The Golden Wrench

A blog about bicycle repair and maintenance by the mechanics at Freewheel Bike.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Frostbike Frenzy

Over the weekend Quality Bicycle Products (QBP) opened their headquarters in Bloomington, Minnesota to an onslaught of bike shop employees anxious to see what both in-house and outside vendors had to offer for the upcoming cycling season.  For most of us, it was a chance to get our hands on some of the latest and greatest that we will be able to stock in our shops and service departments this year.  Lucky for you, I brought my camera and here are some of my favorite things from the show: 

Campagnolo Record 11 Speed Electronic

First thing Saturday morning, I found myself in the front row of the Campagnolo demonstration and hands on for their brand new Record 11 Speed, and my pictures just don't seem to do it justice.  I enjoyed the hands on-time because I know that if I'm really, really, lucky our shop will get to install one or two systems tops this year.  
This initial year is going to be a very limited run of parts, so if this is in your price range, be prepared to order early, or wait for a long time.  The good news for you is that Freewheel is certified to work on this stuff.  

Surly, Surly, Surly.

One fun thing with a brand like Surly is that they make bikes that are made to be ridden, customized and personalized in just about any way that you can think of.  While some other brands, showed off stock bikes that I could easily see online, Surly took the occasion to show off some of the stuff that their employees have Frankensteined together.  My favorite was the "Fat Bike Lite" that they were showing off.  A 1x1 Frame, Moonlander Fork, with Large Marge Lite Wheels and Schwalbe Big Betty Tires.  This one really had my gears turning for a winter bike build for next year.     

Another eye catcher from Surly was their Ultra New Hub.  So what has actually changed from the New Hub?  A lot.  While we love Surly products, their previous hub design left a lot to be desired.  Anything other than a perfectly adjust hub could result in some quickly worn bearings which needed replacement.  With the Ultra New Hub, the entire axle system has been revamped and gets two-thumbs up from the service department!  For the consumer the big bonus is that it can be either quick release or bolt on without changing the axle.  For the cherry on top of the chocolate sundae, current Surly hubs and be upgrade simply by purchasing a new axle set.

Speed Round:

Salsa: No need to rub your eyes, what you see in the picture is exactly what you think it is, a full-suspension fat bike.  Unfortunately this isn't yet a reality, just a prototype from Salsa, but with as polished as this was, you can bet that this will be coming soon.......
45 North: Speaking of fat tire bikes, 45 North showed off a studded fat tire, of course is was frozen into a real block of ice... not sure how much of that was left by Sunday...

Problem Solvers: Having regrets about that track frame?  Wishing that you could shift gears like all the cool kids?  Problem Solvers has your back.  This chain tensioner with a derailleur hanger will turn that Nature Boy into a hill-climber in no time.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

If there's a way to do it wrong...

I just attended the Park Tool Tech Summit in Minneapolis followed by a day of training from Shimano. The Park Tool Tech Summit is a two day hands on training seminar for bike shop mechanics. We are taught by the best mechanics (not sales reps) from manufacturer's like Shimano, Sram, Mavic, Park Tool, FSA, Cane Creek, Campagnolo, Fox, and of course Park Tool.
Throughout these three days I was constantly reminded of a saying that goes something like, "If there's a way to do it wrong, someone will do it." I kept seeing things get put back together wrong and kept hearing the instructors warn us that if we don't do X then Y will happen. Y was always something bad, like "You will break this expensive carbon spoke." Or "The chain will fail during use."
In the Mavic class I saw a Carbone spoke re-installed using the wrong lacing pattern. I did see a new Mavic free hub design which looked much better than there old ones.
But the scariest thing was the R-Sys wheel design. You see, the spokes are a solid carbon rod. They don't flex or bend. So Mavic put a spoke retainer ring inside of the hub so that the spokes don't get pushed back into the hub under heavy loads. The only problem is that you can't true the wheel unless you remove the axle and take out this ring. Oh yeah, when you take out this ring you will probably ruin it so you'll want to make sure that you have a replacement ring before you start. The Mavic techs told us about someone that was not aware of this ring and broke a spoke while trying to true a wheel.
At the Shimano clinic we learned about OE chain pins and the power tool used to install them.
It looks like this.

Yep, that's a chain pin installation tool. It's used by bike manufacturer's to install chains on their bikes. It's much faster than the hand tools that we use. The problem that this presents is that they have to use a "special connecting pin" made specifically for manufacturer's, it's no the same as the "special connecting pin" that we are used to. That special chain pin cannot be installed correctly with a hand tool. But unfortunately some chains get shipped to shops and sold to customers with that OE chain pin part way installed. If we install it with our hand tools the chain is likely to break.
We serviced a Cane Creek Double Barrel air canister. It was super simple to do. But if you look at the schraeder valve it looks like it's pointed the wrong way. I asked if the air canister could be installed the other way. I was told that it was possible but that it air would leak out.

By the way, Can Creek has there SHIS together when it comes to headsets.
FSA seems to be all about bottom brackets and bottom bracket adaptors. But we noticed that one of their press fit bottom brackets can be installed backwards.
Notice that they put an arrow next to the L and the R. That's to make sure you press the correct side into the frame. FSA showed us how to fully disassemble their cartridge bearings for a complete service. They made us promise not to tell anyone else how to do it because they were afraid that someone would do it wrong and blame them.
In the Park Tool clinic Thad and I tapped a head tube. I'll give you a couple seconds to think about that one. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi.

The Park Tool class covered a lot of frame prep like facing and chasing. Well, Thad and I have done all that so we were kinda bored. It started out as a joke to see if Calvin Jones would notice us putting a bottom bracket tap into a head tube. He noticed but his reaction was not what we expected. You could see by the look that he got on his face that he was thinking, thinking about press fit diameters and nominal thread descriptions. Then a light went off, IT WOULD WORK!

Calvin told me that I could have the old frame after the summit was over so that I could try to tap the head tube. Thad must not have been paying attention because during the next lab section he started tapping the head tube. As Calvin walked by he was amused and somewhat disappointed because he still needed that frame for three more classes the next day. But again he got excited. The threads were perfect. He soon got to work trying to find a bottom bracket bearing that we could install that a fork would fit through. Of course FSA had a 30mm I.D. out board bottom bracket bearing. We spend the rest of the summit joking around about this new headset standard.

I've been a bike mechanic since 1996 and this is the first year that I have felt that parts manufacturer's have forgotten the saying, "If there is a way to do it wrong, someone will do it." So many of these wrong ways to install things could have been prevented with a little forethought. So just a heads up, make sure you read the instructions before you start working on something, even if it's a simple wheel true.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Give blood: ice racing!

Despite the fact that we're having the wimpiest Minnesota "winter" I've ever seen, 2012 turned out to be another good year for the growing trend of ice bike racing. I first tried my hand at homemade studded tires two years ago for the City of Lakes Loppet and decided to give it another try this year. I learned some valuable lessons last time, namely don't skimp on studs. So this time around I had to visit several local hardware stores to come up with enough #8 x 3/8" and #8 x 1/2" pan-head sheet metal screws to get the job done. The pile you see in the top photo is nowhere near the final total I wound up using (I lost count, but I think I had 350-400 studs in the front tire alone).

I also improved my construction process this time, using a 2x4 on end to support the tire while predrilling the lugs from the outside. This serves two purposes: it makes it easier to find the lug from the inside of the tire when installing screws (they're installed with the points facing out) and (this one is conjectural) it reduces the chance of a lug splitting when a screw is installed.

By the time I was done both ends of the 2x4 looked like they had a bad case of termites. And of course the tool end of the screws isn't as pointy as the business end, but you still have to line the tire with something to protect the inner tube. This year I cut up some old inner tubes and held them in place on the inside of the tire with duct tape.
And after several hours of very tedious work, I finally had a bristling set of race tires. Here's a close-up of the front...
...and here's the rear. And yes, my race bike is equipped with V-brakes. Anyone remember those? Something about V-brakes on an old, beat-up Surly 1x1 makes me smile.
The other fun part of this project was rigging up my Bikes at Work trailer to haul my race bike. Not like it was terribly involved--most of the work is done by a Saris fork mount which does a great job of holding the bike in place. I have to wrap the front wheel in a towel (not shown) to keep it from chewing the heck out of everything else while I'm towing. Which brings me to my safety message: it's a rare interaction with ice-racing tires that doesn't involve bloodshed; those babies are sharp!

Which is, of course, the point. With the number of studs I had in these tires, I had incredible grab even on pure ice-rink conditions. I could come screaming into a sharp corner, stick out my inside foot and get off the saddle towards the inside, and pretty much lay the bike down to horizontal without losing control. Though that technique requires building up a good head of steam into every corner, which would require that I be in a little better race fitness than I actually am, but even with both feet on the pedals I could lean the bike over pretty well. I was able to make plenty of outside-of-the-corner passes around riders who were tiptoeing around the track on their factory studded tires.

Altogether it was another fun project, and I highly recommend giving it a shot. Just be prepared to set aside a couple weekend afternoons and have your work gloves handy!

[Edit, Feb 14, 2012--Here are a couple shots of me trying to lean it over on a frozen lake in northern Minnesota on a subzero day. The ice was so hard because of the low temps that I couldn't really pitch it in, but you get the idea...]