Friday January 22nd 2021 – Normally in winter I ride studded tyres. I do so because they’re bombproof and hold me upright even on black, sheet ice. They are noisy and hard to ride, but always my winter weapon of choice.
This year I read about other, studless winter tyres: Continental Top Contact 2 Winter.
Now I’ve not had a great experience of Continental tyres before now – Gatorskins were dire, although Continental’s inner tubes are up there with the best. So I tried this complex-treaded soft rubber commuting tyre with some trepidation.
I needn’t have worried: They are stunning. Not as good on black ice, but they are extraordinarily grippy. They have dealt with snow, ice, slippery mud and good old fashioned wet leaves. The grip is incredible.I am seriously impressed.
What’s more they’re pretty fast and silent too.
I could get used to these. Well done, Continental. Well done.
Thursday January 21st 2021 – The weather is wreaking grievous harm to my steeds. The continual mud and grime this year is getting into bottom brackets, bearings, brakes and wheel axles. Things are gritty and crunchy and graunchy.
My bikes will be OK. Unless essential, I leave maintenance until later, when the season changes and weather clears so new components get a summer start to bed in. The patina of mud, grime and road crud is left unwashed, as it does actually form a sort of protective coating.
Note in the lower picture some of the contamination is clearly road salt.
This winter has been one of the most brutally dirty ones I’ve ever seen. Continual mud and slime from rain frequent enough to keep towpaths and trails as little more than slurrey.
Sunday December 20th 2020 – As usual at Christmas, a few people have asked me to look over bikes before they gift them. On a wet, miserable Sunday I set about my charges with gentle precision.
A particularly fiddly job involved a bike in otherwise great condition on which the previous owner had badly threaded the chain through the rear derailleur: This had worn the side plate out and caused it to distort. A new plate was about a tenner, but no chance before Christmas. I removed the old one, cleaned it up and straightened it, sanded it smooth and sprayed it black.
It wasn’t perfect, but the new owner wouldn’t spot it until the one I ordered arrived from eBay after Christmas.
A bleak test ride up the canal with an adjustment stop on Silver Street Bridge proved the repair, but did necessitate another cleaning session…
Friday November 21st 2020 – One here for Bob’s big book of bizarre mechanical failures – specifically the ‘This is not my circus, and those are most definitely not my monkeys’ chapter.
This is not my bike. I was asked by an old family friend to change their tyres, as they didn’t feel comfortable to do so themselves. ‘No problem!’ I assured them as they wheeled the bike into the garage.
First step, remove rear wheel and let air out of the old tyre. Simple enough. Since the tubes would be too big for the new tyres, I removed the valve for a full deflation – and the telltale green ooze of tyre sealant – slime brand – bubbled out.
This would be no problem, usually, except the local bike shop who originally fitted these tyres made a mistake.
What I found was only half of the tyre went down – the other half opposite the valve state inflated. That I was astounded and somewhat bemused is an understatement.
Never, ever had seen that before, and it took me a few minutes to work out – with the help of a mate by text – to diagnose that the tube had been twisted when fitted, under inflation the pressure had compressed the two twists, and the sealant blocked them creating an effective seal.
Great. But how do you release the trapped air?
I didn’t want to try puncturing it. Friend suggested a sharp tap with a blunt, soft object on the inflated section, or bouncing it off the floor. I grabbed an offcut of 2×2 and rapped the tire sharply.
There was a loud bang, and a volcanic ejaculation of green sealant.
Everywhere.It went everywhere. It’s just possible there’s an object in the workshop that doesn’t have green slime on it somewhere, but as yet I’ve not found one. A total mess. I was dripping.
The areas where the tube had twisted had clearly worn tissue-thin against the tyre, and the tap with the wood was the straw that broke it’s back.There was no patching THAT tube.
I have never seen this before, and probably never will do again, but it was a messy, if perplexing adventure.
That was a blowout on the road waiting to happen, and the bike shop deserve a slap.
Fixing other people’s bikes is never as simple as you think…
Thursday, October 15th 2020 – An interesting one here for the Bob Big Book of Mechanical Failures.
A bike I look after has an 11 speed rear sprocket cassette – Shimano CS M7000 XTR. Like all hyperglide Shimano cassettes 11 speed and below, it fits on the free hub splined body by sliding on to an asymmetrical groove pattern to ensure all components are correctly aligned synchronously for smooth gear changes. The whole lot is held on by a fine threaded, normally tightening lockring, driven with a special tool.
Unlike lower range cassettes, which are generally 2 or 3 piece, this arrangement turns out to be discrete sprockets for all but the largest three, and appropriate spacers which you stack on the free hub before applying the lockring. The lockring should actually tighten by precession and has grooves and a crinkle washer to stop it coming loose.
So why did this factory assembled cassette locking undo itself, allowing the ring and smallest few sprockets to tumble off the free hub and grind against the inside of the frame? I think personally because it wasn’t tightened enough in the factory.
The ring looked bad at first, until I realised that the silver ribbon was not swarf but the remnants of a foil table on the ring.
Cleaned and popped back together, all worked well. But in all my years, I’ve never seen that happen before.
Check your bikes folks. This could have been nasty.
Monday, September 21st 2020 – The fascination with other people’s bikes continues, as does the bafflement with some modern bike technical fashions.
In a familiar customer bike shed, a new bike I think might be a Marin is locked with a Poundland cheese string bike lock (but thankfully this shed has a very securely locked door). It’s a nice, fairly high-end equipped bike, with SRAM (that’s Sachs for the oldies) gears. It’s what I would class a ‘forest bike’ – it’s not really a full MTB but not a hybrid. It would be at home on Cannock Chase’s midway trails or rough canal towpaths.
The bike has remarkable gearing arrangement, that’s sadly fashionable – a single front ring, which is tiny and an eyewateringly wide rear sprocket range.
I note it’s been left in the lowest of gears.
The gearing is utterly rubbish for road use.
I was talking to a pal about this the other day. I’m tying to build a decent derailleur setup at the moment, but there’s no longer the crossover between road and MTB gear sets where you can get a massive range for excellent touring use by mixing and matching. It’s either this stupidity, which necessitates a huge rear mech just waiting to get smashed off by a stump, or the low range and boredom of road group sets.
I know it’s fashion, like the frankly ludicrous fat bike fad, and we’ll swing back to doubles and triples when the spinning kids want to go a bit faster than15mph downhill. But I wish it would pass.
It comes to something when a basic hub gear offers 25% wider range than most mountain group sets.
January 20th – One of the few hard frosts of the season so far greeted me as I left on my bike for work.
I was very, very glad on the cycleways of Telford particularly for the studded winter tyres: Surefooted and grippy as ever. There was a lot of black ice, and I never once felt unstable.
Sadly what did cause me problems was my back brake losing all bite: For some reason my pads chose this morning to wear completely out to the point at which they were just about useless. The crossover point between ‘These are OK’ and ‘Where’s my stopping power gone?’ was one braking action on a downhill.
The one set of conditions when you really need to leave the front brake alone and only use the back… Oh dear.
January 13th – I’ve been given a new rear light to try out, a Bontrager Flare RT. it’s a funny little black cube, about an inch square. It’s eye-burningly bright, with multiple modes, an ambient light sensor, and a shocking degree of intelligence and connected features.
It’s got bluetooth and ant+ wireless communications, so it links to my bike computer and a nifty app lets me control the light, change it’s pattern and have it detect deceleration and work like a brake light too.
The instructions are bizarre and opaque. It’s not got great battery life, but it does recharge via USB. But it’s certainly bright and very, very red.
I not sure what problem it’s trying to solve, but it’s a fun, impressive thing for sure. And it’s actually pretty cheap for the huge amount of tech it’s bristling with.
I’ll report back when I’ve got a feel for it’s quirks.
January 4th – It wasn’t particularly late – I think about 5pm, maybe 6. I was test riding after repairs. I’d relented and cleaned the bikes and done to urgent jobs on them. So a test ride around the bounds of Brownhills was very much in order.
I’d dropped down off Castle Gate onto Chester Road to burn in new brake pads, but as I pottered up the Chester Road back towards Brownhills, I realised there was next to no traffic and hardly anyone about.
I guess it’s the post-Christmas lull, but even the Shire Oak pub looked sleepy in the evening.
December 24th – Christmas Eve at last, and a day carrying out errands. Stopping in Aldridge for coffee, I spotted this nice, little used ladies town bike.
A Pashley copy, it bears the brand ‘Pendleton’ – a hHalfords tie in with Victoria Pendleton, female cycling star, much like their Boardman brand.
These bikes were in fashion about a decade ago, but seem to have waned as folk realised that a heavy, cumbersome bike make make you look like Audrey Hepburn from afar but the sweat it caused didn’t aid the cycle chic.
This one is actually very cute and in beautiful condition. Compliments too on the proper locking strategy.