Monday, July 18, 2016

Handlebar renovation

My wife spotted these wonderful Union Jack bar plugs in a store, and, since I'm English by birth, I had to buy them.
The grips on my bike where getting pretty nasty, so I've been building up to the process of some work on the handlebars. I found some Cobalt grips from Crank Brothers for basically half price.
Added together with some purple bar ends that jumped through a wormhole straight from the 90's, which permit some variety of hand positions despite looking... well, anyway, here's the outcome:

Monday, July 11, 2016

Milestones. Several of them.

I've been hitting milestones lately.

I'd set a goal: 100 miles of riding within a week. On Saturday the 2nd, I did that:
So then I set another goal: 50 miles in a single ride. My longest at that point was about 33, so it would be a jump. I did it on July 4th, riding the Wiouwash Trail to Hortonville and back. The trail is crushed limestone most of the way. Here's that ride:

And then, as if I wasn't feeling all accomplished and fantastic, I took a 19 mile ride last Thursday, during which I passed 500 miles on this bike. That's not bad, given that I only got into this cycling thing in mid-April. That's a bit more than 2 months. While I'm at it, this ride was the first one where my average speed was more than 15 mph. On a 25 year old mountain bike with 26" wheels, with 230 pounds of me on the back, I'm ok with that.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Yes, Bike Shorts are Worth It

I've been steadily increasing the mileage and the effort of my rides lately. I've hit 350 miles on the Bianchi since I bought it, and that was just a bit more than two months ago. 10 weeks maybe? Back in early May I took my first ride of more than an hour, out to the town of Omro. I wrote
As I look around on Strava, 22 miles doesn't seem that long. I have to remember that I'm just starting out, and what matters more than anything else is that it was 2 hours of exercise, when only a few weeks ago I wasn't really getting much exercise at all. My hope is that in a couple of months I'll look back on this post and say "22 miles? That's nothing!"
Well, here we are not quite two months later, and that's right how I feel. Friday I had to officiate at a funeral, but I got up bright and early and busted out 20 odd miles. I did the same today.

Of course, plenty of it still feels like suffering, but that's just me keeping up the actual effort as best I can. The average speed of my rides is steadily increasing. That first loop to Omro averaged about 10 mph. The last few have been about 14, which I think is pretty good for a 235 lb man 10 weeks into riding a 25 year old mountain bike with 26" wheels.

There's a sporting goods store nearby that is closing. I went to check out their sale, and picked up my first pair of bike shorts (Neo Pro shorts from Sugoi). Let me tell you newbie riders now: yes, they make a huge difference. I don't wear them for just riding around town, but if I'm going to be at it for more than an hour straight, I'm wearing proper shorts. In fact, the day after my first ride with them, I went back to the store and got my first pair of bib shorts (Pro In-r-cool bib shorts from Pearl Izumi)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A cruise, and just riding

Haven't posted lately. I was on a cruise in the Western Caribbean for a few days earlier this month. We rented bikes from a lovely Northern Irish man named Richard in Grand Cayman and rode around the neighborhood called West Bay.

I've just been riding lately, and not getting trapped in tinkering with the one and only bike that I can ride. I've gone for my first 30+ miler.

And I went for my second slow ride with Slow Roll Oshkosh. SRO is a group that leads free, casual, laid-back, hour-long rolls around different neighborhoods in Oshkosh. This last time we had 80 people. The youngest was 3 years old (hey Henry!).

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

200 miles

Oh, when last I wrote I'd gotten in over my head with shifter cables and the magical, mystical world of cable tension. I got the bike back from the guys at the shop (thanks!) with things working smoothly. 

They put on a 7 speed Shimano MegaRange freewheel to match the 7 speed shifters, and in order to do that they had to nudge over the hub locknuts ever so slightly. I also learned that the derailleur hanger is slightly bent, and that the return spring in the rear mech is weakened with age. See? Over my head. I learned something though. I always do.

Took this on my ride into work today. I ride from home into downtown Oshkosh a few days a week. Today, though, we celebrated mass at a nursing home/retirement community, so I had to ride in to the church and then back out to the manor. There's lots of construction going on around there right now, which is why everything got all squiggly towards the end. I had to navigate around a torn up street and big construction vehicles. Anyway, on this ride I hit 200 miles on the Bianchi. Hooray.

Monday, May 23, 2016

I get in over my head with cables

Last Friday, I thought, "This bike stuff has been going very well. It's time to tackle a bigger challenge." I had the day free, and that evening there was a lovely casual group ride planned from Fox River Brewing Company to Bare Bones Brewery and back. Call it 10 miles total up a lovely trail.
The old brakes
So what I wanted to do was to remove these old caliper brakes, and replace them with v-brakes that I'd stripped off the Capitola. V Brakes have a different actuation ratio (the amount of cable that needs to be pulled by the lever to make the brakes work). So changing the brakes means changing the brake levers 

The old brake levers and shifters
The brake levers from the Capitola are, in fact, integrated brake and gear levers, with indexed shifting (a pair of little triggers allegedly move the gear shift cables the appropriate amount). So there was a lot to do. Well, a lot for a newbie.
Brakes removed from the forks
I had to remove the old brakes and mount the V brakes. I had to replace both inner and outer brake cables (when the shop had sold the bike, they'd replaced the shifter cables and the chain, but that was it). I had to re-run the shift cables, too.
Cablecutters and brake cable kit
The brakes were pretty easy, all things considered. I did everything pretty much like I'd seen in the countless youtube videos on this stuff, and I think frankly the brakes are working pretty well! They certainly stop more firmly than the cantis did. 

The gears... that was another issue. 

Bike cables have little built-in knobs at the end. The knobs sit inside the levers up on the handlebars. That means that when you change the shift levers, you can't just detach the cables. You have to pull them all the way through the old ones, and then re-thread them through the new ones. Then you have to re-thread them through the outer cable housings. 

Cables, it turns out, aren't mean to do that. They fray easily. Strands of the outside of the cable start to unravel pretty quickly, and when that happens inside an outer cable housing, it jams up the whole thing. I didn't realize how big a difference it made until I had absolutely zero luck adjusting the derailleurs. This is apparently a maddening process even for those who know what they're doing, and getting things even a little off can upset the whole apple cart. But it turns out to be impossible if the cables are frayed inside their housings, because they never want to come to rest where they are meant to be. So it is quite impossible. 

I went out to buy a new front derailleur cable, because it was so frayed that I couldn't get it even remotely back in place. I should have just done the same for the rear cable, but didn't, because I'm cheap. No, really, it's because this is supposed to be my cheap bike, the one I don't sink too much time and effort into because eventually I will upgrade. But I'm learning, and that's worth it. That's what I'll keep telling myself.
The new shifter/brake levers

Another thing I learned: the indexed shifters from the Capitola are for a 7 speed freewheel. My Alante has a 6 speed freewheel. I'd read somewhere that this isn't really a problem, since the spacing between sprockets is the same, and I'd just lose out on one extra click on the shifter. It seems, though, that the spacing is in fact different enough to cause trouble.

So I'd really just hit too many things that were out of my depth, and I got frustrated. I didn't make it to the brewery ride, which I was looking forward to. I didn't fix things with an extra hour of tinkering on Saturday. I started to feel quite annoyed. They make it seem so easy on those youtube videos! I was forgetting the fact that this is the first time I'm doing this.

So anyway. Now the bike is at the bike shop. I'll let them sort it out. They'll put a 7 speed freewheel on there, so that's good. Unfortunately the sudden change to warmer and sunnier weather here means that they're all backed up in the shop! I'll be bike-free for several days.

Protip for future me: never be bike-less.

Sunday, May 8, 2016


I did this today too. The Allante that I've been riding came with the tires on the right. Knobby, bumpy, and not at all a good fit for long rides on the pavement.

The ones on the left, though, are Kendas that came with the Capitola. They're the same size tires, so I though I'd just swap them out.

Could I just swap the wheelsets? Yes and no. The rear wheel on the Capitola has a wider axle that wouldn't fit in to the dropouts. For the rear wheel, then, I swapped tires. That gave me actually my first experience basically changing a tire, like I'll eventually have to to with a flat. I have a good couple of tire levels, which really helped.

The front wheel, though, was a match, so currently the wheels don't match, but the tires do. I'm ok with that. I really don't understand how wheels work right now, the relationship of the hub to the skewer. Can I just put a different skewer on the rear wheel from the capitola and get it to fit the Alante, assuming the hub clears? I know it'll open up a can of worms with the rear mech if I do, especially as the Alante has a 6 speed freewheel and the Capitola a 7.

Anyway, these are much more sensible tires for the riding I'm doing, which is nearly entirely on pavement. It'll do for now.