Monday, June 13, 2011


I was recently inspired (by a date, truth be told) to get back into the woods on a bike.  I haven't really ridden a mountain bike on a trail since a few years before I moved to Southborough.  All of my riding slowed way down when I moved out here, and I barely rode either of my mountain bikes at all, much less in the way they were intended.

The date was with a woman who rides both on- and off-road, and our dinner conversation got me thinking about getting back into the woods.  Then maybe a week later, some of the guys I ride with around here invited me for a run (woah, Nelly) and a MTB ride in the local state park.  I couldn't make that one, but I'd like to catch the next -- except, maybe, for that running stuff.

I sold off one of my mountain bikes late last year, and my old Paramount has been convalescing for some time at my parents' home, largely ignored by my father.  It's been set up with balloon all-surface (Specialized Hemisphere, I think) tires.  These are good for road use, dirt roads, grass and even light trails.  They have no knobs but heavy treads, so they hang in there OK on loose stuff.  I think the last time I rode it seriously was when I took it to the Outer Banks three years ago, and I put maybe 50 miles on it that week.

Of course, to get back into the woods, I'd need something suitable to ride once there, and the Paramount is now pretty much all I have on hand.  Rather than go shopping, I made a swap -- my loaner Shogun went to my folk's house in the Paramount's stead, and it is now convalescing comfortably in their den.  The Paramount, in the mean time, has been shod with knobby Panaracers, and is awaiting some trail riding.  Perhaps I'll give it a go this weekend?  Maybe the weather will cooperate.

Now, one of the reasons Dad doesn't ride the bikes I leave lying around for him to use is that he's got a bum knee.  The damage should be repaired this summer, though, and he's going to need something to ride for physical therapy purposes.  Unfortunately, the convalescing Shogun has old-fashioned road gears (42/52 up front and a 12-28 6-speed freewheel in back), which makes for pretty steep gearing for a guy waiting for a new knee who lives on top of a hill.  So I've started gathering parts (when am I not?) for a new project -- making the Shogun a triple!  For you novices, that means three chainrings up front, rather than just one or two.

There are only a handful of parts needed to make such a change.  First, of course, you need a triple crank.  I found one on eBay for $35 shipped -- a 105SC crankset in nice shape with 30/42/52-tooth rings and 175mm crank arms.  That'll give my dad both a granny gear (is that ironic?) and a little extra leverage in getting up those hills, vs. the 170mm cranks on the bike today.  I'm pretty sure the bottom bracket on the bike now will give this crankset a good chainline, but if not, I have a slightly wider cartridge BB that I can install in its place.

What else?  Well, to move the chain between three chainrings rather than two, you typically want a front derailleur with a different profile of cage than a double-chainring setup.  I found an inexpensive steel Shimano Exage 400LX derailleur on eBay.  It's black and it's a triple chainring setup, with a bottom-pull cable routing. And it was designed for a road bike, so it has the right clamp diameter and offset to support a road frame.  Not all MTB derailleurs would work, because many expect the cable to come from above, and often times they shift the cage farther outboard to support the wider bottom bracket shells found on contemporary MTBs.

Next up?  A new rear derailleur.  A rear derailleur does at least two things -- move the chain between the rear cogs, and take up the slack in the chain as different gear combinations are used.  The rear derailleur with a triple generally has a longer cage (that's the frame that holds the pulleys) so that it can take up more slack in the chain -- slack that's created when the front derailleur is shifted down from the 42- to the 30-tooth chainring.  I looked for a new old stock Shimano LX, just like the one on the Paramount, and found one without much difficulty, also on eBay.  It's black, too, like the new front derailleur.  It's a better part than the Exage front derailleur, but they'll more or less coordinate with each other can clash with the 105SC crank (which is a sort of champagne silver color).  The existing derailleurs (both 105SC parts -- the rear being the original from my decommissioned Kestrel) will go into my parts box for Ava's new Fuji build next winter.

All that I really need from here are new crank bolts (only because I don't have crank bolt covers that match the shade of the 105SC crankset), and possibly a new chain.  Probably a new chain.  I'll see what's on there, but I'm pretty sure it's an old Shimano chain that I put on maybe 15 years ago.  They're a pain to break and re-pin, so I'd just as soon throw an SRAM on there.

When I'm done, the color combination of the bike's components will be somewhat incongruous, yes.  But that's not so important.  What's important is that Dad will have a 30 front/28 rear combination that should allow him to climb the hills around my folks' place with ease. And as he builds strength, the 42/52 rings will keep his RPMs down on the flats.

These are two bikes that are really too good to languish like they've been.  I'm looking forward to getting the Paramount into the woods, again, where it belongs.  And I'd love to go for a ride with my dad next summer.  And Ava really does need some derailleurs for that Fuji project to be possible.  Just a few swaps, and all of these will be in reach.

All for now,


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