 1000 was soon on its way to me.

My excitement upon the unit’s arrival was quickly extinguished when it crashed and died during initial setup.  I was left with a paperweight.  A major bummer.

A visit to AECO Technologies, the authorized Garmin distributor for Malaysia, did not immediately solve the problem.  The unit would have to be sent to Taiwan for repair, at my expense.  Garmin does not provide a world-wide warranty for the Edge 1000, so I would have to foot the bill for shipping and repairs.

garmin-edge-1000-repair-cost

 

The alternative was for me to send the unit back to Bike Tires Direct in the United States, where the unit may have been repaired under warranty.  I decided to swallow the cost and work face-to-face with AECO Technologies folk, rather than communicate via emails and telephone calls to Bike Tires Direct and Garmin in the United States.

Anyway, the cost to send the unit to Taiwan for repair was slightly less than what I had saved via the discount I received from Bike Tires Direct.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Six weeks later AECO called to say that the Edge 1000 was back.  It turned out to be a new unit, so there must have been something seriously wrong with the unit that failed.

Happily I had no problems setting up the replacement unit.  And it is working perfectly.

It is, however, going to take me some time to decide on my preferred layouts for all the data screens.  With the Edge 1000 you can have five data screens per activity profile, with each screen containing up to ten data fields.  You also have a map page, a compass page, an elevation chart page, the lap summary page, and the virtual partner page.  Each of those special pages allows you to specify two additional data fields on them.

And the list of data fields to choose from is extensive.

garmin-edge-1000-data-fields

Table courtesy of DC Rainmaker

If you set up the maximum of ten activity profiles, you could have up to fifty data screens and fifty special pages to manage.  With a total of six hundred data fields.  Talk about overload!

That is all too much for me.  I deleted all but one activity profile.  For the time being I have turned off two of the five data screens, and three of the five special pages.

If managing activity profiles doesn’t take up enough of your time, you can fritter more time away by going online to the Garmin Connect IQ Store.  You can spend hours scrolling through the Applications, Data Fields and Widgets available there.

This is my favourite data screen layout – for now anyway.  My EDGE is a customizable Data Field downloaded from the Connect IQ Store.  This one data field takes up an entire data screen, but it contains multiple data items which are user selectable.  The analog speedometer is particularly cool.

garmin-edge-1000-screen

A final note.

I own two Edge 705s (it’s a long story).  On one unit, some of the threaded plastic holes, where the screws holding the case together are inserted, have cracked.  So four of the six screws are missing.  Garmin no longer stocks spare parts for the Edge 705.  Not even replacement screws.  The advice from a technician at AECO is to use the damaged Edge 705 as the donor of spare parts, as needed, for the other unit.

Fortunately, replacement batteries for the Edge 705 are available from a number of online vendors.  I bought one from BatteryShip.com.  It was simple to install.

garmin-edge-705-replacement-battery

Photograph courtesy of BatteryShip

Now have a rejuvenated Edge 705 as a backup for my Edge 1000.  For which replacement batteries are also available.  Contrary to what AECO told me about the Edge 1000 battery being non-replaceable.

A final final note.

Don’t get me started on the 36 hour battery life of Bryton cycle computers.