BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

On a bike, riding somewhere. Every day, rain or shine.

Posts tagged ‘Tech’

#365daysofbiking A contact sport

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.

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#365daysofbiking True grit


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.

Oh well, I’ll sort it in spring…

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#365daysofbiking Testing times

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…

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#365daysofbiking Crosstown traffic

Tuesday November 24th 2020 – I’ve got hold of a GoPro Hero 9 action camera: The last model I used was the Hero 5, I was never particularly impressed with, so I drifted out of using it.

I decided to revisit ride cams and managed to borrow a Hero 9 from work, and it’s quite a bit more complex and more polished than the 5. I have to work out how best to mount the thing for a start, so this cam is cropped down from a 4k shot in portrait. The image quality considering that is remarkable.

The light balance, exposure and colours are better, and I have to say the image stabilisation is remarkable. It’s really quite impressive. Once I can work out how to mount it on the bike securely in landscape, we’re off on some adventures. Be interesting to see the low light quality, and if they’ve sorted the formerly lousy reliability of the flash card interface.

Here’s an unedited, real time journey from an appointment near the Arboretum back towards work through the ring road of Walsall on a grey, dull Tuesday afternoon. The music is Bent’s lovely bit of electronic blippery ‘Exercise 6′.

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#365daysofbiking Harsh but beautiful

Thursday, October 22nd 2020 – I’m still ambivalent about the iPhone as a camera. It’s a huge advance in photography without a doubt, but outside of it’s quite narrow comfort zone, you can really tell that it’s relying heavily on software post-processing.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the lauded ‘night mode’.

Here on the canal near Silver Street it took a stunning image on my way home from work – yet look closely and it’s very harsh.

I know I’m expecting way to much from something in an incredibly small package with tiny optics, and it is extraordinary, but the technology still has a very long way to go.

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#365daysofbiking Ring of no confidence

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.

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#365daysofbiking Too low for comfort

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.

Why?

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.

Rant over. For now.

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#365daysofbiking Approaching equity

March 14th – One of the nice but pointlessly geeky things about riding with a GPS bike computer is the ability to see sunrise and sunset times change every day.

That’s not so great when nights are closing in, but when they’re opening out, it’s lovely to watch; and one of the things that always makes me happy is the spring equinox.

The science of the equinox/equilux is basically beyond me but the equinox is when the length of day is equal to the length of night, and the difference between sunset and sunrise is 12 hours. I always find it intriguing that thins’t smack bang at 6pm and 6pm, which would be neat, but usually around 6:15.

Every year this gets me, and every year I’m as delighted and inspired by it.

Find out more about the science of the equinox here.

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#365daysofbiking Don’t stop me now


March 4th – The front brake was feeling funny again, it had some initial resistance – like a click – when applied. I’d had it before but couldn’t recall the cause.

Turned out I discovered it riding to work when I lost braking power on the same brake. The pads were so worn, the return leaf spring was being pushed out of place by the disc surface.causing the click.

The pistons were opened back out with a wedge tool for the purpose and new pads dropped in. Braking harmony restored!

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#365daysofbiking You picked a fine time to leave me

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.

Luckily, there were no spills.

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