Paul Flemming

Writing on Two Wheels

Home
Writing on Two Wheels
Cartoons
Missouri Showme
And furthermore...
Logrolling
Feedbag
Pics
Reach out
Who?
Blogs/Sprocket.jpg

Ride along for cranked posts on cycling and cycles
A from-the-wheels-up view of rides, builds and fixes.

Archive Newer | Older

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Hub, bub

 

This baby’s got handmade wheels with Italian hubs, Swiss spokes and rims, and rounded out by  German tires and tubes.

It ought feel more hard-core than it does. The wheels look and feel utilitarian, though it’s sneaky that way. These are high-tech rolling machines. Thirty-two double-butted spokes. Golden aluminum nipples. Campagnolo Record hubs.

Blogs/HubThroughSpokes.jpgThose hubs. Again with the much-diminished form, compared to the 1994 version. My Cloud Bike has chrome hubs with high flanges and parabolic flare – grease ports in the middle and the classic Campy QR skewers. The modern version is black and straight and finely tuned. Internal sealed bearings obviate the need for a grease port. Any effort to improve on the beauty or the utility of the classic quick-release design would be ill-advised at best and impossible at worst. The newer model is black, hollow and without the knurled edges. It’s not as pretty. I presume it’s lighter and stronger, but I don’t know. It cannot be lighter and stronger enough to make up for the loss in style and panache.

Modern hubs require little to no maintenance and offer straightforward adjustment. What tuning may be needed is facilitated by a range of fine adjustments possible with the new, plain and more advanced version.

Blogs/HubQR.jpg“When the wheel has been in use it may be necessary to adjust the tolerance of the axle movement with respect to the bearings rolling in the cups and cones of the hub. To check whether the adjustment is necessary, hold the rim with one hand, and with the other move the axle to identify if the tolerance is too loose or tight.” So says the official technical manual on the topic of Campagnolo wheel hub adjustment. Look for yourself at the thing itself in all its inscrutable Italian-to-English product literature.

Blogs/HubRecordBox.jpgAt right around a thousand miles on these wheels now, the hubs feel as if they are a 10-degree turn of an adjustable hub’s cone off perfection. Movement is very nearly imperceptible with the brake-engaged rocking to and fro, save for the slight click of metal on metal from too much play. These hubs are not fine-tuned the same way as the old. No longer is it a lock nut for the certain setting, but rather an adjustment ring nut.

“The indication that the adjustment ring nut will be loosened will be when the slot in the nut has a visible gap. Do not remove the screw from the adjustment ring nut,” goes the tough read.

But who wants to read when you can ride?

Frame:  1070 grams

Fork:  410

Seatpost:  193

Saddle:  540

Headset:  85

Stem:  155

Handlebars:  269

Levers:  350

Cables and housing:  354

Brakes:  623

Bottom Bracket Cups:  29

Cranks:  585

Chain:  256

Cassette:  292

Rear hub:  293

Front derailleur:  76

Front hub:  116

Rims:  450

Spokes/nipples:  413

Tires:  560

Tubes:  140

Running total:  7442 grams, 16.4068016 pounds

 

Tue, May 30, 2017 | link          Comments

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Derailleur, French for magic

 

Truth is, before this exercise in bicycle compilation I knew how to put parts together in combination with parts but I did not understand how those parts worked, separately or, most especially, in conjunction with the whole.

Blogs/frontderailleurspotlight.jpgMy vision of how derailleurs work, both front and rear, and manage to shift gears was wrong. I had in mind the derailleurs gently lifted and dropped the chain one cog or one ring to the other. This, as it turns out, is not so.

Instead, the action of the derailleurs is more a function of brute force. The mechanism shoves the chain side to side and nothing more – well, nothing more than getting itself out of the way of the freewheel and chainset and taking up slack or, alternately, letting out tautness. That’s it: Jam laterally to and fro in a horizontal plane with opposable tension to scootch clear of larger gears. The mechanisms of the rear derailleur with its jockey pulley and tension pulley manage to keep the tension of the chain constant as its course lengthens and shortens.

Blogs/rearderailleurspotlight.jpgIt is not the derailleurs that place the chain on the next sprocket, particularly when moving from smaller to bigger, but rather it is by way of ramps and lifts on the cassette gears and chain rings themselves – each positioned precisely themselves and one in relation to another. Here, in the shape and form of the sides, is where advanced engineering has made a difference.

The derailleurs do not shift, they derail. It’s the gears themselves that do the work – now more sure and effortless, smooth and silky, predictable and bombproof than before when the design of cassette gears was barbaric.

Neither did I understand the chain, its complexity and its wonder.

Blogs/chainspotlightb.jpgThere are at least six parts to every single link of a bicycle chain, and the way it works had eluded me for all my life until five days ago when I read about the development of the roller chain and how it was a critical element in the development of the safety bicycle and the rear-wheel chain drive that made it possible. A workable, efficient and safe derailleur system took another half century-plus to catch up, so it seems plain the improved chain is the more significant. The outside of its bushing business rolls around the sprocket scoop while all the while the pin holding the whole apparatus together itself rolls around the inside of the bushing. This makes it a mobius strip of a ball bearing with a never-ending frictionless inside-out rolling surface.

There’s the wonder.

The Campag chain for the 11-speed cassette is, necessarily, more narrow to fit between the splines of the more-compact layers of cogs. The chain, too, is designed in complement to the ramps and pinions of the gears to facilitate the ramping up onto and slipping down into adjacent, even consecutively adjacent, gears.

Here, then, is the drivetrain, the means of transferring power from my legs to propel these wheels. It is the motive force, the very essence of bicycle as bicycle, the difference between a combination of wheels and frame to scootch along and a pedaled machine.

You can feel it, the chain, connecting effort to effect. Though not when you’re standing still. Let’s go for a ride.

 

Frame:  1070 grams

Fork:  410

Seatpost:  193

Saddle:  540

Headset:  85

Stem:  155

Handlebars:  269

Levers:  350

Cables and housing:  354

Brakes:  623

Bottom Bracket Cups:  29

Cranks:  585

Chain:  256

Cassette:  292

Rear hub:  293

Front derailleur:  76

Rear derailleur:  183

Running total:  5763 grams, 12.7052402 pounds

 

 

Tue, May 23, 2017 | link          Comments

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Itís grease-y being green

 

Loctite applied to the press cups. Anti-seize smeared on the axle bolt. Good ol’ Phil grease spread lightly upon the outside of the sealed bearing, as directed.

Blogs/PhilWoodSpotlight.jpgPhil Wood grease has been around the entirety of my relationship with road bicycles, dating to high school. Back then, and for a good while after, I sure couldn’t dream of affording Phil Wood hubs or a Phil Wood bottom bracket. Those hubs were things of beauty with their high polish and the ultra-cool Phil signature etched along the center of the shell.

I could, however, own a signature Phil product, his grease, green and the Platonic ideal of viscous. I’ve seen myself its water repellant properties, how it stays unseparated, full-on green and intact.

Of course I used Phil Waterproof Grease on the headset and bottom bracket bearings of Hugo Black.

p.s. The Campagnolo BBT-UT-BB110 might could be superfluous, but after the debacle with the press cups, I’m following directions explicitly and precisely.

In the previous 365 days I have pedaled my bicycles 4,369 miles.

 

Sat, May 20, 2017 | link          Comments

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Pillar to post †

 

Careful readers will note the summary of parts and weights in the last post reflected a mid-build change. The straight aluminum Nashbar seatpost was replaced with an offset aluminum Thomson seatpost.

Blogs/ThomsonPost.jpgWeight loss was not the point – I can lose more than 111 grams with a good belch. The positioning of the saddle fore and aft with both the clamp adjustments and the setback puts me over the pedals as I wish. Tilt adjustment, as well, is much more precise with the new Thomson, machined in its entirety from a single piece of aluminum right up the road in Macon, Ga.

The chief purpose of the aluminum seatpost was to provide a spot to clamp the workstand vise without crushing the precious carbon fiber frame. If for that purpose alone, the relatively cheap-o Nashbar did the job.

But that Thomson looks a lot cooler. Bonus: It functions, too.

Sun, May 14, 2017 | link          Comments

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Mechanical advantage

 

I’d begun this bicycle intending to drop the lower end of gearing. I undersold myself as more hopelessly unfit than I actually am. Thus I persisted in an effort to outfit a 50/34 chainset, the denominator in all the important operations to figure out how hard it is to pedal how fast you’re going. My effort to under-gear this bicycle extended to the sprockets where I further took aim at granny-spinning advantages –not the negative mechanical advantage of a triple chainring mountain bike, but definitely approaching a ratio of 1 with a big cog, the numerator, creeping toward 30.

As it has come together, I ended up with the same 53/39 chainring as graces the Cloud Bike. Thank goodness.

Blogs/axlespotlight.jpgEarlier in this very chronicle I denigrated the 11-speed freewheel as too much hype and too little utility. Now I spin another tale, a happy story. The new setup is both more aggressive and more forgiving.

On the top end, it pushes a gain ratio that’s 5 percent bigger than the Cloud Bike. Even more pronounced is on the bottom end, on the high gears, where Hugo Black tops out at a 24-percent easier pedal combination.

A small bit of that is longer crank arms, 177.5 mm on the new ride, a full 5 mm longer than the Athena cranks from 1994. Frankly, I don’t understand the math. The bigger part of the expansion is the greater range afforded by 11 gears, from 29 to 12 teeth.

For every foot, meter or furlong the pedals travel through their arcs when in the lowest gear, Hugo Black advances 8.3 feet, meters or furlongs forward along the pavement. Similarly, if the Black bike is shifted up into its highest gear with the biggest cog and smaller chainring engaged, each increment of distance the pedals travel means 2.5 units of forward progress.

Blogs/sprocketspotlight2.jpgEven with the wider range of teeth on the rear cogs, with 11 gears the steps one to the next are much closer – only a one-tooth change between six cogs and its neighbor, followed by three cogs increased in two-tooth increments completed by two cogs three teeth apart from its predecessor. More gear choices, closer together, with performance advancements in shifting technology from materials to derailleur design, from chain construction to tooth transition.

It’s a different experience, smooth as butter and solid shifting, so now changes in mechanics happen quickly, easily and without interruption. It’s like continuous transmission. And the levers are much more positive in feel and action. Most gratifying, I managed to set up the whole system precisely and accurately. Each click is solid and unwavering, even under load. The shift from chainring to chainring is even more surefire, more bulletproof and more readily executed under duress.

That ease of use means I shift more frequently, or at least I am more readily willing to shift because it’s not only a small matter to shift into the most appropriate gear, but it’s a breeze to go right back. It’s impossible, in fact, to determine the efficiency gained by being in the right gear to produce the right cadence, but the anecdotal evidence of my own legs and my own rear tell me the gains are real and they’re fabulous.

The only way to gather more evidence is to go for a ride.

Frame:  1070 grams

Fork:  410

Seatpost:  193

Saddle:  540

Headset:  85

Stem:  155

Handlebars:  269

Levers:  350

Cables and housing:  354

Brakes:  623

Bottom Bracket Cups:  29

Cranks:  585

Chain:  256

Cassette:  292

Rear hub:  293

Running total:  5504 grams, 12.1342429 pounds

Thu, May 11, 2017 | link          Comments

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Ride all about it

 

Unbeknownst to me, there is nothing new under the sun.

Of course, that’s not true. I have a Brittanican knowledge of clichés and, as well, post-modern literary theory. More precisely, I did not know about “It’s All About the Bike: The pursuit of happiness on two wheels” by Robert Penn, a book published in 2010 and outside my awareness until last month. I’m reading it now.

Mr. Penn’s subject is the same as these serial posts, only better reported and with superior writing. Penn does a beautiful job capturing in words the joy of riding, the attraction two wheels hold. He ably and engagingly describes the beauty and engineering of bicycle parts. His transitions are seamless.

I am about to read the chapter on the very crankset installed on Hugo Black and that I just wrote about myself. I am sure I will not benefit by the comparison.

Blogs/bookcover.jpgIt is, of course, of interest to me. Mr. Penn declares he is constructing his perfect bicycle. I hold no or little truck with his efforts, except to say I clearly think I’ve got the better end of the twig. He goes with a venerated, personable, beautiful frame maker in Britain’s Midlands for his steel bike instead of the carbon fiber frame born of a Pacific rim epoxy-laden process endangering the health of all involved in its manufacture I have chosen. Further, Penn has lined up wonderful trips to see the makers of his hubs and builder of his wheels (different from my choices) as well as his saddle, rims and drivetrain (where we are in accord).

It is absolutely worth the read.

But it’s not as good as a ride. On my perfect bike.

Thu, May 4, 2017 | link          Comments

Monday, May 1, 2017

Crank it up

 

Sealed bearings, a remarkable innovation you don’t even see, represent the greatest advance in bicycle technology from 1994 when the Campagnolo Athena components of the Cloud Bike were made to 2015 when Hugo Black’s Chorus 11 group was manufactured. Sealed bearings were not unheard of in 1996 and the remainder of that decade, century and Blogs/chainringshadow.jpgmillennium, but the loose or cage-retained bearings of the Athena group were much more common. Even if meticulously tuned and lubricated the combination of races and cups and bearings reliant on a threaded nut to hold it in perfect adjustment is bound to loosen or tighten one and score those races and cups irretrievably with grooves or pits one. And then there is no maintenance, adjustment or bearing replacement that will make a difference, allow for proper performance. Instead headsets stick, hubs spin rough, cranks catch more than they turn.

Blogs/crankssetspotlight.jpgNot so with sealed bearings, even more so with advanced-material precision bearings. Turning parts do so more efficiently, more easily yet accurately adjusted and maintenance free. The only maintenance is replacement, but not the entire component – only the sealed bearing ring.

The spin is superior.

Chainrings, too, are improved materially and by design. There are more and better ramps built into the larger chainring.

Blogs/crankarmsinside.jpgInitially I’d ordered up a compact chainring set, with fewer teeth: The better to eat you with, hills. That went away with the esthetic choice of crankarms – the integrated titanium axle was a bonus – though I stubbornly persisted in my effort to outfit a 50/34 chainring set, the bolt-center diameter is smaller and replacement rings would not fit leaving me with the standard 53/39 combo.

This would prove preferable in practice, entirely because of the wider range of the freewheel cog and its 11 gears.

Realizing this would take a ride. Let’s do that.  

Frame:  1070 grams

Fork:  410

Seatpost:  304

Saddle:  540

Headset:  85

Stem:  155

Handlebars:  269

Levers:  350

Cables and housing:  354

Brakes:  623

Bottom Bracket Cups:  29

Cranks:   585

Running total:  4774 grams, 10.52487 pounds

Mon, May 1, 2017 | link          Comments

Second verse, same as the first

 

The advantage of experience and hindsight is earned only at great cost.

Blogs/BBpress.jpgBut earn it I did, and so added the right tool (smaller, bottom-bracket specific press), determined the right method (one cup at a time, left first) and purchased the new frame.

This time, I got it right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frame:      1070 grams

Fork:       410

Seatpost  304

Saddle:     540

Headset:    85

Stem:       155

Handlebars: 269

Levers:     350

Cables and housing:  354

Brakes:     623

Bottom Bracket Cups29

Running total:       4189 grams, 9.235164 pounds

Mon, May 1, 2017 | link          Comments

Auld Lang Crunch

 

It was New Year’s Eve. I was happy enough and pleased to be in for the night, plans to go out abandoned to the mutual relief of all involved. There was plenty to usher out from the annus horribilis, to queenly quote, from the year drawing to a close while not much, particularly, promising to get better in the coming solar circuit.

Bleak, it was.

Enough optimism cheered the day and the occasion to lighten the heart, however, not least being this very project and the bicycle was coming together. Thus far I’d done just as I wished and intended, taking my time, proceeding in measured steps, never acting without knowing what I was meaning to do and why. No guessing. No forcing things. If I didn’t have the right tool, I didn’t fake it. When in doubt, I backed off and reassessed. I learned before I leapt. Checked thrice, cut but once. If it was not set up exactly right, precisely as I wished it, it was done again.

Then, it was New Year’s Eve and the moment caught up to me. I was puttering around in the garage – Ye Olde Bike Shoppe. It was time for the cranks to go on. The most mechanically impressive, aesthetically pleasing part of the build was nigh. With this addition, Hugo Black would look the part of a bicycle.

Blogs/BottomBracket.jpgI palm-tapped the BB86 press cups into the aluminum sleeve of the bottom bracket. I threaded through the big screw of the bearing-cup press advertised as a duel-purpose tool, used with equal facility to install press cups in the headtube as well as the bottom bracket. This may very well be so. But the curse of the hybrid – the hybrid anything, really, whether it be tool or bicycle or motor vehicle – is in this truth: A hybrid promises the best of two worlds and delivers the worst of both. Necessary compromises make for constant dissatisfaction rather than the touted universal satisfaction.

Blogs/BBPressabove.jpgJust to take a picture – really, I tell myself, just for the photo – put the cups in and stage the press in place. There will be lots of football on New Year’s Day and it will take some time for these photos to upload to the cloud and show up in the camera roll. Then, once poised to be pressed in, it seemed ridiculous not to insert them It’s just a matter of turning the handle. The headset went in smoothly with slow turns gradually shoving the sleeves into the tubes. I brushed on LocTite.

Almost immediately the turning got harder than it should have been. The cups clearly shifted out of whack, misaligned. And yet the retention compound had been applied, would soon harden. I turned with greater force, counting on the cups to reach an equilibrium in the sleeve of the bottom bracket to straighten out.

In retrospect, my problem was pressing both cups at the same time. Clearly I should have pressed the right side in first with an adapter fitted into the other side of the bottom bracket. I should have followed, then, with a separate fixed-on-one side press of the cup on the non-drive left. I did not do this. I did not fully comprehend what I was doing or trying to do. I made a mental exception in my head, knowing I was out of bounds on limits I set myself. Nonetheless, here we were.

I pressed ahead, forcefully turning the double handle. There were several alarm bells going off in my brain even in the midst of this. And yet I overrode those alarms and sallied forth, by god.

Then, the inevitable.

A snap was heard. A crack was felt. Brain lightning streaked. Head thunder followed.

Happy new year.

Mon, May 1, 2017 | link          Comments


Archive Newer | Older