Winter Maintenance on the Summer Bicycle: What to Do if You’re Fortunate Enough to have a Winter Bike
I was missing my Venge the other day. This happens throughout the winter while I’m stuck on the mountain bike, rain bike or worse, the rain bike on the trainer.
My mind drifts back to better, warmer days spent on the Venge.
There’s one thing I can do before weather good enough for the Venge returns (and I’ll do the same for my my wife’s good bike next, I got her trainer bike set up yesterday): Get my bike ready for those better days.
Now, because my good bike never sees rain and I have internal cable routing, I only have to worry about shifter and brake cables every other year. I had them done last year, so I’ll skip it this year (though I obviously visually inspect the gears).
Next up is the chain. Most people get between 1,000 and 2,000 miles on a chain. I get a full season out of a $28 SRAM 10 sp chain, or between 4,000 and 5,000 miles because I take such good care of it (the Trek’s chain is a different story because I’ll ride that bike in crappy weather). I size and install my own chains to save ten bucks. Simply clean the old one and lay out a half-dozen paper towels. Lay the new chain down next to the old and choose about a half link shorter (to account for the stretch on the old chain). Take a chain breaker and break the chain. Install the new chain with a MissingLink or the replaceable link that comes with your new chain…. Just make sure to clean the drivetrain before installing the new chain. Keep it clean, baby. As a side note, the cassette should be changed every other chain, or maybe every third chain if yours doesn’t show much wear after two. Mine didn’t need changing so I skipped it, but as long as you have the proper nut and a chain whip, installing a new cassette is easy. If, however, I were to find my gears to be skipping after installing the chain, I’d obviously, immediately, change the cassette.
Next, I take apart and completely clean and lube the steering assembly and bearings. Now, my Venge is a 2013 so it’s got the newer threadless stem/headset system with press-fit bearings. This video will show you how to go about that:
Next up is servicing the bottom bracket. If you thought your headset was dirty, your bottom bracket will likely be downright gnarly. Fortunately, because Specialized is awesome, my Venge has a BB30 bottom bracket. And because I’m awesome, I have the S-Works Crank on it, so servicing the bearings is quite simple. Most won’t be so lucky so you may need a bottom bracket puller or you’ll have to take the bike to the shop to have it done. This is a good video for a crank with press-fit bearings, like mine:
Once all of that’s done, check your wheels to make sure they don’t have any wobbles. If mine do, I take them to the shop to be trued. The local shop charges between $10 and $30 to true a wheel, depending on how bad they are and I suck at truing wheels, so it’s well worth the money to have it done right. It’s not just about getting the wobbles out, it’s also getting the dish right on the rear wheel and keeping the front square, and then keeping the whole mess round. If you don’t know what any of that means, take your wheels into the shop and save the headache.
My wheels were perfect so it was onto rotating the tires. The rear tire will wear faster that the front so I rotate them to get the greatest life out of the tires. If I change them soon enough, the flat spot on the rear tire will round out a bit when installed on the front because of the physics of bike riding and turning the bike (the rear wheel spends more time upright that the front).
Then the final step….
A simple wipe down and the bike’s ready for storage.
My Semi-retirement may have been Short, but it was Far too Long. I’m Coming Back, or Alternately, I can’t Stay Away.?
Being an addict has its pluses and minuses. It’s easiest to simply chalk this reality up to “the nature of the beast”. Understanding these pluses and minuses, in real time so they can be dealt with immediately, is the goal of every recovering addict.
If something feels good to me, I tend to overdo it, though this isn’t all bad and it isn’t a foregone conclusion. With cycling, I managed a balance. I ride a lot but I do keep it reasonable, fair to my family, my work, and I’ve always done my best to make cycling an enjoyment rather than let it get so big it has adverse impacts on my life and those in it.
On one hand, writing has been much the same, though I put fewer minutes into it. Many were under the mistaken impression that, even though I’ve popped out one post a day (on average), that I put a lot of time into writing. I really don’t – or maybe it’d be closer to the truth to say I tend to multi-task and I write fast (I can put out a great 1,000 word post in an hour, though sometimes my proofreading sucks and I tend to struggle with finishing thoughts when I’m busy). On the other hand, what does take a lot of time is reading other’s posts. I believe in reciprocity though, so I dealt with it.
The two activities together, writing and reading those who frequent my blog, took its toll over the last year. I still got everything done, I just had to struggle to do it. In addition, at times my blog could become a distraction from work when I had some serious things to do and that’s ultimately why I decided to quit.
Here’s the problem: With all of that time on my hands I fell back on politics to fill the gap with something productive rather than veg in front of the TV, as could be gathered by a few quick posts and comments I wrote whilst I was supposed to be “retired”. That’s the real problem. When I pay thorough attention to politics, my demeanor grows ugly and I don’t like it.
Couple that with the fact that I’ve written several decent posts in the last couple of weeks and I keep bumping into fantastic ideas… I’m just not done yet. Simply stated, I like who I am more when I’m writing.
With that, my inventory on my blog was pretty much wrapped up.
I spoke with my wife about it yesterday and I’m coming back. It is what it is, I’m just not done yet. I think for now though, other than today, I’m going to limit this to two or three posts a week. Say, Monday, Wednesday and Friday during the cycling season and Monday and Friday in the off-season. Something like that. See if I can’t compromise a little bit between too much and nothing.
Fit Recovery’s Cycling Dictionary: The Definition of Cardio, and why Cycling can be considered “Cardio”… but Really isn’t.
A special thanks to Shay-lon for the inspiration for this post.
Fit Recovery’s Cycling Dictionary defines Cardio thusly:
A fitness activity that happens to be phenomenally healthy but is often understood to be soul crushingly monotonous and/or boring.
While there is no doubt cycling fits the “fitness activity” and “phenomenally healthy” part of the definition, it can hardly be called “soul crushingly monotonous and/or boring” unless one is doing it wrong. Cycling, done correctly with a liberal amount of friends, is the very definition of fun.
Hopefully the photos above make the sport look enjoyable but my favorite moments on a bike are rarely captured in a photograph, simply because I won’t risk wrecking those moments by reaching for my camera. I’ve found it better to experience them fully than to interrupt them.
Therefore, cycling is Cardio. But it isn’t at the same time.
‘Tis the season for mountain biking. Dirt roads, minimal traffic, and sadly, lots of mud…
Sadly, its lighter, faster sibling is hung up till springtime…
I brought my 29’er to the office on Tuesday morning so I could get it cleaned up for next weekend after a particularly muddy ride on Sunday. Just for fun I lowered the stem the rest of the way, just to give me a little more drop. I also rotated the handlebar back just a smidge for the same reason. ‘Tis also the season to tinker with your bicycles, because nobody ever got good at wrenching on a bike by paying someone else to do it.
As an interesting side note, that’s a Rockhopper 29’er right there. That’s my “good weather” mountain bike. It’s faster than my 26″ Trek 3700 on dirt roads by a little more than a mile an hour. On the other hand, the 26″ Trek is vastly more nimble when it comes to handling and probably a little more fun to ride because of that fact. The Rockhopper is a decent mid-range mountain bike. While many of the components come from the entry-level Rockhopper, there are upgrades in the suspension fork and the brakes. Mine has premium discs (the cheaper ones warp when they’re used till they’re hot and then get splashed with water), hydraulic brakes and a beefier fork. The Trek, on the other hand, is entry-level for the high-end mountain bikes. While it doesn’t have much in the way of features, it’s mechanically perfect. Working (if cheap) wheels, brand new shifters/cables/brake levers, a new bottom bracket….
[Fast forward to Wednesday morning]
Speaking of the 3700, I decided to bring that one in the next day to get it cleaned up for the winter trashing as well, and to remove some useless extra weight (chuckle). Take a look at this photo and tell me what’s wrong (other than the dirt):
The correct answer is: “That bike has reflectors on it and the noob detection device hasn’t been removed from behind the cassette”.
The removal of the reflectors is quite simple:
The Noob Detection Device (NDD) is a different story. Normally, I’d just show a couple of photos of me removing the cassette and taking that worthless piece of plastic off of my bike… It takes about three minutes. Unfortunately I didn’t have the right cassette nut so I had to cut the NDD off with a knife and pull it off with a pair of pliers. It took a bit more than a few minutes.
Anyway, after that I cleaned the chain, lubed it and the derailleurs and cleaned the rest of the bike and dropped the stem one more spacer:
Notice the noob detection device is not on the rear wheel anymore? If you’re offended, likely because you still have yours on your bike, the spoke protector is useless (they’re there for the attorneys). The reason they aren’t necessary is that you know how to properly adjust a rear derailleur, including the fact that once you’ve set your set screws, the likelihood they’ll need to be moved or adjusted later on down the line is nil. If the set screws are set correctly, your chain can’t over shift into the spokes. If your chain can’t over shift into the spokes, a guard to protect from the chain shifting into the spokes is? Anyone?
Useless. This is why they are noob detection devices. Now, this isn’t to say that an overly concerned cyclist can’t leave theirs on the bike – you can. Just know that all of the good cyclists are chuckling at you (whether out loud or in the privacy of their gray matter). That’s okay though, better safe than sorry, I always say. Chuckle.
Now, when it comes to the reflectors I always remove mine. I don’t ride in the dark without a headlight, a blinkie (taillight), and a reflective jacket that lights up better than any silly bicycle reflector on the market. In other words, my reflectors are useless… Even if the State Bureaucracy requires they’re sold on the bike. The Trek, my first decent bicycle, was the only bike that still had them:
However, upon further consideration, I should caution you before you remove a safety device or safety sticker from your own bike… because someone could do something stupid, get hit by a car and sue me because they read this post. So definitely don’t remove any of that bullshit if you’re stupid enough to need it. By stupid I mean:
- Not attentive to your bicycle’s maintenance
- You don’t think it’s necessary to wear reflective clothing at night
- You don’t think it’s necessary to have a headlight as bright as a star when riding at night
- Not intelligent enough to ride with a blinkie
- You actually have read all or part of one of those safety stickers they apply to the fork or chain stays and wheels (!) of a new bicycle before ripping it/them off and throwing it/them in the garbage – and you actually learned something you didn’t know.
Look, please allow me to apologize if you took offense at some of the sarcasm in this post. I was simply being funny by poking fun at the absurdity of a few things that I find silly – especially when it comes to those stupid yellow safety warning stickers!
Oh, how I’ve learned, cycling shoes matter.
I was once on a fairly strict budget so I tried to get into cycling as cheaply as possible. I started out, as many do, on a mountain bike so when I bought my first and second road bikes (for a combined total of less than $1,200), I naturally put mountain pedals on the road bike(s) and went with that.
That worked excellently… until I started putting in some serious mileage.
Unfortunately, after buying three sets of mountain bike pedals I found out the hard way that those rumors about hot spots on the feet directly over the cleats aren’t rumors. The pain wasn’t great enough that I couldn’t ride through it but I love riding enough to ride through just about anything. Most aren’t so…err… dedicated. Yes, that’s the word, dedicated. The shoe problem, specifically, has a lot to do with how fast one rides. If, for instance, you’re going to be riding your road bike around at 15-17 miles an hour, you’ll probably be just fine with mountain shoes, cleats and pedals – and on the plus side, you won’t have to walk like a penguin as the cleats are inset on mountain bike shoes. On the other hand, if you want to average faster than 20, you’re simply going to be putting too much pressure on the pedals over a long haul for those tiny cleats.
I found this out the hard way. Or maybe the painful way. Once I switched to a stiffer sole and a cleat with about five or six times the surface area, my foot trouble ceased.
And this is the new cleat…
In place of this:
Next you’ll have to make a decision as far as sole material goes: Plastic or Carbon Fiber.
Now the sole of the shoe is where a lot of magic happens. As you could imagine, the flexibility of a cycling shoe can be rather important. A decent reinforced plastic soled shoe will end up between a 5 and 7 on the stiffness scale and cost between $80 and $150. The Specialized Road Pro’s that I bought retailed for $275 and are rated at 11 on the scale, but the cost can definitely get a little outrageous (I bought my 2o13’s at the end of 2014 and paid A LOT less). I’ve seen carbon shoes as expensive as $600 (or more than a decent starter mountain bike).
The question, again, comes down to how you anticipate you’ll ride. As you might assume, the easiest way to judge is by speed. Above 2o, you might want to opt for the stiffer shoes because more power is transfered to the crank. On the other hand, if you’re going to cruise around on the Sunday ride with the gang, save the money.
Here’s the fun part where I completely turn half of what I wrote around on its head.
Look, the difference between a $500 pair of shoes and a $150 pair, other than the fact that the $500 shoes will probably feel like $500, is negligible. Ignorance and a little “want to” will more than make up for the difference between a great shoe and a good shoe or a carbon fiber and a reinforced plastic shoe.
See, ignorance, sometimes, gets a bad rap. If I don’t know how good a $500 pair of cycling shoes feels, I can just look at the price tag and not care. Even with my job, I can’t justify a $500 pair of cycling shoes without wanting to kick my own butt, so I can happily live in ignorance, believing my shoes are plenty good enough (they actually are).
I have to add in one more distinct factor though; Distance. A 30 mile ride with a few shortish climbs at 22 mph (average) isn’t all that bad in mountain shoes. I’ve done it, killed it, no problem. No worries. A 100 mile ride at that speed, in those shoes? Excruciating, though the pain does subside after the ride is over.
The problem is this; The mind can only process so much motivational “just one more mile” crap before it finally tells the rest of the brain to shut up and your legs to shut down. Been there, done it, it sucks.
Long miles are made more enjoyable with a good pair of cycling shoes, it just is what it is. And if your wondering if you’re tennis shoes in plastic pedals with toe clips and straps will be okay, you’re reading the wrong blog (and post).
With that out of the way, here’s what to look for:
- Toe box room. Snug isn’t bad. Tight sucks. Snug after 100 miles is tight, and tight sucks.
- Proper size. Go with European sizing, not American – and get your feet measured!
- Take into account the length of your toes. I have big feet but short toes. I can fit into a 43 (10-1/2 ish US) but the arch is in the wrong place. I need a 44 (11). You’re not playing hockey, get the right size (hockey players are notorious for wearing skates a couple of sizes too small).
- Closure style. Those velcro straps suck and lose grab after a year or two. Go with a boa or ratchet strap system for the top closure or two. Both can be adjusted perfectly on the fly, not so much for velcro.
- Incidentally, when tightening your shoes, snug is good, tight is bad, and crushing your foot is silly and quite unnecessary. If you can see the outline of the strap on your foot after you remove your socks, it’s too tight. Loosen up a bit. At least that’s my experience. And the tighter I ratchet down the straps, the more the soles/arches of my feet hurt.
- Tying your shoes, while gaining popularity of late, is silly and impossible to adjust without stopping. Real cyclists only stop to fill up water bottles and to let some of that water back out… or to pick up something to eat, because we gotta eat. Shoestrings don’t look cool, they make it look like you blew $400 on a pair of shoes that only kinda work. Oh, and relax. If the “real cyclists” thing fired you up, I was being facetious. I was fishing, and I hooked you.
- If all of this is too confusing, Carbon Fiber. Because. Carbon Fiber.
No matter your choice, know this: Cycling shoes start at $80. They are not your department store sneakers…. Nor would you want them to be 50 miles from home. You get what you pay for… in pain. All is not lost though. You can get tremendous deals at Nashbar, Wiggle or any of the other cycling specific websites. Just know your size and under the specifications and comments/reviews, ascertain the “fit” of the shoes if possible. If they typically run big or small, it should show somewhere on the page.
If all else fails, remember that last bullet point and you’ll be good.
UPDATE: Brent commented below about how he’s had to work around wide hips and even wider feet to be able to ride comfortably on his road bike. If you have problems with either issue, check out his comment. It’s incredibly detailed.
A Non-political Look at the Electoral College, Why it’s Brilliant…. and How to Explain it so Even a Butt Hurt Democrat will Understand.
This will be a very short, very simple post.
Democrats in the US are launching an assault on the Electoral College, and Electors for that matter. Death threats are common from the ignorant, butt hurt lefties, sore over their loss after the press completely missed the mood of the Country and assumed a landslide for Hillary Clinton.
Anyway, left-wing lunacy aside here’s why the Electoral College is brilliant, as were the people who created it all those years ago…
First, if you live in New York or California, or in certain other States across America, to an extent, it may seem like your vote doesn’t matter. Oh, I could wax poetically, but I’m not going to waste the words. If you’re a red dot in a blue sea or the blue dot in a red sea, in the current setup, your vote might seem like it doesn’t count, blue or red, in either scenario. This is not a reason to switch though, it’s actually the reason to keep it exactly the same. In either case, popular vote or Electoral College, a dot in a sea won’t matter. For instance, if you are a Republican in Washington DC, you couldn’t be more irrelevant. Humorously, the same applies to a DC Democrat. The people of DC vote 90-95% for Democrats. They obviously know who butters their bread. The individual is lost with numbers like that.
This is where it gets fun, and important… Donald Trump won 30 of the 50 States and the Electoral College vote. He won the majority of States, by a long shot. Hillary Clinton won the popularity count, by a long shot. This isn’t rocket science and no amount of hocus pocus or whining will change this truth.
Both Republicans and Democrats have said in the past that they want to be the President of all the People. Both said it in this go-around. If this is truly what is desired, then the Electoral College is how to get to that. If ease of win is desired, if fraud and abuse are desired, the easiest way is to get those is through popular vote.
Which States mattered in this election? Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconson, yes? New Hampshire maybe? We’ve seen Florida matter all the way down to the wire…. If the Electoral College goes, the only places that will matter are the population centers on the coasts.
In a popularity contest, the population centers will get all of the attention. The flyover States will be forgotten entirely, period, end of story because they won’t matter.
The Electoral College makes every State important because no candidate or pundit knows which is the one that will put the winning candidate over 270.
So, if you’re from anywhere other than the East or Left Coast, before you glom onto the popular “I’m smarter than you while being vastly more ignorant than you because I read the New York Times and listen to NPR” talking point of the day, think it through.
In reality, your vote does matter the most right now because it gets politicians out of their cozy little DC Bubble. In this way, the one that matters, the Electoral College is irreplaceable.
On the other hand, if you want Districts and something that works more like Panem than the United States, where the Capitol flourishes while the Districts struggle to survive, go ahead and support a popularity contest.
My apologies for the jab in the Title. That, on reflection, wasn’t too cool. Funny, yes, cool, no. Hopefully it got you to look though.