Archives for posts with tag: Bike Maintenance

I have been keen to get some kilometers in the legs over the past couple of days, but the Sydney weather has decided to turn it on. Yesterday I went to do a 40km time trial on the road steed to see how I was going recovering from a nasty bout of viral bronchitis – and my ride was met with 40km/hr winds that nearly knocked me off the bike at one point with my front wheel slipping laterally on some downed leaves. It was a good hit out, and even in the bad conditions I was able to maintain a good pace. I was keen to back it up today, but was greeted this morning to this (and that was when it was lightly raining):

No Riding

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a fair weather rider, but putting down 60-80km in these sort of conditions on Sydney roads is a bit nutty.

So I thought I would write up two component reviews that I swear by and have already installed onto my new MTB steed.

Oury Lock-on Grips

Oury Grip are an American company based in Arkansas who specialise in making grips for motorcross and ATV, but also MTB and BMX. Grips are a funny thing, and like all your contact parts are peculiar to your personal taste and comfort. I had gone through three different sets on a previous MTB steed (my old Trek 4300 – solid horse, but as light as a draught horse), before I found the Oury Lock-on grips.

Oury Lock-on 1

 

Oury Lock-on grips feature two clamp rings on both sides of the grip itself. The grip itself has a great rubber pattern to its outside surface which is both comfortable and strong as well. The inside of the grip is made of a different material which provides a strong inner core. Its the connection of this inner core to the clamps which makes the whole grip unit quite strong and rigid on the bars. The only difficulty I have had installing these on the bars has been in getting clamps onto the grip units, but with a mallet and a flat surface this is sorted pretty quickly. I suppose the burning question is how do these feel on a ride? I have ridden with these grips on 3 hour rides and never once felt any discomfort through the hands. While the rubber squares have a tiny bit of give in them, you never feel out of control and in continuous contact with the bars. But without gloves it will leave square marks in your palms after a long ride, though I never felt discomfort.

Oury Lock-on 2

 

So when I got my new MTB steed I had to get a set of these onto the bars. My wife’s flat bar road bike has these grips on too, and the testament to how well they feel is when I was cheeky enough to ask if I could swap over the grips from her bike onto my new MTB steed she put her foot down and said “get your own!” Great component, looks good and does the job with comfort.

3T Xida carbon bar

When I built my previous MTB steed I was trying to build an uber-light rig so the frame, seat-post, and bar were all carbon. I managed to get 3T components for the seat-post and bar on special online for 40% of the retail price and I was very impressed. The bar is the 3T Xida, which is a compact bar – meaning that instead of the 720mm width they are narrower at 640mm.

3T Xida 1

 

You are probably thinking to yourself ‘this guy is writing a review about a bar, what is so special about this overpriced italian component?’ Well this is one slick piece of kit! For starters the bar weighs in at just under 140g, which was half the weight of the alloy bar that came with my new bike. It has only a slight sweep at 3.5 degrees, but with the eccentric connection to the centre oversize tubing you can also rotate the bar at the stem to have a slight upturn. The centre point of the bar has a rougher surface to provide the connection point with the stem a better gripping layer. As with all 3T components, it is all about precision and there are marker points around the centre point to ensure that you can measure the rotation of the connection exactly how you want it.

3T Xida 2

Again the ultimate point is how does it ride? It is initially a strange feeling riding with carbon bars. You do not realise how much you get used to the transfer of vibrations through alloy bars into your hands (even with suspension forks). There is a strange amount of flex yet rigidity in the bars, I suppose the carbon at work. It means that the smaller jolts that your forks are never going to take through the suspension don’t transfer to the same amount to you the rider – making it a more comfortable ride. And given the fact that I clock up most of my kilometers on my road bike, I suppose that I am used to a narrower width bar. Plus I am a strong enough bloke to be able to yank the front end around with only 640mm width on the front. This bar looks slick on the bike, but it does make your cockpit that much more compact. As soon as the online “specials” came up again, I had to get this onto the new MTB steed.

3T Xida 3

 

I definitely recommend these, at the right price they are a good buy and are a bit of sleeper as to how much more comfortable they will make your ride.

How does the cockpit look with the both of these installed? Check out the photo below:

Cockpit

And yes that is a bell on the bar, with my only excuse being that my MTB Steed doubles as my Urban Steed too.

 

One final thought… I hope that justice will be served to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. We were captivated last night watching the coverage of the manhunt for the two (and there may be more) suspects. It will not bring back those that were lost, nor repair the injuries that the many other victims have received – but for the victims, their families, the athletes, and the city of Boston the Police and Anti-Terrorism Forces did their jobs and caught the suspects. I never understand why sports like this are targeted, because the sacrifice made by those athletes just to get to the start line is the most human of endeavours – which should never be tarnished by war, politics, and mindless extremism. I hope that next year, the Boston Marathon will run proudly and safely once again.

It makes me quite happy to be posting about my new arrival to the stable. I picked up just in time for Easter my replacement MTB steed, and it is awesome! I have finally got my hands on a BMC Fourstroke FS02 XT / SLX 2012 dual suspension beast. The first thing I did when I got it was ride over some curbs and jump some gutters on the way back to putting it on top of my car to take home.

BMC_FS02-#01

The paint job is the business and in line with cool Swiss graphic design. When I first saw the sales shots, I thought that the lime green was a bit wrong (green is not my colour). But now I have seen the lime green highlights, the subtle metallic grey, and the angular paint lines I have really taken it too heart. Not sure about the white colour on an MTB (mud and dirt magnet), but it is striking.

BMC_FS02-#10

I made sure that I up-specced it to match what I was replacing and take advantage of the high performing, but reasonably priced, Shimano XT components. In fact the only thing that is SLX about the bike is the front derailleur, which shifts just fine. It comes with a pretty decent spec sheet, and with my new Shimano XT MTB wheels and the Maxxis Ikons that are shod on them it will be a sweet ride! The Mavic Crossride wheelset it comes with will end up losing the Schwalbe shoes for a set of Michelin slicks so I can tow my little man or ride urban.

BMC_FS02-#02

I totally changed the cockpit to what I had managed to find comfortable after much trial and error – namely Oury clamped rubber grips and short PRO bar ends, not to mention the K-Edge Garmin out front mount. Fitting the speed and cadence sensor took some fiddling, particularly with the rear suspension mech, but I managed to get this installed.

BMC_FS02-#04

BMC’s whole Advanced Pivot System (APS) on the rear triangle is quite an impressive piece of cycling engineering. It looks quite robust, and appears to be slightly over-engineered – which gives me a lot of confidence. I can’t wait to test this on the trail, again, and again, and again.

BMC_FS02-#07

This is the first time I have owned a dual suspension bike, and it will take some work to dial in the front and rear suspension. I am missing the lock out feature for the front suspension forks that I had on my old bike, but I can get around that. The new Fox forks are very high quality, with the finishing on the metal being right up there. I can’t imagine what the Kashima coated forks are like. The only thing that doesn’t quite fit at the moment is the 720mm bar, as it feels way too wide. I guess I got used to 640mm 3T bar that I had on the old bike, and I might end up swapping this component out as probably the final up-spec for the new bike. But I will take it off-road first to see how it goes before I make up my mind.

I have decided to name him VTT, after the French word for mountain bike – vélo tout terrain. I will call it a “he”, because no doubt he will contribute to some additional cycling scars at some point on my body. I still miss my old bike, but this new one has already got a special place in my heart. I took the photos of it before I had the chance to get it dirty, and this is probably the cleanest it is ever going to be. Now I am looking forward to some off-road spinning!

OK – I can’t hide the fact that I am a little bit excited. I will be getting a new MTB steed!

After the emotional rollercoaster of having my custom made from scratch MTB steed being stolen by some dodgy [#!{/?#$ insert expletives – multiple], I waited nervously for the insurance company to do the assessment and see if they could fix me up with a new ride. Having never had anything of value stolen before, it was uncharted territory for me. I did not  know how to deal with the guys from the insurance company and everything I had heard before was that insurance companies would do everything in their power not to pay the sum insured. I felt terrible writing up the claim form and attaching all the documents for the assessment, reliving all the memories in my head of putting the steed together. I think they were a bit shocked when I was able to provide them with a full specification of the bike – and if you asked me over a beer I could probably recite it back to you, tyre valve and all. I had a receipt for pretty much all of the components too. In all, the claim assessment form was 15 pages long. But they came through, though they did note that mine was an unusual case as the steed was bespoke (no pun intended). In some respects I wish the [#$@%*+~ use different expletives this time] thief had stolen my road steed, it would have been a straight swap for a new model of the same ride.

Requirements for a replacement …

Here is where the next challenge commenced. There were two complications with my replacement requirements; 1. it had to be a 26 inch wheel ride, and 2. it had to come with QR skewers. If you know your bikes then this reads pretty straight forward (and you think to yourself hmmm…), but for the non-riding geeks here it is in more detail and why these two requirements created complications:

Complication #1 – 26 inch wheels

It seems that in the few short years from when my old bike frame I purchased was made (2009), the whole MTB world has flipped and invented new wheel sizes. This shouldn’t be a surprise to cyclists because from the time that Gary Fisher was creating custom MTBs back not long after I was born, mountain bikes have evolved in leaps and bounds. Innovations have included the evolution of rigid frames that then copped suspension forks, then the rear triangle copped a suspension rig too (and this whole suspension thing is getting uber complicated if you check out this system from Lapierre). Brakes have gone from caliper brakes to… V brakes to… disc brakes – and pretty soon these discs will be made of carbon, ceramic, and silica composites instead of metal. And wheels have gone from 26 inch to… 29ers to… 27.5 inch / 650B. Confused? Yep – me too! Here is a graphic that explains the sizing, and it is not as simple as measuring the diameter dimension of the wheel (this article explains it in detail)

Wheel Size - illustration

It would seem that the world is moving away from the wheel size that pretty much lead the growth in the sport so that riders can roll better. My challenge was that I had a second set of true off-road wheels with tubeless tyres being made up at my local bike store that set me back over $600 (mostly funded by my boss as part of a work bonus – give me MTB wheels instead of a ridiculously overpriced bottle of wine I said). And they are 26 inch wheels, which would go to complete waste on anything other than a bike that is made for this wheel size.

Complication #2 – Quick Release (QR) Skewers

The secondary purpose for my bike is to tow my son in his trailer when we go riding as a family. It is one of the main reasons I go recreational riding and requires a QR type axle on the rear so that I can fit the socket joint for his trailer. As this article from Bike Radar clearly states, “Gone are the days when all mountain bikes had 9mm quick-release skewers front and rear. At the front, 15mm and 20mm through-axles are now common, along with 135 x 12mm or 142 x 12mm setups out back.” What is behind this is that the thicker axle setups are stiffer and offer the rider more control, rather than flex. This one like the first seems a bit of a ploy from the manufacturers to generate reasons for upgrading your ride, no matter how solid the mechanical principles are. Still didn’t change my requirements, I just want to use a set of these.

QR skewers

The Search has born Fruit!

I searched the local bike shops for what they had on offer and it was a bit concerning. Giant had moved their entire MTB range to 29ers. Trek were going all funky with 29ers as well and with some out there axle mounts that no doubt will sell them a few more expensive bikes. Specialized, Yeti, Cannondale, GT, Scott… more of the same. I was getting worried that the MTB universe had moved on from my needs. I was getting more worried that I would have to revert back to an alloy frame, a kick in the guts after waiting for years to get the green light to move into the world of MTB carbon. Then I went to Velosophy in Moore Park – and the heavens peaked open slightly. I spoke with Klara at the store and asked her about some of the BMC mountain bikes. She told me that the entire range doesn’t get shipped out to our antipodean shores, but she ran me through some of the models. Klara then told me that BMC were trying to get rid of last years stock and that there were some stonking bargains to be had (as it turned out I was significantly under-insured, I insured myself for the cost of the components which were purchased at anywhere between 40-60% off the original price i.e. I had built a $6,000 ride for just over $2,500). The one ride she know about was a BMC Fourstroke, though she did not have all the details. Klara said that she would call me back on Monday to find out the specs and if they met my requirements.

When I left the store, I was not expecting a call back at all. Poor customer service is a hallmark of Australian businesses. To my shock Klara called me back like she promised and had the details direct from the BMC sales rep. There was one missing specification (for the forks), and she said that she would follow this up the next day. Again Klara called me back and had provided me with the further specifications. After a bit of thought, maybe two minutes, I told Klara to get me that new bike and the insurance company would be in contact soon. It just goes to show you how taking care of your customer can reap you benefits. Sure the ride is a dual suspension, and not all the groupset components are to the same spec as what I previously had, but the sum of the overs and unders is pretty much spot on. Below is a photo from the internet of my new ride, and I can’t wait to take my new steed for a spin. I will pick it up later this week, which should give me a chance to get over the nasty bout of bronchitis I have contracted. Who knows, it may even get a name. I may learn to love again – ha ha! Can’t wait!

BMC Fourstroke FS02 XT / SLX 2012

Sometimes the things your child does just make you proud. My 2 year old son – the Pok – is growing at a rapid rate and never ceases to amaze me with the things he does or spits out. One thing that I have really enjoyed is that he has taken to my love of bikes. It should not surprise me as he sees my road steed near the entrance of our home every day, and whenever I am adjusting it or getting it ready for a ride he rushes over to both me and the bike. Not to mention the number of times he has fallen asleep in the trailer behind me while I am towing him along.

I have been trying to teach him all the parts of the bike as he has been studiously observing me. He has proven to be a quick learner. I regularly quiz him on where the parts are on the bike, asking him to show me as I name them. His pass rate so far is about 90%.

Parts of a Bicycle LabeledImage source: Jim Langley – Bicycle Aficionado

So in true father – son fashion I took him into a BMX bike store on our pre-Christmas trip to visit my brother in Melbourne. My son was awestruck when he saw all the chrome accented bikes hanging on the walls. He was especially chuffed when he saw a cabinet containing a kaleidoscope of metallic coloured cassettes, stems, and cranks. As it was a BMX bike store, I knew that most of the bikes would be custom made to the buyer’s tastes and design. We found the workbench where the store mechanic was putting together a new steed and I stood him up on the bench so he could see. The mechanic barely acknowledged we were there until…

Daddy (me): “Pok can you show me the wheels?”

Pok (my son): points to the front wheel and then rear wheel, “there, there”

Daddy: “Pok, can you show me the pedals?”

Pok: points to the right and left pedal, “there is two Daddy”

Daddy: “Pok, can you show me the forks?”

Now at this point the mechanic turned ever so slightly to see who was invading his workshop space.

Pok: pointing to the forks, “there Daddy”

Daddy: “Pok, can you point to the saddle?”

Pok: pointing to the bike seat.

Daddy: “Pok, can you show me the stem?”

Pok: pointing to the neck stem, “there Daddy, its glued to the bars.” (everything that is joined together is glued)

This definitely caught the attention of the store mechanic, who properly turned around and noticed a two year old standing on his work bench.

Daddy: “What is the man holding?”

Pok: “Allen key”

INSTANT JAW DROPPING RESPECT FROM THE BIKE MECHANIC!

Mechanic: “How old is he?”

Daddy: “Two!” with a grin beaming from ear-to-ear.

For 15 seconds, I was the proudest Dad in the world!

And with that we said our goodbyes to the store mechanic and went off to find the rest of our troupe.

So now the problem I am going to have is one that I imparted on my father, pinching his tools and not returning them to their rightful home.

Pok - bike tools

At least I know that he will know what to do with them once he uses the tools in anger. Who said that these were the terrible twos?

Pok - bike fixing

All I want for Christmas is a Park Tool Workstand… and it has arrived early! One of the reasons I love cycling is the mechanical aspect of maintaining my steeds. I don’t have all the tools in my kit bag and there are still some types of repairs that I have not quite cracked, but now that I have this workstand it will make things a whole lot easier. I had been eyeing up one of these for quite some time, and was further inspired by this video of one of the Garmin team mechanics plying his trade.

The workstand was delivered unassembled and we had to put it together before putting it to use. When I write we, I meant the Pok and me. He loves playing with tools, and already knows what screwdrivers, allen keys, and wrenches are. Though I think I give my son’s intelligence more credit than it deserves – he thought we had just built see-saw.

Today we got to use the workstand for the first time, giving both the road and mountain steed a through clean and lube. This workstand is awesome! For starters, it works equally well for both bikes. It enables me to get in under the rear derailleur mechanism and into the nooks where dust and grime build up. With its pivot, I can also rotate the bike around 360 degrees making it much easier to do whatever I need to. The height is adjustable too, but I have not fiddled with this setting yet. Little Pok loved the whole set up and joined in the bike cleaning fun. Now to work out how to adjust my rear derailleur.

If anyone thinks that I am subjecting my son to hard working child labour, the alternate option would have been dealing with a crying tantrum spitting two year old. He loved washing the bike, constantly interjecting with “Daddy, my do it.” Although he did object to the spray from the hose bouncing off the frame onto his head, to which he instructed me to “Stop spraying me Daddy, my don’t like it.” In between his bursts of assistance he spent the rest of the time jumping in the puddles I created, hopping over the hose in the garage and doing laps of the mounted bike.

How would I rate my new piece of bike gear? About 4.5 out of 5 stars, and the reason why I drop the 1/2 star is because of the mount that sits underneath the bottom bracket. It could be a bit better in terms of it’s base of support for the frame, but it is not flimsy – you just have to tighten hard the frame grip strap. I would definitely recommend my fellow cyclists to invest in one of these. If you shop prudently from one of the online bike shops you should be able to pick one of these up for not much over USD200.

Time to giddy up and go for another summer spin with one of my now super clean steeds.

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