Ovals..


In my last post, I said how I was wanting to try oval chain rings. Well, due to good fortune, I’ve come by some.

Absolute Black Chainrings

So, I stripped down the chainrings, threw out the knackered shimano bolts, and installed the new rings, with a helping of anti seize paste on both parts of the bolt. Just watch out for this stuff, a tiny spot on the fingers, and your finding spots of it all over for months. It’s really tenacious stuff.

Fitting them onto the bike, it’s noticeable just how odd they appear. They where easy to install however. I hadn’t changed the gearing, sticking with the same 50/34 the bikes always had. Installation meant I had to move the front derailleur up, to account for the greater height of the large ring. The official installations have instructions to fanny about with the limit screws. I didn’t have to touch those. I raised the derailleur, ensured the cage was parallel with the ring and then set the cable tension, ensuring the gaps were correct.

Testing the shifting, it was absolutely fine, didn’t drop or over shift, and each change happened as expected.

The first few rides, I never really felt any difference in the pedals, but a few rides, I started to notice a couple of things. Firstly, I was riding higher in the cassette (smaller cogs) because my cadence had shot up, to get my favoured RPM, I’d had to start using gears well up the cassette. This meant that I’ve also started to use the larger chainring a lot more than I ever have.

“Our Oval chainrings work because a rider does not produce power evenly through a pedal stroke; they maximize the part of the stroke where power is produced and minimize resistance where it isn’t. Oval rings make the spin cycle a lot smoother and are easier on legs while climbing. Believe it (or not), but a round chainring doesn’t transfer torque to your rear wheel as smoothly as an Oval one. You will actually feel your stroke to be more “round” with an Oval shape than with a round chainring.”

absoluteBLACK

Secondly, I was rotating the cranks easier, and for longer. I found it a lot easier to just keep going. Coasting was down and out. This may be down to the fact it feels smoother, less forced as that “Dead Zone” is overcome with the oval.

Graph showing values after oval chainrings installed.

You can see in the graph above, cadence is constant, speed and power are levelling out. It just seems easier to keep going. When sprinting, the power just seems more urgent, and direct.

Don’t get me wrong, these chainrings are not going to change you into Bradley Wiggins overnight, but they do, clearly make a difference, to me at least. I’d recommend, if you need to change worn chainrings, give them a try and see if they are for you. One of the drawbacks, I’ve noticed a few people looking, and noticing this weird wobbling thing. 😏

Its Dead Jim

Unfortunately, I have had a string of issues with the bike, which means its off road until parts arrive.

Recently, I replaced the chain and cassette, but on subsequent rides, the noise from the chainrings was a steady grind and occasional clank as the chain struggled to mount the teeth. It appears the inner chain ring is worn off the old chain. Strangly, its almost two years to the day I last replaced it. Now, removing the chainbolts, two sheared off when placing back into the crank. So not only have I to replace the worn chainring, I now have to source 4 crank bolts. Ah well.

I had been looking at getting Absolute Black chain rings, but money is very tight at the moment, so I’ll stick with the standard Shimano internal ring. ChainReaction where wanting about £20 for a ring, but as I was looking round, bike-discount.de was offering them at about €8. So that was a no brainer. The crank bolts however, are stupid expensive. EBay was the cheapest I could find, at about £25 for the 4.

As the Ultegra crankset is no longer produced, and I have no desire to install the new 8000 series, and its dérailleur, I might just go with the Absolute Black once the outer chainring wear becomes an issue.

Chain woes

Recently, I decided to replace both the chain and cassette on my bike. The chain was worn, it could be lifted off the large chainring, and thought I’d do the cassette at the same time as it too had worn.

I didn’t however check the chain ring. I’d last changed the inner ring back in 2017. Now, almost to the day, it’s needing changed again. I immediately recognised the sound, but it wasn’t as bad as last time, but the same grind noise I heard back then, so realised the chain ring was clearly on the way out.

Riding, gives a distinct metallic scraping noise from the front chain rings and looking at the teeth you can see a wear pattern. The new chain has trouble meshing with the wear, giving a scrape as it tries to settle in.

So, it might get better as the chain beds in, but I’ll change the ring.

A good clean out of the bikes drive chain and a new bottom bracket, as you might as well while your crankset is off.

More Single Speed Fun

So, I’ve used the single speed a few times now to go down to work and back. Good lord, its hard work on hills with just a single 16 tooth cog!

There have been a few issues, the main one, was the left hand crank unmounted its self and went a little rounded out. The bolt had worked loose and came away, causing the crank to come off the bottom bracket spindle. Because of the cheap Chinese metal it had rounded out part of the mount in the crank.

A good battering with a hammer, and it was back on, the bolt torqued well over spec to hold it in. I’m not sure if getting it off will be an issue, but brute force may see it shifted if the crank puller has any issues.

Then, a day later, I thought I saw a little play in the handle bars, so I stopped and had a look, yup, play. The stem face plate bolts had loosened off the stem, so tightened them back up too.

So, I’ve ordered a new Crank set from SantaFixie to replace the damaged one, and I also have a full set of brakes from Tektro to fit too. These will replace the downright dangerous ones supplied as stock on the bike. The stock ones are awful in the dry, and downright dangerous in the wet. The calipers have way to much flex in the arms to apply any decent pressure on the rims, and the rear isn’t even able to contact the brake track. I’m not sure of the makes of the pads, but I am assuming they too are penny purchases. So, the Tektro brakes, while not a top end brake set, will be noticeable difference to the braking I hope. I might at some point replace the brake levers too, but that’s not an urgent need.

Riding the bike is nice enough though, the bike is easy enough to ride once its up to speed, and comfortable. Its a good flat bike, but because of my fitness issues, I do really miss the gears on the hills. Still, it makes me appreciate my proper road bike all the more. I can live with the front mudguard rubbing slightly, I can live with the weight of the bike. The issues I’ve had with the bike can be overcome with a little work and part replacements. So all in all its not a bad bike, just built to a cost point. I think I’m going to liberal with the loctite on this bike in future..

Brake the speed.

A recent post I responded to recently, prompted this entry. That post was a simple brake sticking enquiry.

For the love of whichever deity you choose, do not, and I repeat, do not, disassemble a break calliper. The spring tension that gets released when you dismantle it, will send various washers and springs flying all over your garage. If you manage to find all the parts again, you’ll have issues with keyed washers, roller bearings and springs when reassembling.

So, my process of fixing a sticky calliper is quite easy. I’ll assume you’ve already tried the calliper without the cable attached. Most of the time, it will be down to old worn cables and cable housing. Note that I’m doing a dual pivot calliper here, no single pivot, cantilever or disc brakes. I might however cover those in another post sometime in the future.

What you’ll need

  • 5mm Allen key (for the majority of nutless brakes)
  • Rags
  • GT85 or similar cleaning spray
  • Good quality thick chain oil
  • Toothbrush or stiff brush

So, first off, remove the calliper from the bike to work on it. Remove the brake blocks and store them away from where you working, as you don’t want to contaminate them.

Now squeeze together the arms, and look down the middle from the side, most brake designs will have a roller between the arms, and a pivot on both arms. Your objective is to get all the gunk and general nasties out of the pivots and rollers.

Add the red straw to your spray can, and go to town spraying it into the roller, work the arms. Do the same with the pivots. Wipe it down wit the rags, and scrub it with the toothbrush.

Repeat until the calliper operates a fair bit smoother. When satisfied the brake is working well again, set it aside to dry off.

Now, with clean hands, get hold of the brake blocks, have a look and see if you can see any embedded metal fragments in the block. Use a pick to pick out anything in there. If they are an older block, you may get notice they look a little shiny and glazed. Simply run a file over the top to remove that surface. Reattach the brake blocks to the calliper, making sure you have the left and right blocks on the correct sides. Drip a small amount of lube into the roller and all pivots wiping off any excess on the calliper.

Clean out the brake bolt recess in the frame, clean the hollow bolt and Reattach the calliper to the bike, realign your pads to the rim, and tighten up. You can apply a drip of loctite to the thread if you need, ive never need it and just greased the thread which has been enough.

Jobs done, go and ride and enjoy your enhanced breaking power.

Pedals..

We all need them, we all have to have them. I started out on the flats, and still use them on my single speed bike. But my road bike needs a little something more. Initially, I went to the mountain bike style, loving the just stomp on pedal and clipped in. But, they started to give me some hotspot pain in the feet where the cleat was causing pressure.

I went full into speed play from SPD, I dabbled with SPD-L for a time, but never really got on with the one side clip in. I could never catch the pedal on the crank stroke, leading to some hairy moments with my foot slipping off. Speed plays solved that for me, with the design of just stepping on the pedal and rotating the crank and boom, clipped in. However, the extreme cost of the speed play, and extreme maintenance needs are a drawback for these pedals. Just shy of £50 for a set of cleats, but admittedly, they are long lasting cleats. Maintenance wise, the cleats need constant cleaning to work correctly, there is no mud exits, and dry lube needs applying on a regular basis both cleat and pedal body.

The pedals need a regular grease injection, which is both messy, fiddly and time consuming. You’d remove the tiny grease port screw, insert a grease gun, (a hideously overpriced gun is off course available from Speedplay) squeeze that in under pressure until fresh grease leaks out of the pedal spindle. My affair with speedplay came fully to an end when they discontinued the “standard” cleat, and only sold the “aero” walkable cleat. I hated that design, and never got on with it. Who needs a walkable cleat? The stupid rubber cover always used to come off, there must be a few of my cleat covers littering the edges of various roads.

So, onto my current pedal, the venerable SPD-SL. the design has been around for so long, pioneered by Look, (whose pedals I’ll never try again).

Mounted them up, and fitted the cleats to the soles of my shoes, and cue much experimenting with positions found a comfortable place on the sole for the cleat. Aligning them was easier than the speed plays, as speedplay is easily the most adjustable pedal for positioning. Basically to get the cleats in a comfortable position, when you don’t have a starting reference, put them in a neutral position, the cleat nose pointing directly forward. Move them around from there until you feel your feet are in a natural position when clipped in. Then ride and make small adjustments based on feel. Once you get that position for both feet right you’ve nailed it. Takes a little time but is easily mastered.

Initially, I again had issues clipping in, but practice makes perfect. I still occasionally have issues, especially on hill starts, but muscle memory is setting in and most times click right in with that satisfying clunk. And the just work, with a larger pedal area, there are no pressures on the feet. Just comfy. Any muck that gets onto the cleat is pushed out when clipping in and short of a quick clean when the bike is being cleaned no extra maintenance is required. Each to their own however, some people swear by speedplays for their massive amount of customisations, some like mountain pedals for ease of walking from the bike shed to work, others just use whatever. Whatever works for the individual I guess.

Feedback Sports App

This is truly an awesome app for those of you into bike maintenance. It’s basically a log for your maintenance. Each component is broken Down, you enter the date, component and work done. This is then searchable. When did you last change your power meter battery? A quick search and your answer is there. You can schedule reminders based on mileage pulled from Strava, or time ridden. Multiple bikes can be tracked.

Available on google play, I’m not sure about iOS as I don’t use it.

There where a few bugs early on, but they’ve mostly ironed out the issues and it’s not a bad app too have on your phone.

MucOff Bio Grease

I’d previously written about mucoff BioGrease, and I wasn’t impressed at the time. I’ve decided to give it a bit more of a chance. Previously I’d used it in the wheels, and it went south pretty quick.

This may of been due to the high spin speeds on the hub, the BioGrease is more designed for low rpm high sheer, such as headsets and bottom brackets. So, from here on, threads and headsets will be slathered in BioGrease, and the wheel rebuilds will be the stinky, incredibly tacky blue, which works well in high revolutions applications. So let’s see how it handles the dry summer months.

But don’t forget, any grease is better than no grease, use what you have on hand, and enjoy the maintenance of your bikes as much as riding them. After all, your bike gives you a lot, give it something back!

Tools. Wonderful Tools

Over the last few years, my tool collection has ballooned massively, so I thought I might make a quick post on tools, and which are important to have, and those that are helpful, but not a nessesity for the home mechanic.

Tools, that are important

  1. Allan Keys. These are probably the most important item you can have. Each time you work on the bike, you’ll be using an hex wrench. Generally, you’ll need 4,5 and 6mm for the majority of bike stuff. For cartridge brake pads, you’ll need a small 3mm too. Most sets of hex wrenches will have every size you’ll ever need.
  2. Cable cutters. Wire cutters and pliers just won’t do for bike cables, unless your just trying to mash the cable! Cable cutters will neatly cut the cables and housings. A metal file is also handy to square off the housing ends after cutting too.
  3. Chain tools. Chain cutter, chain wear tool,chain whip and cassette lock ring tool
  4. Bottom bracket tool, and crank removal tool.
  5. Torque wrench
  6. Pedal spanner
  7. Torx wrenches (a T25 is likly to be the only one)
  8. Screw drivers.
  9. Tire levers
  10. Floor pump
  11. Grease, paper towels
  12. Degreaser, GT85 and WD 40

Tools, nice to have

  1. Spirit level, long handy to have for saddle adjustments, and ensuring shifters are level..
  2. Tape measure
  3. Bearing press.
  4. Picks
  5. Grease gun
  6. Sockets
  7. Ratchet spanner
  8. Spring clip pliers
Bike Repair Stand

If you’re planning on doing even the most basic bike repair maintenance, don’t underestimate the importance of a quality repair stand. Yes, they can be a little expensive and yes, they take up a little room in the garage. That said, a quality stand will save you from a lifetime of turning your bike upside down and bending over to make repairs and adjustments.

Another learning curve.

So I had my bike up in the workstand cleaning the gunk after the very, very wet ride I had earlier. In the lower gears, the chain jumped off the lower jockey wheel, jamming between the jockey and cage.

Not being quite sure what was causing it I started to look into it. I initially didn’t think it could be Todo with the wet ride so I looked at the jockey, not worn, so cleaned it off and ensured it still spun freely. Put it back on and the same thing happened. Ok, perhaps the derailleur cage is bent. Nope, that was fine, so check the hangar, that’s perfectly straight.

Could it be the chain? Time to break out the chain cleaner. A good scrubbing of the chain, and bingo, no skipping off the jockey. So all I can think of is that some filth had worked into a chain link causing it to be skipping off the jockey.