Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chin-ups are Really Hard

I installed a chin-up bar in my little attic "gym" on Saturday. It's pretty simple -- a length of 1" steel pipe wrapped in Tressostar cloth handlebar tape, a couple of lengths of 4x4 appropriately drilled, 8 lag bolts long enough to secure it to the outer studs on my riding stall, and a couple of pieces of cedar screwed on over the holes to keep the bar where it belongs.

I've been working out the past 6 weeks or so. Sit-ups, push-ups, riding, a bunch of dumbell exercises -- stuff like that. I've dropped 8 lbs since New Year's and am feeling pretty good.

I won't admit publicly how few overhand chin-ups I can complete -- too embarrassing. More than zero, yes. But, I mean... those guys in the movies can do like 100 of them without breaking a sweat.

At least I have a new arbitrary fitness goal to shoot for.

All for now,


Tire Casing Failure

I've never had this happen before, but the casing on one of the Kestrel's tires let go today. I'd mentioned previously that the tire was looking distorted in one spot, and I could hear (not really feel so much) the difference as that spot crossed over the roller drums.

Inflated, it looked as if the tube was folded over in that spot, causing the tire to distort, and it was worse with higher pressure. But really, it was just coming apart. The tube was clean -- no creasing or anything when I pulled it all apart. Still, the casing split diagonally across the tread of the tire, and lots of little nylon fibers tufted out of the split as the tube tried to push its way through. On the road, this would have been a catastrophic failure, but I'd heard it coming for weeks, so I doubt it would have caught me off guard. I tried to take some pictures, but pictures of a flat-black tire with some small and out-of-focus indications of damage aren't very interesting, as it turns out.

The tire was 3-4 seasons old, so no big loss or surprise. It also had a flat caused by a tiny plastic shard a couple of seasons ago, and that little blade may well have weakened the casing in such a way that it ultimately let go. I'd put money on that being the root cause, actually.

I'm not going to rush on replacements, since there are a couple of months left before I usually start getting out on the road, and because I have two other road bikes to choose from when I'm ready for outdoor riding. Still, it's hard to see my favorite bike sidelined with no rear wheel.

In the mean time, today I slapped the Motobecane onto the trainer and put a little over 10 miles on it. It has a very different feel than the Kestrel -- softer, roomier and mostly more comfortable. I would like to be able to scoot the saddle back a smidge further, but that'll take a new saddle, since the old Brooks Professional has rails that limit travel. And though that saddle has come a long way in breaking in since I first bought it, it's still not as comfortable as the San Marco Regal on the Kestrel.

The difference in feel aside, the Moto worked really well on the trainer. The wheelbase is close to that of the Kestrel, so it fit the current spacing of the drums, which was handy. It's substantially more stable than the Kestrel, too, so I didn't have to pay attention much, and the miles flew by faster than they usually do. I have to fool with the magnet on the crank so the cadence reads out (it doesn't right now). And I have the seatpost extended past its limit, which isn't a great idea, but that's not such a big deal on a trainer.

Unfortunately, after a few rides without any knee ache, today's ride left my left knee sore. So I'm going to get it checked out, and if I need to get it scoped, I can hopefully get that done and healed before the season starts.

All for now,


Sunday, February 14, 2010


Growth is hard. It takes time, passion, energy and a commitment, regardless of what you're trying to grow. Even if you're just thinking about getting out of the fortress to try something new.

Shrinking is easy. Stagnation and inaction happen practically by themselves, and without doing anything -- shrinkage. The cost? Possibly everything important. Particularly when others have the courage to grow.

Don't shrink.

All for now,


Crank Swap -- Part 2

Today I finished up the crank, bottom bracket and pedal swap on my road bikes, and I think I've got them all to a point where they'll work for my knees, now.

My Kestrel 200 SCi was equipped with a Phil Wood bottom bracket, but as it turns out, that part is a 111, not a 108, based on my measuring today. I don't remember ordering a 111 -- I remember ordering a 107 or 108. But it's been a while, and this wouldn't be the first time I received a bottom bracket with a different length than I thought I was getting. Or that I forgot what I had. In any case, it's now wearing a 108mm (as measured) Shimano UN-73 part, and the same 105SC cranks it had before. The Q should be around 149, which should be what it was, originally. I've got a set of MKS track pedals on the bike, now, rather than the Look-type (Performance clones) that I had on there previously, per my last post. That bike needs tires, too -- the rollers are killing the ones on there now, and it looks like the casing is messed up on the rear, too. That or the tube is folded over at one spot and destroying the casing.

My Motobecane Grand Touring now wears the 111 Phil Wood bottom bracket and a similar pair of 105SC cranks (the Kestrel's original parts). I almost thought I couldn't go with this one, because the down tube protruded just a little bit into the bottom bracket shell. This is no big deal in most situations, but it wouldn't clear the Phil's aluminum shell. A few moments per side with a grinding bit in a drill carved the tube back enough to allow the bottom bracket to slip by. The Q on that bike is now down around 153, which my knees should be OK with. I've got a set of track pedals identical to those on the Kestrel on this bike, as well. These have been on Juliana's Fuji (and I think the trailer bike before that), but I've appropriated them for now. I'll give her a set of Rivendell/MKS Grip King pedals that I once had on the Schwinn, but didn't care for. If she doesn't like them, she can have the track pedals back, and I'll use the Grip King's on the Motobecane or Schwinn.

While I had the Motobecane on the stand, I also evened out the loops on the brake cables up front --the front brake cable housing was noticeably longer, so the loops were lopsided. I've also tie-wrapped the cables to the handlebar stem bolt to keep them centered near the stem, which looks neater, still. I'm still looking for a 26.2 seatpost on the cheap, and when I pick one up that bike will be ready for the season. I'd planned to get tires for the Motobecane, but I gave the tires on there a good look today, and I think they'll be OK for another season. The treads are fine, and the sidewalls still have some life in them, too.

My Schwinn Sports Tourer now has installed a 128 mm Shimano UN-52 bottom bracket, and the SR Apex crankset that was original to the Motobecane. The Q is around 152. Screwed into the cranks are the touring pedals that were also original to the Motobecane. With the crank swap, I had to adjust the front derailleur's location and upper and lower travel limits.

I also took some slack out of both derailleur cables that appeared through the different parts swaps I've made on it the past couple of years. And I took a small wrench to the front Mafac calipers, in an effort to toe-in the pads a bit. Toe isn't adjustable on either the pad mounts or the pads, but you can generally apply a little leverage with a small wrench to just slightly twist an aluminum brake caliper to adjust toe. I'm not sure if Mafac ever recommended this technique for its Racer brakes, but I've seen Shimano installation manuals advise this. We'll see if the front brake quiets down any, now. It is much easier to work on bikes in a stand -- with the wheels free, adjusting the drivetrain and testing the brakes are a snap. And working on a bike is far kinder on the back and knees when the bike is up at shoulder level.

The Schwinn is otherwise pretty much ready to go for the season, though I still need to twine the tape on the left side of the bar (it's been like that since last winter, though, and it may stay that way).

All of this swapping around leaves me with a 111 Shimano bottom bracket and Phil Wood stainless rings in English threading. I've had the thought to go measure the bottom bracket on the Paramount out hanging in the barn (I think it's a 118), check the Q to see where it stands, and eyeball the crank/chainstay clearance to see if the 111 would work on that bike. If it was an option, I could put the 118 (assuming that's what it is) on the Schwinn bringing the Q way down to 142 or so. I'm not sure I want to go down that narrow, but it's something to think about. As it is, a range of 149-153 across my road bikes should be tolerable.

As to the reason behind all of this juggling, my left knee is doing OK. Not great, but OK. Getting the clipless pedals off seems to have been a good idea. And to let me adjust the angle of my feet on the pedals more naturally, I picked up a pair of Nike running shoes with a fine waffle tread to bike in. I still need to get to a doctor about the knee, but I've cut back on training and with the other changes, the situation seems improved a bit.

All for now,